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|From The Morning Call
-- February 18, 2005|
First partnership formed in new zone
Business will market screening device developed at Lehigh.
Of The Morning Call
From her Virginia home, Audree Chase-Mayoral was stunned one day when she came across a network news story about a high-tech device that, with seemingly Superman capabilities, was able to see through walls to detect concealed weapons.
What was even more amazing than the technology, Chase-Mayoral thought, was it was being developed at Lehigh University — practically her hometown.
Now, after 11/2 years of phone calls and research, the Southern Lehigh graduate is returning to her roots with her husband, Leopoldo Mayoral, to market that technology to the law enforcement community.
The couple formed a company, SuperVision Technology Inc., and plan to launch it in Bethlehem with the help of the state's new Keystone Innovation Zone, designed to help communities grow technology businesses by forging partnerships with universities.
Bethlehem and Lancaster received the first designations, and Bethlehem on Thursday became the first in the state to award a technology grant with a $10,250 check to SuperVision.
''The commonwealth of Pennsylvania has granted us a tremendous opportunity through the KIZ program to develop our business and produce a state-of-the-art system,'' Leopoldo Mayoral, president and chief executive officer of SuperVision, said during a news conference at Lehigh University. ''We expect that [the device] will change the face of national security in how law enforcement currently examines individuals for hidden weapons.''
While the grant is relatively small, officials say it is a significant step in developing the Keystone Innovation Zone, which aims to head off ''brain drain'' by enticing graduates to find high-paying work in the state. There are now about a dozen such zones in the state.
The zone includes much of the South Side: Lehigh University, nearby neighborhoods, the South Side business district and a large part of the former Bethlehem Steel property.
As part of his $2 billion economic stimulus package, Gov. Ed Rendell in July presented Bethlehem with $250,000 to kick off the program. That money was matched by the South Bethlehem KIZ Committee, which got about half its money from the Ben Franklin Technology Development Authority.
The city and university have been working on a host of projects, including creating a wireless network on the city's South Side.
In addition, Bethlehem's KIZ also has set up a subcommittee to investigate how it could use university and public transportation to acquaint students with the surrounding community.
''Through nationally recognized programs like the Keystone Innovation zones, Pennsylvania is demonstrating its commitment to creating high-wage, high-skilled jobs and strengthening Pennsylvania's overall economy,'' said Richard Overmoyer, deputy secretary of the state Department of Community and Economic Development's Office of Technology Investment.
Ray Suhocki, president and chief executive officer of the Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corp., which locally administers the KIZ program, said the coming of SuperVision shows how the state is combatting ''brain drain.''
''Entrepreneurs like SuperVision Technologies Inc. demonstrates how the KIZ initiative is becoming a reality and how the program benefits the economy in the Lehigh Valley,'' Suhocki said.
SuperVision plans to use the grant to do a marketing study on the product, called Portable Multi-Sensor Imaging Fusion System. A prototype could be ready within six months and it could be marketed in less than a year.
Developed by Lehigh University professor Rick Blum, the device can project images to law enforcement that show weapons hidden behind walls or concealed on humans underneath clothing.
The technology fuses two types of images using complicated algorithms Blum created.
The first image uses millimeter-wave sensors that emit high-frequency radio waves to detect metal objects, such as weapons, and project the information in an image similar to an X-ray. The second image comes from a digital camera so law enforcement agents can see human features and clothing.
Blum said he expects the technology to cater to the departments of Defense and Homeland Security. The company will be working on making the device more affordable to other law enforcement agencies.
The company will begin with three employees and could expand to 10 within two years.
Mayor John Callahan described the company's arrival as an important step in the KIZ program.
''Any time we can bring a company from Virginia to the Lehigh Valley is quite a coup,'' Callahan said.
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