Robotic Vision Shows Homeland Security Technology to Congress

By Rebecca Sullivan

WASHINGTON - Canton-based Robotic Vision Systems Inc. was one of 50 small businesses chosen to take part in a homeland security exposition on Capitol Hill yesterday.

Hosted by the Senate Small Business Committee, whose chairman is Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., the show featured products that small businesses throughout the country have developed to fight terrorism.

In a crowded conference hall in a Senate office building, representatives from the Canton company showed off ID Trace - a method of identifying a person using such biometrics as fingerprints, iris scans or digital photographs of a person's face. The system converts these physical features into a two-dimensional barcode, which can be placed on an airline ticket, passport, driver's license or other form of identification. Normal barcodes cannot hold as much information as the barcode used in ID Trace, according to company officials. Robotic Vision Systems has held the patent for the two-dimensional barcode for several years, but workers there began to think of its usefulness in security terms only after Sept. 11. Currently, such barcodes are used to trace manufactured parts in computers and cars.

"We're excited for the opportunity to expose this technology to so many key decision makers in and around the government," said Pat Costa, company president.

Legislators, government officials and Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge attended the day-long event, browsing through booths and displays.

While Kerry was unable to predict whether any of the small businesses present would receive a government contract, he said he was impressed with the Massachusetts companies.

"They're very creative, they have great products. I just need to help them to get visibility and break out," he said. "This opens the door and raises the awareness level [of Massachusetts small business] enormously." In all, nine Massachusetts companies were invited to the event.

The expo had a James Bond-like feel, with products such as a tooth phone - a two-way, wireless phone that uses the tooth to conduct sound, making communication imperceptible to another person. Another popular exhibit was the "smart truck" which comes equipped with grenade launchers, night vision and the ability to deploy a smoke screen from the rear bumper and tacks and oil slicks from its undercarriage.