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Cybersecurity conference highlights trends, opportunities

The setting was an auditorium at Howard Community College, in Columbia. The organizer was the Maryland/Israel Development Center. And the topic was cybersecurity, with a panel of experts from federal government, private industry and defense contractors who last month highlighted trends and opportunities in the field.
Cybersecurity is reportedly a $55 billion industry in the U.S., although the state economic department does not have a specific breakdown for Maryland. There is also no separate ranking for the cybersecurity industry among the state’s industries.
However, by 2016, the federal government’s cybersecurity budget alone is expected to reach $14 billion. Last month, the National Security Agency at Fort Meade broke ground for a reportedly $3.2 billion cyber command center.
The agency is one of a half-dozen federal defense and intelligence agencies near Baltimore. Also located here are large financial institutions like T. Rowe Price and Legg Mason, and healthcare facilities like Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions and the University of Maryland Medical System – all of which have their own cybersecurity teams.
Ed Jaehne, chief strategy officer of  Hanover, Md., defense contractor KEYW Corp., sees opportunities, particularly for small and medium sized companies that can respond to market needs.
“A lot of innovation occurs in them,” says Jaehne, for, in the industry term, agility, meaning programs that identify a cyber attack is happening and implement a course of action.
More than two-thirds of companies aren’t aware of having been the target of a cyber attack until months later, he says, and then only because a third party like a security company notices unusual activity.
“You cannot respond to cyber threats without agility,” says Jaehne. “The absence of cyber awareness is both a management issue and a technical issue.”
Panelist Matthew Speare, chief technology officer of M&T Bank, says the bank’s cybersecurity focus is to prevent attacks on its corporate and commercial customers.
Speare wants protection that is built into the business process. “It should occur automatically without human intervention,” he says.
Panelist Frederick Ferrer of National Security-Cyber Consulting, in Baltimore, says programs must better predict the type of attack and how to prevent it.
“There is great concern at the national level,” says Ferrer, a member of the Maryland Commission on Cybersecurity Innovation and Excellence, a quasi-independent agency, and, at the time of the conference, director of cyberspace for Booz Allen Hamilton Engineering Services.
“Terrorists are becoming better at cyber attacks, and within a year they may have the capability to cripple the U.S. economy by any number of attacks. They don’t want to steal things or be a nuisance. They want to destroy things like the national electric grid or Wall Street.”
Ferrer gives another example of cyber attack. An American steel company has spent millions of dollars and two years to develop a special chemical formula, proprietary information a competitor — business or nation-state — would love to have.
“It doesn’t have to be a Stealth Fighter or a U.S. Department of Defense project” that needs protection, he says.
Sources: Ed Jaehne, KEYW Corporation; Matthew Speare, M&T Bank; Frederick Ferrer, National Security-Cyber Consulting
Writer: Barbara Pash

Canton startup pitches emergency management software to federal agencies

Adashi Systems LLC, a Canton emergency management software developer, is expanding its market to include the  federal government and is coming out with the latest version of its software platform for first responders within the next few months.
Brian Pollack, business development manager, says the company’s traditional customer has been local government. This year, the company is changing its sale focus to federal agencies, starting with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA.
Pollack says Adashi has 1,500 customers at city and county levels in nearly every state in the country. In Maryland, they include Baltimore City, Baltimore County and Queen Anne’s County.
The majority of customers are fire departments or hazardous material teams within fire departments. It also has customers among police departments and US Marine bases that have their own fire departments.
Adashi offers four software products. Dispatch, the basic offering, provides navigation, routing and planning data. First Response offers navigation, planning data, hazard modeling and incident guidance. Command Post, the most comprehensive, combines the Dispatch and First Response products and provides a response management system linking commanders.
The fourth product, Navigation and Routing Option, has a GPS tracking system. It is included in Dispatch and optional with First Response and Command Post.
Pollack says the technology was developed at the U.S. Army Edgewood Chemical Biological Center, at Aberdeen Proving Ground. Edgewood and a company called OptiMetrics had a license to develop the software.
The privately funded Adashi is located in the incubator, Emerging Technology Center at Canton. Pollack does not know if it moving to the ETC’s new Highlandtown location in October.
Adashi is a finalist in the state’s 2013 incubator company of the year award, the winners to be announced next month. The company has a staff of 12, and has immediate openings for four positions for engineers and developers.
Source: Brian Pollock, Adashi Systems LLC
Writer: Barbara Pash

