NASA research finds way into IT, consumer products

Fifty years of technology helped to create Silicon Valley and improve health care.

In addition, NASA-developed laser technology is used in photo scanning and fingerprinting systems and in the development of artificial intelligence technologies. NASA also played a key role in developing the integrated circuit, which fueled the birth of Silicon Valley and firms such as Intel and Advanced Micro Devices.

Even a spray developed at the Kennedy Space Center to prevent saltwater from corroding its concrete buildings along the Florida coastline was used by scientists at Surtreat International to create commercial products that protect buildings, bridges and roadways, said Lockney.

"I don't think people realize that a lot of technologies that we use in our everyday lives have been developed around or for spaceflight," said Jim McGregor, an analyst at In-Stat.

"NASA really has developed some of the most critical technologies that have changed our lives. Their research leads to future spaceflight, but also technology that benefits the US and several industries," McGregor added.

In 2006, Flight Explorer licensed NASA's Future Air Traffic Management Concepts Evaluation Tool, which was developed at NASA's Ames Research Center, to use in its aircraft-tracking and communications systems.

Chris Zanardi, director of solutions management for Sabre Flight Explorer, said the technology at one time was used by 85 percent of US airlines, but it has since been replaced by a simpler tool that the company developed internally. The NASA software worked well, he said, but required significant training of clients -- more than his company could feasibly provide.

"It's one of those things where it's not paste and overlay. It required some training, and everybody has resource constraints," said Zanardi.

Nonetheless, he said that Flight Explorer would be eager to use another NASA technology because the agency is "at the forefront of providing R&D [for] air traffic management tools. We want to partner with [entities] like NASA that help us help our customers."

American Science and Engineering said its work for NASA in the 1960s and 1970s created the basis of its business today.

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Sharon Gaudin

Computerworld (US)

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