A materials analysis company from Canada and a suburban Chicago developer of lightweight biological protection masks won the Midwest Regional final of the $500,000 Global Security Challenge Tuesday. The event was held on the campus of the University of Michigan-Dearborn.

The Global Security Challenge is the world’s largest international security innovation competition and offers security entrepreneurs the opportunity to showcase their inventions.

Six finalists — three start-ups and three small- and medium-sized businesses — competed for a slot in the world finals, to be held at the University of London in England, Nov. 11 and 12. More than $500,000 in cash grants are at stake.

The winner among startups was Lincoln Advanced Technologies of Hinckley, Ill. They’re developing a mask to protect against biological agents that is smaller, lighter, more comfortable and less expensive than current military gas masks that protect against nuclear, biological and chemical attack.

“The device is a bio-only mask, not a gas mask,” said company president David Freriks. “It’s intended to protect critical infrastructure workers and their families in the event of a bioterrorism attack or a naturally occurring pandemic.”

During such events, workers critical to keeping an economy and a society functioning may fear exposing themselves and their families to deadly microorganisms. Those workers could include everything from lift bridge operators to power plant workers to the people who distribute food to the people who fill ATMs with cash. If these people fail to go to work, many areas of society begin falling apart. But unlike first responders and the military, these workers haven’t taken on any such risks willingly. These masks will make them feel more comfortable about going to work under such conditions.

Freriks said the masks should come in at less than $75 each in production, vs. $150 to $350 for military NBC masks.

Among small and midsized businesses, the winner was NIMtech of Toronto, Ontario. Jason S. Kotler of NIMtech said his comapany had developed “non-invasive measurement” technology — hence the name — with a wide variety of commercial and security applications.

“We can see inside pipes and tanks and take a chemical fingerprint of materials in real time,” Kotler said. “It’s used in process control, and we’re looking at security applications.”

NIMtech uses multi-spectral ultrasonics to see through pipes and containers of everything from stainless steel and ceramics, and a huge materials database to classify what’s inside.

“The front end is ultrasound on steroids, the back end is Google on steroids,” he said.

Applications could run from grading of fuel or other materials to make sure it hasn’t been tampered with to detecting different kinds of explosives inside containers — just the thing for that military checkpoint or baggage inspection.

The other finalists were, in the startup category, Chicago-based HoneyApps LLC, developer of technology to integrate vulnerability assessments into the development of complex applications, and Appercut, a Canadian concept company that’s developing technology to analyze the ability of software developers to design backdoors into applications.

In the small and midsized business category, the other finalists were Whitenoise Laboratories Inc., a Canadian developer of cryptography technologies, and Open Kernal Labs, a Chicago developer of virtual machine software for mobile phones, allowing mobile phones to run more complex applications — including heavy-duty security — on less hardware.

Contenders from previous GSC competitions have subsequently raised more than $80 million in capital. Examples include TenCube, an Asian finalist, which was recently acquired by McAfee, and Kromek, the 2009 winner, which secured $18.9 million in funding following its win. More about the Global Security Challenge at www.globalsecuritychallenge.com.

The competition at UM-Dearborn was one of five regional competitions being held around the globe. It was sponsored in part by the Michigan Security Network, a consortium of security companies, universitise and other opinion leaders. More at www.michigansecuritynetwork.com.

(c) 2010, WWJ Newsradio 950. All rights reserved.


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