Spotkick expands market with cybersecurity program

Startup Spotkick this week is introducing its first product, cybersecurity software. Located at an incubator on the University of Maryland, Baltimore County campus, the cybersecurity service provider is releasing three versions of the software it uses for its own clients. All the software, so far unnamed, is found on Spotkick's website and one of the versions is free.
CEO and founder Eric Fiterman says the free version is staying on the website for the foreseeable future. There is a fee for the other two versions, standard and premium. 
“Not all businesses can afford services like ours and other providers,” he says. “We want to make it accessible to them.”
All three versions are designed to take inventory of a company’s computer system and provide a report of vulnerabilities, although at different levels of complexities. The software is web-based, with users filling out a profile online. Reports are delivered online as well.
“Different companies have different levels of exposure based on factors like the age of their computer system,” Fiterman says.  “We run inventories of different capabilities depending on what clients want. We look for things that are hidden or hard to find.”
Fiterman calls the free version a “walk-through” that gives users an idea of their exposure to cyber risks like getting hacked or having their data compromised.  
The standard version, a flat fee whose price is likely to be under $49, has detailed information about where the user’s system is most vulnerable and to what kinds of cyber-risks. The premium version, likely under $79, not only identifies the risks but provides options on how to protect the system and even counter-attack.
Fiterman, a former U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation agent whose specialty was cyber crimes, founded Spotkick in 2011. It was the first startup accepted into the then-newly formed incubator known as the Northrop Grumman Cync Program. The program is the result of a partnership between UMBC and Northrop Grumman Corp.
Fiterman says Spotkick will continue to market its cybersecurity services to clients, among them the U.S. Department of Defense, Northrop Grumman and other Baltimore area startups.
“We have service contracts and are generating revenue,” he says, although he declined to give a figure. 
The privately financed startup has a staff of five. Fiterman will hire at least two more developers this year.
Source: Eric Fiterman, Spotkick
Writer: Barbara Pash

National entrepreneurship program debuts in Baltimore

New York City nonprofit Venture for America, which provides entrepreneurship training for recent college graduates, is adding Baltimore to its roster of cities this year.
Venture was founded in 2011 to encourage entrepreneurship through practical experience. It officially launched last year in five cities: Detroit, Cincinnati, New Orleans, Las Vegas and Providence, Rhode Island. This year, Baltimore and Cleveland are on board.

In Baltimore, the following companies could get access to talent through Venture: Baltimore Astrum Solar, Parking Panda, Pixelligent, Reify Health, Riskive, SocialToaster and Vigilant Medical.

The fellows, or recent graduates, are recruited from universities nationally, including the University of Maryland at College Park and Johns Hopkins University and, for 2013, University of Maryland Baltimore County and Loyola University of Maryland.

“We send out fellows to cities across the country that have high quality startups and, perhaps, less access to talent than major metropolitan areas,” says Mike Tarullo, vice president of corporate development. “We look for places graduates might not think of going but have great opportunities.”

Most recruits are just getting their undergraduate degree in a variety of majors while others may have already spent a year or two in the workforce.
Tarullo calls the selection process “competitive,” with a written application, grade transcripts and interviews on the telephone and in person with board members in New York City. About 10 to 15 percent of applicants are admitted to the program.
“We are looking for a high potential for entrepreneurship,” says Tarullo of the fellows, who commit to spending two years in their assigned company and at a fixed salary of $38,000 per year that the company pays.
Last year, Venture placed 40 fellows in the five original cities. This year, it is placing 70 fellows in the seven cities. The number going to each city depends on how many companies participate in the program and the “match” between fellows’ interests and startups’ field.
“We are hoping 10 fellows come to Baltimore but it depends on the number of startups that are hiring. We don’t have a limit on the number of fellows at each startup but typically it’s one, maybe two,” Tarullo says.

