ITEC 2019: Stockholm Stories - Military Simulation & Training

ITEC 2019: Stockholm Stories

This year’s ITEC conference theme, “Interoperable By Design: Connecting People, Technology and Nations”, reflects the changing demands of the global security and defence architecture. MS&T Europe Editor Dim Jones reflects on the event.

ONLINE BONUS COVERAGE

  • Dim Jones’ Extended Report
  • Best Paper Award
  • Comment from Conference Chair, Dr Elaine Raybourn
  • Comment from Simon Williams, Chairman, Clarion Defence & Security
  • Comments from a Clarion spokesperson
  • ETSA ITEC survey highlights

The 30th ITEC exhibition and conference took place at the Stockholmsmässan in Älvsjö, a suburb of Stockholm, between 13 and 16 May. In a new format for ITEC, and mirroring the model of MilSimAsia in Singapore, the show was co-located with two other events, Undersea Defence Technology and the Association of Old Crows Electronic Warfare (AOC EW) Europe. Although accommodated in the same complex, and sharing the facilities of Stockholmsmässan, Sweden’s largest conference centre, the three shows had separate exhibition and conference halls and there was little apparent synergy, although for an additional fee ITEC delegates could visit the other events. There must have been some economy of overheads for the organisers, Clarion Defence and Security, which hopefully went in some small way toward mitigating the cost of exhibiting and attending in what is undoubtedly an expensive city. 

Älvsjö is situated some 7km southwest of the city centre, and an easy journey on the train network, which also provides an excellent service to Arlanda Airport, some 40km northwest of the city. ITEC, UDT and AOC EW appeared to be the only events taking place at Stockholmsmässan, which certainly had more than sufficient accommodation. On-site catering was good, and the registration process rendered easier by the fact that AOC EW and UDT started a day earlier than the main ITEC event, which was preceded by a Simulation Interoperability Standards Organisation (SISO) seminar.

Local political support for the event, not universal in previous venues, was excellent – not least because the City of Stockholm and the Stockholm Chamber of Commerce are joint owners of the conference centre. If there was any adverse demonstrating going on, it was not apparent to me; the only ‘dissenting’ presence was the band of friendly monks, veterans of many ITECs, who hand out prayer leaflets to those making their way in from the train.

Changing Security Demands

This year’s conference theme was ‘Interoperable By Design: Connecting People, Technology and Nations’, reflecting the changing demands of the global security and defence architecture. and delegates were welcomed by Rear Admiral Simon Williams, Chairman of Clarion Defence and Security, who introduced the Conference Chair, Dr Elaine Raybourn, Principal Member of the Technical Staff for Applied Cognitive Science at the Sandia National Laboratories (New Mexico, USA).

Dr Raybourn in turn introduced the Keynote Speaker, Major General Karl Engelbrektson, Chief of Staff of the Swedish Army, and the other members of the Keynote Panel: Mr Dan Eliasson, Director-General of the Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency (MSB); Dr Frank DiGiovanni, Deputy Director of the US Navy’s Expeditionary Warfare Division; Mr Hans Lindgren, Saab AB’s Head of Business Development for Training & Simulation; and Dr Raed Arafat, Secretary of State and Head of the Department of Emergency Situations in Romania’s Ministry of Internal Affairs. 

The presence in the panel of two members whose roles lie in the civil rather than the military sector was not lost on the audience, and Maj Gen Engelbrektson explained that military and civil authorities were being increasingly called upon to tackle major crisis management operations side-by-side, and that it is essential that they be able to interoperate effectively. He observed that cultural difference meant that he was able to communicate more easily with army commanders from other nations than with agencies with different roles in Sweden, where the national concept of a ‘resilient society’ and ‘total defence’, uniting military and civil in common cause, meant that such interoperability was vital. 

From a more commercial perspective, Simon Williams noted that, whereas most military organisations had their S&T systems in place, and the opportunities for new business were somewhat limited, the same was not always true for their civil counterparts, and this opened up new possibilities for industry; this was reflected by unprecedented numbers of civil protection operators and civil first responders attending.

