By Stephen Chiger

WASHINGTON--Now showing in our nation's capital: a secret agent-style truck with a retractable laser turret, a million-dollar gyroplane, and a phone you can store in your teeth.

Sound like a movie set? It was all on display at the Dirksen Senate Office Building here Wednesday, where small businesses showed off homeland defense products to a huge prospective client: the U.S. government.

Some 50 companies, each with fewer than 500 employees, participated in the first Small Business Homeland Security Expo at an unusual venue for a tech show. The coordinator was the Public Forum Institute, a group seeking to foster interaction between the government and the private sector. Senators John Kerry (D-Massachusetts) and Christopher Bond (R-Missouri)--both top members on the Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee--co-chaired the event. Organizers estimated attendance at 1000.

Exhibited technologies ranged from existing products to ones in development, but all claimed to have potential for homeland security use. "My distant cousin 007 would have his mouth watering," Bond quipped.

Most but not all show wares were high-tech: Allied Materials and Equipment hawked an anti-anthrax skin lotion, and Phillips Environmental Products showed off a toilet kit that uses bioactive powder.

Secret Agent Wares

One showstopper was the SmartTruck, a defense-oriented vehicle outfitted by Integrated Concepts and Research. The truck is equipped with retractable grenade launchers, oil slick and road tack dispensers, a smoke screen device, and an on-board, touch-screen computer with fingerprint authentication.

The display truck, a souped-up Ford F-350, is in its third year of development by ICRC in a program sponsored by the U.S. Army, according to electrical engineer Hans Steiniger.

Not all of the vehicle's extensive list of features will be put to use, he noted. "I think what's going to happen is that bits and pieces of this vehicle will make it into the army's fleet," Steiniger said.

Also on display was the Hawk 4 Homeland Defender Gyroplane, a jet-helicopter hybrid from Groen Brothers Aviation, which sales manager Al Waddill described as the only of its kind in existence. It needs only half the fuel of a helicopter and will be more stable in flight, said James Mayfield, Groen Brothers chief operating officer. Its top speed is 150 knots, comparable to helicopters of the same size, he says.

The two-passenger gyroplane, now being introduced commercially, carries a steep price tag of between $700,000 and $1 million. However, government agencies including the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Coast Guard have already expressed interest, company representatives said.

Talk to the Tooth

More gee-whiz was the tooth phone, which turns your teeth into a combination receiver and speaker. The product is suited for hands-free communications under bio-chemical hazard suits and in high-noise environments, said Barry Mersky, who is both a dentist and the chief executive officer of developer ES Comms.