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Year of the Smaller Business: Some Large Firms Sit out ITEC 2013

May. 20, 2013 - 03:45AM   |  
By LAUREN BIRON and ALAN DRON   |   Comments
Boeing will exhibit its Virtual Maintenance Trainer.
Boeing will exhibit its Virtual Maintenance Trainer. (Boeing)
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Visit TSJ at ITEC

TSJ Editor Lauren Biron will be in Rome for ITEC 2013. You are invited to visit TSJ at booth D132.


Despite budget uncertainties, this year’s ITEC seems likely to gather most of the usual military, government and academic players. What may be more surprising is the presence from the military training and simulation industry as large businesses hold off or scale back on conferences, opening the door for smaller companies at the show.

“The large companies are retrenching in some ways, and picking their shows. This is a matter of course — they are being very selective. In many cases, they’re cutting shows out of their portfolio for the next year or two until they get more certainty at home,” said retired Rear Adm. James Robb, head of the National Training and Simulation Association, which puts on the conference along with Clarion Events.

Two major players in the industry that will not be attending are Cubic and Raytheon, who pulled out of the show but have shown considerable presence in the past.

“The big companies come in and they have great quality, great capabilities, but in some ways, those big-ticket items become less affordable in this environment,” Robb said.

Flat or shrinking budgets across much of Europe and the U.S. mean governments and militaries are reducing live training hours, cutting funding to training and maintenance, and seeking cheaper alternatives for training and simulation when possible.

ITEC organizers have been reaching out to smaller companies that have not previously attended, hoping to counter the loss of big companies that can pull out of conferences to save money and weather the budget storm. It’s also a way to reflect the changing demands and priorities of purchasers. Smaller solutions may appeal to government and military representatives from smaller countries that have smaller budgets and are seeking smaller transactions, Robb said.

“They probably can’t afford the giant new simulator, but they’re looking for software, or are looking for things with low price points,” he said. “We have to represent that new demographic.”

Attendees at both ITEC in Rome and at the upcoming I/ITSEC in Orlando, Fla., can expect to see a push on smaller companies, though large companies are likely to return or increase their presence once the budgets are more stable.

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“We really need to get the budgets settled and get over some of these political things, because it’s going to have a continuing degrading impact on business over time,” Robb said.

The number of attendees is unlikely to reach the same level as last year, with registrations at mid-April still below what they were during the same time period in 2012.

“It’s not a dramatic drop off, but if it continues this way, we will be down somewhat from last year,” said John Williams, communications director for the National Defense Industrial Association. “Obviously, it’s a sequestration issue.”

ITEC will not face the same fate as some recent conferences such as GameTech, where the U.S. government was not permitted to travel due to budget constraints. But cost will still factor into attendance, affecting not just how many people can stroll the exhibit hall, but also the amount of international and inter-industry networking and attendance to the dozens of presentations.

“There’s been a blanket approval, but it’s going to be an individual call as to how many come from each service,” Williams said.

Members of the U.S. training and simulation community may attend, but the major sim arms of the military — such as the Army’s Program Executive Office for Simulation Training and Instrumentation or the Marine Corps’ Program Manager for Training Systems — are not expecting to set up booths as they did at I/ITSEC in Orlando.

Focus instead lands on the Italian contingent, which will be strongly represented at the show. Members of the Italian modeling and simulation group, MIMOS, will attend, alongside the Italian military and companies such as Finmeccanica, Log.In and IBR Sistemi. ITEC organizers also expect to see a late surge of Italian small- and medium-sized companies, according to Simon Williams, chairman of Clarion Defence and Security.

A Diverse Conference

This year’s show grew from four to six conference themes, which will be addressed in various presentations:

Current and future military operational needs: An ITEC standard, this theme addresses emerging training requirements, individual and collective training, and mission rehearsal.

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The conference will see a continuation of the doctrinal tension over the future shape of training in the aftermath of a decade spent heavily enmeshed in training for counterinsurgency and asymmetric operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“How will the military maintain its competency in COIN, hard-won over the past decade, yet not neglect more traditional forms of warfare?” Simon Williams said. “Some people say the world has changed forever while others say [asymmetric warfare] will run in tandem with more regular methods. This is a long-term discussion.”

Civil support, protection and disaster event management: Members of the military often find themselves outside of their traditional roles. Presentations in this theme will explore ways to use technology to support training for these additional duties, how to eliminate training gaps and discuss both lessons learned and upcoming needs.

Italy’s history of earthquakes has helped sprout a sophisticated civil defense structure that is closely aligned with the military, Williams said. A number of companies associated with simulating the planning and command structures at tactical, operational and strategic levels will have equipment on the exhibition floor.

Cybersecurity education: Increasing awareness from civilian, government and military agencies has created a demand for cybersecurity training, which many experts still find inadequate. But training has potential to be of real benefit.

“Since cyber is a relatively virtual activity, the training involved is going to be very realistic,” Robb said. “You’re training in a virtual world could be almost identical to the actual work environment.”

Sessions will include a broad overview of the domain and approaches to cybersecurity education.

Innovative learning technologies — use and implementation: Technology attempts to come to the rescue as troops train with less. Presenters will address serious gaming, mobile learning, virtual task training and future innovations.

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Medical training challenges: Health care simulation is proving vital for both civilians and members of the military. Discussions will include how training can improve patient care, new generations of technology and how to build sim centers that provide the best possible training.