Tarullo says each city to which Venture sends fellows has a different focus. Baltimore is strong on cybersecurity, biotechnology and education technology, he says. “We’re excited to be coming to Baltimore.”

Tarullo credits the Abell Foundation, which gave more than $100,000, for bringing Venture for America to Baltimore. The Maryland Technology Development Corp. (TEDCO); Betamore, the work space for startups in Federal Hill; and the incubator Emerging Technology Center in Canton are helping Venture connect with the startup community.

Source: Mike Tarullo, Venture for America
Writer: Barbara Pash

Three new companies join UMBC cybersecurity incubator

The University of Maryland, Baltimore County and Northrop Grumman Corp. last month expanded their Cync cybersecurity  program with three new companies, including the program’s first international one. The three firms joined the five companies currently at [email protected] Research and Technology Park in Catonsville.

The folowing three companies entered the Cync program:
  • iWebGate is relocating its headquarters from Perth, Australia, to Maryland. It is developing a multi-tenant security-tested network between private networks and the Internet;
  • DB Networks, of Silicon Valley provides behavioral analysis of database security equipment. It intends to grow its mid-Atlantic region; and,
  • Baltimore's Light Point Security, which is working on protecting corporate networks from web-based malware.

Northrop Grumman and UMBC jointly select the companies for the 18-month long Cync program, which began in 2011.
Chris Valentino, director of contract research and development for Northrop Grumman Information Systems in Annapolis says the program is for early-stage companies to grow and develop their cybersecurity products. He identified global security, data analytics and technology as areas that are of particular interest. Valentino says he also considers how the product fits into Northrop Grumman’s portfolio.
Northrop Grumman pays for Cync program companies’ office space and equipment at the UMBC incubator. Its own entrepreneur-in-residence at the incubator works with the companies on business plans and marketing.
Valentino says the Cync program is getting requests from companies outside the U.S. and elsewhere in the country. “They wanted to expand to Maryland specifically for the Cync program and to work with federal government,” he says of the companies.
Northrop Grumman provides a link to potential customers in the federal marketplace. “Our intention is to partner with the companies,” he says.
Ellen Hemmerly, executive director at [email protected], says there are more than 100 companies in the research and technology park. Of these, two-thirds are early-stage companies that are participating in one of its three incubators. Bwtech’s cybersecurity incubator has 35 early-stage companies and another 10 companies that are more mature businesses.
Of the 35 early-stage companies, eight are participating in the Cync program. She says that when the Cync program was established, there was not an absolute number set on the number of companies that could participate.

"We projected five to six companies at any one time, and we are staying within that framework.”
Sources: Chris Valentino, Northrop Grumman Information Systems; Ellen Hemmerly, [email protected] Research and Technology Park
Writer: Barbara Pash

Jessup IT firm ClearEdge hiring 25

ClearEdge IT Solutions LLC, a woman-owned tech firm in Jessup, is hiring 25 software engineers and cloud computing experts to join the 75-person firm by the fall. The company, which specializes in cloud computing and data analysis, moved to a new, larger headquarters in Howard County.