Missing in Action

The exhibition floor, it has to be said, was smaller than historical ITEC norms, and many of the household names were conspicuous by their absence – among them Boeing, L-3, Rheinmetall, Barco, Airbus, Meggitt, QinetiQ and RUAG. This was partly mitigated by the presence of smaller companies from the Baltic and Scandinavian region; indeed, 30% of those exhibiting were from Nordic countries with, unsurprisingly, Sweden as the largest provider. 

Simon Williams observed that: “This reflects the regional dimension of an event such as ITEC; it offers those attending the event an opportunity to meet new potential providers that they might otherwise not encounter. This is a positive outcome for business-to-business, business-to-customer, and increases the chances of those attending encountering new and innovative solutions”. 

Many of the larger companies who were present used their booths principally for meetings rather than product display and, indeed, this year’s show floor was characterised by multiple flat-screen displays rather than projectors and domes, an exception being JVCKenwood. On the plus side, the show floor was uncluttered and relatively quiet (not least due to the absence of the small arms simulation fraternity).  Quite often the busiest (and noisiest) area was the Delegate Lounge in the centre where, I have no doubt, much good business was being transacted.  

I must record, however, that the booth numbering on the floor plan defied any logic that I could find and seemed to be the product of a tortured mind; it turns out that it was actually the product of tortured ‘event design software’ which, I am assured by Clarion, will be simplified for next year’s event. Happily, any impediment to navigation was offset by the provision of free WiFi across the show and conference floors which, I am certain, met with the approval of all concerned.  

The spacious accommodation also allowed for what has now become the standard ITEC layout of igloos (one main Keynote Theatre and 3 smaller ones), which were sufficiently separated that there was minimal acoustic interference between them.      

Statistics provided by Clarion indicate that there were over 2,100 unique visitors, and that this did not include delegates from UDT and AOC EW who were able to migrate freely on payment of a fee. Happily, the media were allowed to migrate freely without payment; however, although I found both the other exhibitions extremely interesting, I am not sure how much cross-pollination took place. 

Uniform Representation

About 25% of the delegates were military, of whom a goodly proportion were in uniform. In particular, the event was well supported by the German Armed Forces; indeed, more than one exhibitor observed that they had seen more German uniforms in Stockholm than in Stuttgart (the year before)! There were 137 VIPs from 37 nations and delegates from 38, although I am bound to say that a fair proportion of the ‘VIPs’ were of a rank equal to, or lower than, the modest status which I attained in service, and I would have hesitated to portray myself as a VIP.  

There were some 74 exhibiting companies from 21 nations, more than 40% ITEC first-timers; several booths were shared by partnering and associated companies, as has become the norm at ITEC. The traditional mini-theatre on the exhibition floor was this year occupied by DisTec (Disruptive Technology), sponsored by the futuristic game developer, Improbable, and showcasing revolutionary technological developments across military and civil training domains; this theme and sponsorship will continue to ITEC 2020.   

There were very few really new exhibits on show; the pace of product development in recent years dictates that, if there is something new to demonstrate – particularly from the larger companies, it tends to make its debut at I/ITSEC in Florida; however, there were still some interesting things to see.

Latvian company Lightspace Technology (www.lightspace3d.com/) demonstrated their ‘Multi-Plane Volumetric 3D Image Display Technology, in the form of an air traffic control airspace presentation, which I found very effective, and much more easily interpreted than an equivalent traditional 2D display.

The VR Free hand-tracking system from Sensoryx (www.sensoryx.com/), a Swiss company, comprises a pair of lightweight gloves and an HMD mount which clips on to whatever head-mounted VR device you are using; together, they allow full tracking of hands and fingers in 3D space, without any other tracking device.

Leonardo (www.leonardocompany.com/services/training) announced plans to expand their International Flight Training School as the new M-345 trainer comes into service, to replace the MB-339 in 2019/20; while Phase 2 and 3 pilot training will continue to be conducted at Lecce-Galatina AB in southern Italy, the Phase 4 operation and the M-346 will move into a new purpose-built facility at Decimomannu in Sardinia – beloved of generations of NATO aircrew – to take advantage of the free airspace and air-to-air and air-to-ground range facilities to be found there. Leonardo will supply some instructors, maintenance and logistic support, and four additional M-346 aircraft.

Saab (https://saab.com/land/) – as befits the host-nation’s principal defence company – were a major presence and, at a media brief in their smart new HQ in downtown Stockholm, demonstrated that they continue to do good business in the instrumented live training environment.      

