KU research fuels business advances
From Lawrence Journal World
By Mark Fagan
Researchers at Kansas University are looking for the next big commercial breakthrough in high technology.
Inside Nichols Hall, Kansas University researchers are working on wireless laptop computers, expanded-capacity fiber optics and the next generation of the Internet.
Among their goals for the work -- financed by nearly $7 million in grants this year -- is getting new technology into the marketplace where it can fuel success for companies around the world.
E-commerce sales are expected to hit $1 trillion a year in the next five years, and continuing research at KU's Information and Telecommunication Technology Center will play a role in feeding the growth, said Gary Minden, the center's chief technologist.
"It's going to be the enabler for electronic commerce," Minden said. "That's the impact down the road."
Minden and a handful of other KU researchers, professors and administrators showed off their programs Tuesday for U.S. Rep. Dennis Moore, D-Kan., a member of the House Committee on Science and Technology.
Moore said he wanted information about research activities to help him push for increased grants when Congress reconvenes in January.
"We'll certainly try," said Moore, who also visited Lawrence-area financial institutions to discuss Y2K preparations.
The KU center is working on projects intended to have commercial applications in the near future. A wireless laptop could allow users to access data, the Internet -- "even a CD system upstairs" -- without being plugged into anything, Minden said.
Web browsers mounted in walls would allow people to listen to the audio portion of CNN while taking a shower, said Joseph Evans, the center's acting director.
And that's only the beginning.
"Just think about walking around the Starship Enterprise and how that works," Evans said.
Previous projects already have paid off for the center. A comprehensive Internet search engine, called ProFusion, has poured about $200,000 into the center through licensing agreements and royalties. Software for designing communications systems in the 1980s pumped $100,000 back to KU.
Today the center's 29 faculty members, 15 staff researchers, six staffers and 130 students are working toward the next big breakthrough, whatever technical form it takes.
"Think of it as the Dick Tracy wristwatch," said Robert Barnhill, president of the KU Center for Research. "It's coming true in our time."
For more information, contact ITTC.