The move is part of an overall restructuring process that will enable the company to compete for more and larger defense contracts, Executive Strategist Nikolas Acheson says.  “We are reorganizing to maximize our abilities, and positioning ourselves for the future,” he says. “We are ramping up to compete as we move from a small to a large company.”
ClearEdge IT was founded in 2002. The company is currently valued at about $20 million and anticipates growing by 20 percent per year for the next five years, says Acheson. “The area of computer science that we support is expanding. Customers are looking for efficiencies, to implement new technologies and that’s where we come in."
Last year, ClearEdge IT left a leased building in Anne Arundel County to buy and renovate an existing two-story, 36,000-square-foot building in Jessup. Part of the staff works from new headquarters while others work on-site for federal and private customers. Acheson says its main customer is the intelligence community within the Department of Defense, as well as private customers in the defense community
The move also allows ClearEdgeIT to expand its certification classes in big data and cloud computing programs like Hadoop and jQuery at its Distributed Computing Center of Excellence. The company founded the center less than a year ago and currently enrolls over 100 students.
Classes are open to anyone. Fees range from about $1,700 for a two-day course to $495 for a several-hour course. With the move, Acheson says the company will focus on partnering with its customers to offer training and certification for their employees. A fee structure is in the works. Certification will be offered either within the particular company or to industry-wide standards.
“We intend to double, even triple, enrollment and the number of offerings within the next 18 months,” he says.
Source: Nikolas Acheson, ClearEdge IT Solutions
Writer: Barbara Pash

Cybersecurity startup launches product for the global market

TechGuard Security LLC, a woman-owned startup in Baltimore County, is launching its first product for the international market. Bandura Box cybersecurity software will be available through the Catonsville startup or its new wholly owned subsidiary Bandura LLC.
“We are still incorporating features needed for an international market and learning the import/export laws. No price has been set,” says Bandura and TechGuard CEO Suzanne Magee.
TechGuard provides cyber services, products and training, and research and development to protect and support national initiatives, including the defense, financial, healthcare, retail and energy sectors. Customers include a large financial organization in Chicago, regional banks, a grocery wholesaler, technology companies and members of the nuclear power industry.
In 2000, Magee founded TechGuard in St. Louis, Mo., where it still has an office. In 2004, she relocated the company headquarters to Maryland to be closer to federal government clients and because the state encourages entrepreneurship.

“I have locations elsewhere but Maryland is unsurpassed for entrepreneurs in the country. I found a system and a network of talent and financial backing,” she says.
Magee is opening a TechGuard office in Oklahoma City, Okla., in June. In 2010, Magee moved TechGuard into the incubator [email protected] Research and Technology Park. 

TechGuard produces security products that uses a security perimeter defense to block Internet addresses from a particular country with the click of a mouse. Magee says she is focusing on two products: Bandura Box and a product for the domestic market called PoliWall. Priced from $5,000 to $50,000 depending on capacity, PoliWall is sold through TechGuard and Bandura.
TechGuard has a staff of about 100, nearly half of whom were hired earlier this year. Bandura has a staff of five. Magee is looking to hire an additional 20 staffers -- cybersecurity professionals, preferably certified in various cyber specialties – to be split between the two companies.
TechGuard is privately financed. For Bandura, Magee is considering partner-investors and/or a financing round to raise approximately $2 to $5 million in the next six months to further PoliWall and to reach a global market for Bandura Box.
Source: Suzanne Magee, TechGuard Security LLC and Bandura LLC
Writer: Barbara Pash