In sum, this was an interesting and enjoyable event. The stats suggest that the ITEC exhibition is, at best, ‘treading water’; however, the overall impression from the MS&T team, talking to exhibitors, presenters and delegates, was positive. Exhibitors reported ‘good traffic and good leads’, and most intended to be back next year. There is no doubt that there were some major names missing from the exhibitor line-up, and they will be doing their ROI sums to determine whether their decision to stay away has been vindicated. 

As regards the aims and achievements of the conference, the last word goes to Elaine Raybourn: “Instead of looking back, we focused on the present and the future. We asked ourselves, ‘How can we take today’s innovations to prepare a path for connected learning in the future? How can we leverage new technologies while applying all of the evidence and science we have generated up to now? Why not include new topics such as civil defence, or new methods such as reaching across silos to bring in speakers from the UDT conference with different perspectives?’ And we did each of these. The conference was a huge success – our overall participation increased from years past (both in number of exhibits and number of delegates), and our technical program featured cutting-edge research that fit our theme of interoperability by design. I am certain this event was memorable – an ITEC that we will be talking about for a long time to come.”

ITEC 2020, from 28 to 30 April, will herald a return to its old haunt at the ExCel in London’s Docklands. The organisers feel that the high costs of exhibiting in Sweden may have acted as a deterrent; London is not cheap either, but it seems to be a popular venue for both exhibitors and delegates, and Clarion will hope that this year’s defectors will return and – since it is questionable whether many of the small Scandinavian and Baltic companies who exhibited in Stockholm will make the trip – that others from the UK and the near continent will swell the ranks.       

ITEC 2019 Best Paper Award

The winner of the Best Paper Award was the contribution that most embodied the ITEC 2019 theme: “Interoperability by Design: Connecting People, Technology, and Nations” – Making the invisible visible – Towards increasing pilot training effectiveness by visualizing scan patterns of trainees through AR, authored by Ms Jeanine Vlasblom, R&D Engineer, NLR (Netherlands Aerospace Centre). The paper describes the development and evaluation of a scan pattern monitoring system using augmented reality.

Ms Vlasblom received her Master of Science degree in Applied Cognitive Psychology at Utrecht University in 2018. She wrote her master thesis at NLR on the subject of this paper. She started as a Junior R&D Engineer at NLR’s Training, Simulation & Operator Performance Department while finishing her thesis.

Comments from ITEC Chair Dr Elaine Raybourn

ITEC 2019 was its 30th anniversary. As such, 2019 was the year of connecting people, technology, and nations – just as ITEC has done for the simulation and training community for the past 30 years. 

Instead of looking back, however, we focused on the present and the future. We asked ourselves, “How can we take today’s innovations to prepare a path for connected learning in the future? How can we leverage new technologies while applying all of the evidence and science we have generated up to now? Why not include new topics such as civil defence, or new methods such as reaching across silos to bring in speakers from the UDT conference with different perspectives?” And we did each of these.

The conference was a huge success – our overall participation increased from years past (both in number of exhibits and number of delegates), and our technical program featured cutting-edge research that fit our theme of interoperability by design. I am certain this event was memorable – an ITEC that we will be talking about for a long time to come.

Our committee curated a conference program that connected key results from research and innovations from industry with lessons learned from experience. As Chairman I initiated the new addition of extended abstract conference proceedings and a new Best Paper Award review process and subcommittee. It was my charge as Committee Chair to ensure that the quality and excellence of the ITEC technical program continues to grow, and by instituting these accomplishments it is my hope that our delegates could more easily access and share what they learned from, and with each other.

The following comments are from my opening remarks for the conference:

“The theme of ITEC 2019 – “Interoperable by Design: Connecting People, Technology, and Nations” – was a call to action for each of us, whether from research, industry, and operations to scale collaboration, technical innovation, and knowledge-sharing across different domains, perspectives, and nations. The ITEC 2019 theme reminded us of the importance of authentic human connectedness in operations, as well as the technical challenges we need to overcome to bring modern modeling and simulation training solutions for joint, combined, and distributed contexts to life.”

“I believe that it is only by scaling cooperation and collaboration beyond the status quo that we will take our sector successfully into the coming decades. Through earnest collaboration we can apply advancements in science and technology to global trends such as urban concentration, demographic shifts, climate change, and technological surprise. Together, our nations can prepare for these and other known global trends that will, and have already begun, to shape our near and distant futures.”

