Naval exhibition not just for big spenders

Devices such as iPhone-ready satellite phone packs are on sale too

WITH its multi-million-dollar warship deals, the Imdex Asia maritime defence show is an event aimed mainly at big spenders.

Yet alongside the behemoth models of ship engines are cutting-edge devices with a military twist that can be had by ordinary citizens for as little as $700.

The hardware on show includes a laptop designed for a war zone and a gadget that allows iPhone users to receive a signal even when trudging across deserts or stuck in the middle of the ocean.

Some of these devices can face down sandstorms, rain, sea water or sub-arctic cold, and survive falls from heights with barely a scratch.

Singapore-based Devor Technologies is selling the detachable pack that turns an iPhone into a satellite phone in an instant.

Although gadgets like these are aimed at military customers, a few intrepid travellers have also found uses for them.

Devor Technologies operations manager Steven Lew said the firm had already sold about 10 iPhone-ready satellite phone packs in Singapore, even though they went on sale only two months ago and cannot be bought off the shelf.

Most buyers are people who want to remain contactable for work or in an emergency. For example, they could be business or adventure travellers, or deep-sea anglers.

"Using this, they can stay connected even in remote areas or out in the deep ocean," said Mr Lew.

"They won't have to worry about not having a signal."

The phone retails at about $700, and is compatible only with the iPhone 4 or 4S models.

Local firm SCS Technologies' $5,000 magnesium alloy laptops and tablets have attracted some interest from the public, said its technical manager Simon Seow. But so far none has been sold.

"A lot of people back off when they hear about the cost," he said, adding that not many ordinary users need a laptop designed for use in a war zone.

Today is the final day of the biennial Imdex Asia show - known in full as the International Maritime Defence Exhibition & Conference. It is open only to trade visitors.

Navy chiefs and commanders from countries including China, Japan, Malaysia, Australia and the United States met yesterday to discuss how to increase maritime security against a backdrop of increasing tensions in the South China Sea.

davidee@sph.com.sg