Light Point Security launches first malware-defense product

Light Point Security LLC this year expects to launch its first product, Light Point Web Enterprise, a secure web browsing solution for company networks. The startup is collaborating on commercializing the product with Northrop Grumman Corp. through a program at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County incubator in Catonsville.
“Northrop Grumman is helping us to develop and polish our product,” says Chief Operating Officer Zuly Gonzalez, who cofounded the startup with CEO Beau Adkins. Both are former National Security Agency employees.
Light Point takes a non-traditional approach to cybersecurity. Unlike the standard detection-based approach to determine if a website is safe or infected, Light Point uses an isolation-based approach to protect company networks from web-based malware.
“We assume all websites are malicious and we treat them exactly the same way – virus or safe – so there is no way for a malware site to get into a computer and infect the corporate network,” says Gonzalez.
Light Point’s proprietary software uses virtualization and cloud technologies to isolate and enclose each employee’s browsing sessions. “We prevent the network from getting infected by preventing websites and web content from even getting on the computer,” she says.
Founded in 2010, Light Point Security moved into the Cyber Incubator at [email protected] Research and Technology Park last year. The company has tested different versions of its product, including an earlier version that rented space for customers through a cloud service provider. The current version allows the customer to run the product on its own network or its own cloud space.
“The idea is to give them control,” says Gonzalez.
Light Point is planning to sell the product through a yearly subscription fee of $40 to $50 per employee. It will market the product to commercial enterprises, primarily medium- to large-sized companies, and expand to government agencies in 2014.
Gonzalez says that Northrop Grumman is helping the company commercialize its product with technical and business advice.
Light Point Security is a finalist in the InvestMaryland Challenge in the IT category, and will hear by mid-April if it has won the $100,000 prize. The startup is privately funded. The cofounders, who are the startup's two employees, are considering an angel financing round of, perhaps, $500,000, in the future.
Source: Zuly Gonzalez, Light Point Security LLC
Writer: Barbara Pash

Oculis Labs uses face recognition for cybersecurity program

Oculis Labs Inc this month is releasing the new version of PrivateEye Enterprise for businesses. To kick off the release, the Hunt Valley cybersecurity company is offering a free 30-day trial package available through its website.
“We wanted a product for enterprises like health care firms and banks that have records with financial and personnel information they want to keep private,” says founder and CEO Bill Anderson.
In 2011, the nine-person firm released PrivateEye, a cybersecurity program for individual users. A standard web cam in computers and tablets is set to recognize the authorized user’s face. The user can instantly blur the screen by turning his/her head. Alternatively, the program can be set so that the face of anyone who enters the user’s area pops up on the screen.
“We are using motion sensor and face recognition technologies to protect company information,” says Anderson. “A person who comes into my office, who comes up behind me cannot read the data.”
All versions of PrivateEye and PrivateEye Enterprise have racked up more than 10,000 users in 30 countries, according to Anderson. PrivateEye Enterprise uses the same technology as PrivateEye but, based on users' comments, focuses on companies. The new version lets their IT departments manage and control security measures.
PrivateEye costs $20 per user. For PrivateEye Enterprise, a small company of, for example, 50 users, pays $60 per user; a large company of about 1,000 to 2,000 pays $30 per user. These are one-time fees; there is no annual charge.
Anderson founded Oculis Labs in 2007 to solve a problem that anti-virus and encryption technology did not address. “You need to secure the last two feet of the Internet  — the distance from the computer screen to the user’s eye,” he says. “Security spending is wasted if anyone —  insiders and strangers — can look at what’s on a person’s screen.”
In 2009, Oculis Labs issued its first product, Chameleon, a software program that allows the user to read a classified document privately, even in a crowded room. The program tracks the authorized user’s eye movement. To the user, the words appear in their normal format. To anyone else looking at the screen, the letters are garbled and the words unrecognizable.
Developed for the intelligence community, Chameleon’s users are government agencies in that community and the US Department of Defense. Chameleon costs thousands of dollars per program.
Oculis Labs is privately financed. Two angel funding rounds raised $3 million. It has received $100,000 from the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development and $75,000 from the Maryland Technology Development Corp. It has also received funding from In-Q-Tel, a not-for-profit venture capital firm whose purpose is to invest in technology to keep the Central Intelligence Agency current.

Source: Bill Anderson, Oculis Labs Inc.
Writer: Barbara Pash

Federal Hill cybersecurity firm Riskive hiring up to 27

Two-month old cybersecurity company Riskive Inc. is adding to its current staff of seven. Launched Jan.1 and based in the new Federal Hill incubator Betamore, Riskive is hiring between 18 to 27 this year.
Riskive is seeking developers, development leaders, director of engineering, vice president of business development, social media manager, marketing manager and salespeople, according to COO Evan Blair, who co-founded the company with CEO James C. Foster.

