Local group's role crucial in telecom meeting here

June 21, 2004


The titans of telecommunications converge on Chicago this morning for Supercomm 2004, the world's top telecommunications trade show. Behind the scenes, a little-known Chicago organization is playing a pivotal role in this global event.

An estimated 30,000 technology professionals from around the world will be here to learn about the latest industry trends, the newest communications equipment and state-of-the-art services.

The roster of speakers includes: Ned Barnholt, CEO, Agilent Technologies; Serge Tchuruk, CEO, Alcatel; Ed Whitacre Jr., CEO, SBC Communications; Michael Powell, chairman, Federal Communications Commission, and Don Logan, chairman, Media and Communications Group, Time Warner.

Over 400 hands-on telco experts will share their knowledge at McCormick Place podiums throughout the week.

Pulling together this industry expertise is the responsibility of the not-for-profit International Engineering Consortium (IEC). Located at 549 W. Randolph, the IEC plans the programs and recruits the speakers for this week's digital-age hoedown at McCormick Place.

"The IEC is tremendously important to the communications industry," says Mike Quigley, senior executive vice president with $15 billion Paris-based supplier Alcatel. "As an educational force in the industry, IEC shapes the knowledge base and skills sets of our talent pool. They influence the quality and innovative of our entire industry."

The IEC is a uniquely Chicago institution dedicated to technology transfer and technical education. According to IEC Senior Director John Janowiak, it was created in 1944 on the back page of an envelope in a bar at the Chicago Hilton. Motorola founder Paul Galvin, the leaders of Western Electric and the heads of the top Midwestern universities convened to create the IEC. The group's aim: to capitalize on the pace of wartime electronics research to assure continued peacetime progress.

Sixty years later, the IEC has bloomed into a global organization that provides technology education to over 400,000 engineering students, professors and commercial workers around the world. The IEC forms a network that links leaders in business and academia to assure tomorrow's engineers have easy access to real-world research initiatives and commercial applications.

IEC executives also played an important role stimulating Supercomm's three-year return to Chicago. The show is jointly owned by the Telecommunications Industry Association and the United States Telecom Association.

If you're a Chicago taxi driver or a restaurant worker and business is good this week; if the hotels are just a little fuller, and the shops on Michigan Avenue seem to bustle just a bit more, remember to thank the International Engineering Consortium.

Can we talk?

The Cook County Board approved a $12.8 million Phase 1 urban-area security initiative that will improve first responders' ability to communicate in an emergency.

The project was competitively bid and IBM will serve as the prime contractor. The initiative is funded as part of a $34 million grant the county received from the Federal Department of Homeland Security's Office of Domestic Preparedness.

The aim, according to Cook County CIO Catherine Maras O'Leary, is to put in place "an interoperable mobile voice, video and data network for first responders. The first responders -- fire, paramedics and police --have to be able to talk together to coordinate activities."

In addition to integrating voice communication over a private wireless network, O'Leary's program includes the addition of infrared video cameras to remotely observe sensitive sites. A data component enables first responders to use existing technology to access critical information in an emergency. First responders will be able to access records at the Centers for Disease Control, says Maras O'Leary.

She describes the effort as a "collaborative multi-county initiative involving the city and suburban municipalities."

Bits & bytes

A speedy recovery to Maura O'Hara, executive director, Illinois Venture Capital Association, following surgery. ... University of Chicago's Robert Rosenberg reconvenes his Chicago Technology Forum highlighting our region's medical device technology Friday at the Gleacher Center. ... B2B magazine Editor Ellis Booker appears at Thursday's B2B Marketing Symposium organized by the Technology Executives Club.

Michael Krauss is a Chicago-based tech writer and consultant.


 ©2004 Marion Consulting Partners