Robb expects a push from the military as developers transition the products developed for war into the commercial sector, including areas such as education, medicine, transportation, manufacturing and even business.

Technological innovations in modeling and simulation: The catch-all category for interesting technology will include virtual environment modeling, augmented reality, and human behavior modeling.

Beyond the simulator hardware, Robb also expects to see more software and simulations addressing these kinds of computation heavy scenarios. Behavioral prediction in particular seems promising, as trainers want scenarios that are unscripted, dynamic and reflective of varying cultures, he said.

On the Floor

Overall, exhibitors are playing up established technologies and ways to adopt them rather than releasing a slew of new products. But some companies will have new announcements.

PulseDefence, part of PulseLearning, will use ITEC to officially launch its Encrypted Mobile Data Management system, and plans to present the technology at an Innovation Showcase session. It allows users to transfer data securely and features “instant access to 3-D maintenance and operator content in any environment.” The company will also show PulseDefence Virtual Armoury, a 3-D-based weapon-system trainer for operators and maintainers, and the Small Arms Coaching Support System.

Boeing will not be showcasing anything new, but plans to exhibit its Virtual Maintenance Trainer, in addition to international training solutions. Rachelle Lockhart, a representative for Boeing’s Training Systems and Government Services, said the company will have about the same number of people attending the show as it did three years ago, the last time the company attended.

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Radio fans will see the debut of Calytrix’s CNR-Intercom product, which the company announced at I/ITSEC in Orlando but will be displaying for the first time at ITEC. The CNR-Intercom is a hardware audio mixer that can simulate vehicle intercoms during crew training.

Visualization technology will also be important at ITEC. Barco, which acquired projectiondesign in February, will work with their new component and share two stands themed “joining forces.” The stands will have a variety of projection technology running content from flight and vehicle simulations.

MASA Group will announce MASA LIFE, artificial intelligence middleware designed for the modeling and simulation market. The tool is intended to simplify behavior management of individuals and crowds in sims, making them more realistic and better animated. LIFE was introduced in March to the serious gaming industry.

TrianGraphics will be showing the newest version of its own landscape generator, Trian3D Builder version 5.0. The new release will come with an application programming interface that allows customers to integrate the software and adjust the functions of the program. The new version also focuses on improving road generation features — a crucial fact, since the program automatically “imports and generates complex road networks from real-world navigation data,” according to sales manager Felix Fürneisen.

Canada’s Ngrain, maker of 3-D software for maintenance and training, will have its newly-released Constructor 5.0, a software development kit that relies on 3-D pixels known as “voxels” and can be used to develop mission rehearsal scenarios.

Developers can visit the Oculus VR booth and check out the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset. The Oculus Rift development kit will be on display, along with demos from consumers and the serious game industry. The headset may also make an appearance in partner companies at the show.

VirtualSim will demonstrate its vsTASKER and use it to build a drone simulator with a control panel and a 3-D viewer. The technology generates C++ code that can then be embedded in a real-time simulation system or third party library, including in MatLab or models.

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The language and culture software developers at Alelo will present some of their technologies that use automated speech understanding, models of human face-to-face interaction and automated assessment of user skills.

Concurrent Real-Time, which makes Linux-systems and software, will showcase the newest versions of two of its products: the SIMulation Workbench, which is used to develop both hardware-in-the-loop and man-in-the-loop simulations, and RedHawk Linux, which is used for graphics processing solutions.

As for larger simulators, Alenia Aermacchi will display its M-346 Integrated Training System and C-27J Flight Simulators. The Italian Air Force will have the Eurofighter Flight Simulator on hand. Germany’s ESG Elektroniksystem- und Logistik-GmbH will present a training solution for the new cockpit of the CH-53 GA helicopter, in addition to its generic tactical helicopter simulator.

CAE will exhibit its Dynamic Synthetic Environment, UAS Mission Trainer, and constructive simulation system, but does not plan to debut any new capabilities at the show. CAE has shown UAS capabilities in Europe before, but this will be the first European show to display the UAS Mission Trainer as a standardized product.

Saab’s booth will have a live demo of its virtual gunnery and crew trainer, which includes a motion platform and can be networked to provide simulation on the platoon and company level. The company will also offer a Joint Fires Trainer, rapid 3-D mapping system and an urban operations trainer with an enhanced after-action-review capability.

Dytecna will focus on its A400M Part Task Training devices, three of which the U.K. Ministry of Defence recently purchased in a multi-million dollar contract. The trainers will be used to practice loading, unloading, and dispatch procedures, aircraft drills, and restraint and parachuting techniques.

CM Labs will demonstrate a new type of ground vehicle simulator based on its off-the-shelf simulation software, Vortex. The demo shows a number of Vortex tools for the first time, spokesman David Clark said. These include rapid integration with hardware platforms (in this case, a high-end driving rig), flexible interoperability and user-friendly distributed training.

Antycip, as the European distributor for Quantum3D, will showcase the dismounted infantry soldier trainer, ExpeditionDI, a product that has already started rolling out to bases in the U.S. The company will also be running MyTraffic, a method to simulate vehicles that are intelligent, autonomous and interactive.

Finally, on the weapons front, Meggitt Training Systems will demonstrate its FATS M100. The technology supports training for a large selection of weapons and has been demoed at shows before. Laser Shot will show its Long Range Precision Shooting Simulator Software, which works with Virtual Battlespace 2 to train target acquisition and reflexes.

The company will also have the Portable Small Arms Training Simulator developed for members of the military. ■

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