The company is hiring junior, intermediate and senior level developers and engineers with leadership experience in order to build a technology that is scalable and to run the company more efficiently, Blair says.

Blair says that cyberdefense tends to be reactive. "People wait until an attack, then go into motion to clean, quarantine and block" the threat, he says.
Riskive says it takes a different approach. It is a predictive cybersecurity company for government agencies and private companies. Instead of waiting for a cyber attack that shuts down a computer system or a virus that infects a network, Riskive identifies potential attackers and how they can be addressed.
Riskive was the first and, at 500-square feet, the largest tenant in Betamore. The privately financed facility opened in December in a renovated 8,000-square foot building in Federal Hill. The facility is a combination incubator, co-working space and classroom. Members can access Betamore's mentor network and attend events and weekly happy hours.

Blair says the company has enough space at Betamore for the new hires. If it grows too big and has to relocate from Betamore, the company is committed to staying in Baltimore.

"It's not an accident that we’re in Baltimore versus Silicon Valley,” says Blair of the proximity to Fort Meade and the US Army Cyber Command.  
Using patented technology, Riskive assembles data from a variety of sources and profiles for a client the types of attackers and the types of attack it faces. The client can use the information to install appropriate defenses, whether on its own or by hiring another company to do so.
“We think of ourselves as radar, to determine what’s coming at you before it comes," says Blair.
Blair says the three most common kinds of attackers are: countries, in particular the Republic of China, North Korea, Iran and Russia; organized crime syndicates, many in former Soviet Union republics (and now independent countries) or former Soviet-bloc countries; and individual hackers or hacker groups.
The motives of the three differ, says Blair. Countries are looking for classified information and intellectual property. Crime syndicates are looking for information with monetary value, like credit card numbers and identify theft. Hacker groups are supporting a cause or carrying out personal vendettas.
“All the attacks start out similarly but they range in scale, scope and end goals,” says Blair.
Riskive is privately funded. Before its official launch, Blair says it held angel financing rounds. 
Source: Evan Blair, Riskive Inc.
Writer: Barbara Pash

Transportation center opening at Aberdeen Proving Ground

Two transportation projects are wrapping up in Harford county this month.

A new transportation center is opening at Aberdeen Proving Ground this month. And the MTA will wrap up its $5 million federal-and-state project to build a new MARC Station at Edgewood, next to the Aberdeen Proving Ground, in April. The Edgewood station is intended to improve transportation to Aberdeen Proving Ground, a critical component in the US military and department of defense’s Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) process.

A joint venture of the Chesapeake Science and Security Corridor and the US Army Garrison at APG, the transportation center will promote alternative transportation, including carpools, vanpools and rail and transit to workers there. Center staffers will also encourage participation in the federal commuter program Guaranteed Ride Home Program.

The Maryland Transit Administration began work on the Edgewood MARC Station project in 2011 and opened the new station in December while continuing the installation of two ramps for people with disabilities. The project involved demolishing a post office on the site, reusing the existing platform and constructing the new station. The new station has platform shelter, bathroom facilities and ticket vending machines. Also improved were parking, signs and landscaping.

Karen Holt, of Harford County’s department of economic development, calls the MARC Edgewood station project “a long time coming. The upgrades reflect the expanding transit needs of our growing defense community.”
Aberdeen Proving Ground is Maryland’s third largest workforce employer with about 22,000 people. That figure includes new 8,200 new jobs that were relocated, mainly from northern Virginia and New Jersey, to Aberdeen Proving Ground thanks to BRAC.
The Edgewood station is at a key location on the MARC Train Penn Line, on a site next  to the Maryland Route #755 Gate to Aberdeen Proving Ground. The MARC train runs from Washington, D.C., though Baltimore and after Edgewood, continues to Perryville. The station is also located near Martin State Airport.
“Public transportation will play a vital role in the Aberdeen BRAC zone, and this new MARC Train station will help ensure that BRAC growth is smart growth,” says MTA spokesman Terry Owens, who notes that MARC service to Edgewood did not stop during the construction of the new station.
The Edgewood station averages 265 boardings per day, Owens says.  
Federal funding paid for $3.5 million, or 60 percent, of the $5 million project; the rest came from local and state funding.
Sources: Terry Owens, Maryland Transit Administration; Karen Holt, Harford County department of economic development and regional BRAC manager for Chesapeake Science and Security Corridor
Writer: Barbara Pash

Md. Firm Signs $1M Contract With Homeland Security

The US Department of Homeland Security last month gave Robotic Research LLC the go-ahead to develop the next-generation robot for emergency medical personnel.

