Investors Want U.S. to Buy Gadgets

By Gil Klein

WASHINGTON - Entrepreneurs offered an array of gadgets this week that they hope the federal government will buy to transform their small businesses into a new terrorism-industrial complex.

"My cousin 007 would have his mouth water if he could walk through here and see what's available," Sen. Kit Bond, R-Mo., joked about fictional spy James Bond.

Bethesda, Md., dentist Barry Mersky was among the 50 small businesses displaying their wares at a Senate office building. He has developed a "tooth phone" where the sound bypasses the ears. Instead, sound is conveyed through the teeth along a bone pathway in the skull to the auditory parts of the brain. For intelligence gathering, the system can be hidden inside the mouth with no visible wires, receiver or microphones, Mersky said. Helicopter pilots, who communicate amid deafening background noise, would find this not only more effective but safer for their hearing, he said.

Tom Ridge, director of the Office of Homeland Security, said he wants small businesses to create methods for combating terrorism.

"If necessity is the mother of invention, then there certainly is no more urgent need than to protect our citizens, our institutions and our way of life from terrorism," he told the exhibitors Wednesday.

Jon Upham, a project engineer for Minnesota-based Infrared Solutions Inc., described to Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., how his company's heat-sensing cameras can zero in on vehicles or bodies moving in a restricted area and automatically record the movement while sending an alert by e-mail, telephone or pager.

"This does not require people monitoring it," he said. "You could program it to send an alert if it sees someone walking by with a brief case. Or it could send images to the local police if a van pulls up."

Kirk Rorie, president of Salt Lake City-based Idaho Technology, showed off his portable biological agent identification system. The size of a backpack, it can give an instant positive response to anthrax or other biological weapons.

His company has 110 employees, he said, and it's doubling every six months.

Outside the convention hall, James P. Mayfield was having less luck in selling his GBA Hawk 4 Gyroplane Homeland Defender. Sitting on a trailer was an aircraft that lifts off with a rotor like a helicopter but is powered by a rear-thrust propeller.

The gyroplane has an infrared television camera attached to its nose that can transmit images in real time back to a base. Mayfield sees the craft as a tool for patrolling against terrorist attacks on power plants, dams, airports and railroads.

He used it to fly missions for Olympic Public Safety Command at Salt Lake City last winter. But so far sales have not taken off. The Arizona-based company cut its staff from 200 to 50.