Last week I was fortunate enough to be able to parade BMC’s Modulating RetroReflector (MRR) in front of multiple audiences affiliated with the Defense community at the Defense TechConnect (DTC) Conference and Expo in Tampa, Florida. The goal: finding new partners with whom to further develop and deliver devices for next generation free space optical communications (FSOC) infrastructure. The main benefit of our MRR is that it can enable FSOC in mobile applications that can’t have a big, bulky laser on-board to send an encoded beam in a point-to-point comm system or mesh network. (Figure 1). Click here for more information on the technology.
Figure 1: MRR capability over traditional FSOC.
If you know anything about free space laser comm, this is a bit of a paradigm shift but being that the people at this conference were at the top of their fields within the military, they were quick to understand and the feedback was great. Here’s how things went:
Because Boston Micromachines received a Defense TechConnect 2018 Defense Innovation Award for the MRR, I had the opportunity to pitch our technology in front of a panel of experts who could recommend paths forward in order to further disseminate the technology into the field. (Figure 2). These people ranged from officers in various branches of the military to local officials interested in the next technology that would eventually make its way to their budgets.The feedback from these individuals in the extremely short time I was in front of them (6 minutes of presentation and 4 minutes of Q&A) was very valuable and gave me a good feeling that the MRR technology was something that was of current interest. One or two of the members of the panel even suggested offices to contact as they knew there was a need for this specific type of technology. Overall, a great experience.
Figure 2: Introducing the MRR in front of a panel of experts. Image from Finding Nemo (2003) [motion picture]. Pixar Animation Studios. USA.
For one evening, I set up a table and showed off our MRR devices with the hope of catching some people’s attention. (Figure 3). Since the show was relatively small, if someone attended the showcase, they most definitely had an opportunity to stop by at some point. Once again, the feedback was great. While the time was short (only 3 hours), the traffic was decent and the quality of the visitors was high. Even more, some visitors had researched the tech beforehand and had come with prepared questions. I connected with prime contractors interested in bolstering their portfolio of options around free space laser comm as well as component manufacturers looking to expand their product applications. So, a great event all around.
Figure 3: Showcase table at DTC.
Finally, we were able to schedule short one-on-one meetings with representatives from the research arms of various branches of the military. While some representatives were not technical folks, most understood who would be most interested and committed to sending the information on to potential collaborators. I was particularly impressed with a few of the representatives who were able to identify specific individuals with whom we had been in contact in the past after comparing notes on the spot. This was a great benefit of this conference and gave me confidence that our time at the show was well spent.
Overall, I was extremely encouraged by this experience and would urge others with technologies with potential Defense applications to look into this show. The MRR technology is pretty niche and connecting the right customers is often a challenge using traditional marketing techniques. I would suspect that if your technology’s application is very specific, you would find the same thing to be the case. This is a non-traditional channel that offers great promise.
If you have any questions about my experience or would like to learn more about our MRR technology, feel free to contact BMC at firstname.lastname@example.org.