The engineering firm signed a two-year, $1 million contract to design and build a robot that can sense its environment and function with minimal operator control. Headquartered in Gaithersburg with a maritime research facility in Baltimore City, Robotics Research designs software and systems for robots. 
The current contract is phase two of the homeland security department’s Small Business Innovation Research Program for the Maryland company’s Sensor-Smart Affordable Robotic Platform. In phase one, the company received $100,000 for a prototype. Upon completion of the current contract, the Robotic Research may commercialize the product, President Alberto Lacaze says. 
The Sensor-Smart program is a family of small, mobile robotic platforms with three-dimensional adapted components for specialized missions. The 3-D components allow the robot to adapt to the different conditions an emergency medical technician would encounter. For example, different sensors can be used to determine toxins in the air or to start a video system for rescue operations.
“We are expanding the functionality of the robot with sensors, tailored for particular applications,” Lacaze says. “It’s almost like the robot can modify itself to different situations.”
Robotic Research also manufactures components of robots, either prototypes or final products that are put into other robotic devices. Its customers are primarily the US military and homeland security department.
Among its products are a control system for the recovery of unmanned boats, in collaboration with General Dynamics Robotic Systems and sponsored by the US Naval Sea Systems Command; and an indoor mapping and visualization robot for Global Positioning System-denied terrain and buildings, sponsored by the US Army.
It's conducting an ongoing project for the US Department of Defense’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency at the company’s research facility, located on two boats at the Baltimore marina at Fells Point.
Founded in 2002, the privately owned Robotic Research employs 25. It has ongoing paid internships for college students at the undergraduate and graduate levels.
Source: Alberto Lacaze, Robotic Research LLC
Writer: Barbara Pash

US Army In Afghanistan Uses Columbia Tech Company's Radio System

US Army soldiers in Afghanistan are using specialized radio equipment made by a Columbia defense technology company. Syntonics LLC recently signed the $10.5 million contract with the military to provide equipment and servicing that enables and enhances radio communications.
The current contract follows an earlier deal with the US Army for the same equipment, its Radio over Fiber system that relays radio frequency signals over optical fiber. In 2010, Syntonics signed a $7-million contract with the US Army for the system to be deployed in Afghanistan for Operation Enduring Freedom.
The US Army Contracting Command, Aberdeen Proving Ground, is the contractor, under a Small Business Innovation Research contract. The US Navy’s Space and Naval Warfare System Command funded development of key technologies for the system.
In Afghanistan, tethered aerostats, aka blimps, are connected to command posts. The tethers have power and optical fibers. Cameras are attached to the aerostats for wide-area observation. The Syntonics system is attached to the aerostats via special equipment, enabling it to become an antenna site and allowing for secure radio communication with the command post and multiple radios on the ground.
Besides the military, Bruce G. Montgomery, Syntonics president, says the system is used by civilian agencies that have tactical communications, such as the Federal Bureau of Investigations and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
This year, too, Syntonics expanded its market for another product, a distributed antenna system, from the military to a commercial customer. Its distributed antenna system allows you to put antennas in places that radio signals could not otherwise penetrate.
The system is already being used by US Marines and Army Special Op troops. In November, Syntonics signed a contract for the system with the operator of nuclear power plants, whom Montgomery declined to identify.
The antenna system uses MEMS technology that the company is developing with the University Of Maryland, College Park's A. James Clark School Of Engineering. In August, the Maryland Industrial Partnerships awarded Syntonics more than $140,000 for further research on the technology.
Founded in 2000, Syntonics was originally located in the Maryland Center for Entrepreneurship, of the Howard County Economic Development Authority.
In 2002, it moved to a commercial building in Columbia, where it has since quadrupled the size of its office, from 3,000 square feet to 13,000 square feet. It began commercializing its products in 2005.
The company has 30 employees, with the founding employees owning the company in a closely held arrangement.
Source: Bruce G. Montgomery, Syntonics LLC
Writer: Barbara Pash

Security Firm Targets Small Biz

RBtec Perimeter Security Systems is known for providing protection at US military bases, US borders, federal prisons and industries' oil and gas pipelines and refineries. Now, the electronic detection and security company, the American counterpart to an Israeli company, is entering a new market. It is targeting small- and medium-sized businesses with an electronic protection product for fences.
Business Development Manager Dori Ribak says the yet-to-be named product is intended for businesses like car dealerships and other commercial operations that need to protect valuable assets left outside. RBtec's product consists of sensor cables that are attached to an existing fence and can detect vibrations of anyone trying to climb, lift or damage the fence. The cables are connected to an existing alarm system.
The kit has 1,000 feet of sensor cable, analyzer, power supply and instructions for self-installation for $3,800. “In essence, you are turning a fence into a ‘smart’ fence,” says Ribak.
RBtec is a sister company of the Israeli company of the same name whose clients include Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv. The American company entered the US market in 2000 but did not open its Derwood office until 2008. The office serves the North American and Latin American markets. It installs security systems around perimeters, both on the ground and underground.
In the US, Ribak says the company works on the federal level with military bases, border protection and power plants. It secures airports for the Transportation Security Administration and federal prisons for the Federal Bureau of Prisons. On the state level, it protects a reservoir for the state of New York and a gas utility for Virginia. It also works with private clients, such as Rancho Mirage Condominiums in California.
Although RBtec has clients in states around the US, it does not have any contracts with Maryland. Ribak says he is negotiating with the Maryland Department of Corrections for perimeter security around correctional facilities.

RBtec is privately funded and has five employees. However, with the new product, Ribak is looking for local installers and integrators if the property-owners choose not to install it themselves.

Source: Dori Ribak, RBtec Perimeter Security Systems
Writer: Barbara Pash

UMBC Incubator Firm Doubling Staff

TargetGov, a small business that specializes in federal contracting, is doubling its staff. President Gloria Larkin, who founded the firm in 1997, says she wants to add another five people with expertise in marketing research, data analysis and communications.

The firm helps companies position themselves and win contracts in the $500-billion federal marketplace. It has developed a strategy that analyzes client-companies’ strengths, identifies potential government customers and participates in the RFP (request for proposal) process. The firm works with the US Department of Defense, Department of Homeland Security, Department of Energy and Department of Health and Human Services.
Earlier this year, it relocated from the Maryland Center for Entrepreneurship, in Howard County, to the University of Maryland, Baltimore County's CyberIncubator @bwtech. 

Larkin says TargetGov consults with about 100 to 150 clients per year. They range from Fortune 50 companies to large utilities and small -- by government standards -- businesses with 20 to 40 employees. Because of client confidentiality, she declined to name them.

TargetGov also runs classes and webinars that train 1,000 to 2,000 clients per year.

TargetGov is partnering with [email protected] Research Park on classes for early-stage companies that want to bid on and get contracts with the federal government and agencies. The classes begin January 8 and will be held at the University of Maryland Baltimore County incubator.
The classes are being offered through a newly created TargetGov division, the Government Contracting Institute. Half- and full-day classes will be held on topics like the federal contracting sales process, legal requirements, security clearance, proposal writing and pricing strategies, and contract and project management. Classes will cost $450 and up, and are open to all interested companies.
Source: Gloria Larkin, TargetGov
Writer: Barbara Pash 
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