“We are fascinated with connected technology is because of its power to connect people and nations – to demonstrate the art of the possible and create new experiences for our trainees that they have often only imagined.”

Simon Williams, Chairman, Clarion Defence & Security. Image credit: Clarion.

Comments from Simon Williams, Chairman, Clarion Defence & Security

ITEC 2019 in Stockholm was highly successful on a number of levels: attendance was up; our military representatives attended in numbers; the audience expanded in terms of diversity, both nations attending, and the range of civil protection and first responders who came. Co-location with UDT and EWE brought increased numbers into the event; this enhanced both business-to-business and business-to-customer engagement, without diluting the focus of ITEC.

The theme of the conference – “Interoperable by Design: Connecting People, Technology and Nations” – was chosen to reflect the changing demands of the global security and defence architecture. Sweden’s defence policy has been updated to capture these changes, especially with the rise of hybrid warfare, and the return of potential state-on-state conflict. Both of these factors have highlighted the need to consider the protection of our civil populations. To be effective and efficient military forces and civil protection forces are already developing a closer understanding of each other’s needs. Training, education and preparation will be key to improving such understanding. The intention to use ITEC 2019 as a forum for military and civil practitioners, researchers, designers and the training and simulation industry to gather, discuss and review how this can be achieved was fulfilled. Unprecedented numbers of civil protection operators and civil first responders attended ITEC this year, and this was matched by a significant number of military attendees from Sweden and across the world. Over 25% of those attending were serving military personnel. Those attending the conference were treated to a high-quality, peer-reviewed programme that received very positive feedback. There were more than 2,100 attendees at the event in total, which continues a growing trend in the overall audience at ITEC.

Over 20% of those exhibiting at ITEC were from Nordic countries with Sweden as the single largest country in this grouping. This reflects the regional dimension of an event such as ITEC; it offers those attending the event an opportunity to meet new potential providers that they might otherwise not encounter. This is a positive outcome for business-to-business, business-to-customer, and increases the chances of those attending encountering new and innovative solutions. Continuing this trend ITEC 2019 introduced a Disruptive Technologies (DisTec) theatre on the show floor; this proved an immensely popular offering and will be carried forward into ITEC 2020 in London.     

Comments from a Clarion spokesperson

With 2019 being a DSEI (Defence Security Equipment International conference) year, people have re-evaluated where money is going. Niche shows are still a big interest but numbers through the door has proven the deciding factor at a corporate level. We know that some people have been waiting for ITEC to return to the UK. Due to DSEI it was not possible to do so this year. They are therefore postponing participation until the London edition.

Being held in Germany, ITEC 2018 was set to be a ‘big’ show with Rotterdam (2017) a smaller one. With the German military called away at the last minute it meant that VIP attendance and military visitors were down in 2018. Being of such a high importance some companies felt that the ROI was not met and so therefore came as visitors/delegates this year before looking to return for 2020 in the UK.

Furthermore, for some, the surrounding costs of doing a show were too high in Sweden.

That said, the sheer amount of new business from cutting-edge tech companies as well as local Scandinavian companies has shown ITEC is still hugely important and influential to the T&S community and is in fact ‘ahead’ of the changing nature of new SMEs doing more than the more traditional prime customers.

Some further breakdown of ITEC figures can be found below:

  • Over 40% of exhibitors brand new to ITEC
  • A quarter of exhibitors from Sweden
  • 30% of the exhibitors from Scandinavia
  • Exhibitors from 21 different countries
  • 132 VIPS from 37 different nations
  • Delegates from over 38 different countries

The floorplan for ITEC 2019 was produced using event design software. The software auto-assigns numbers to booths as exhibitors book their space. As some exhibitors elected to move their booth positioning right up to the event start, the booth numbers had to remain unchanged, as all event literature (which lists booth numbers) was already published. We plan to make the assigning and planning of booth numbers much simpler for 2020, which should hopefully result in an improved experience for visitors on the show floor.

We are already looking ahead to ITEC 2020 in London. Our primary objective is to strengthen our industry engagement to ensure all key stakeholders are represented at the event. We are counting on your support.

In return, you can expect a wider variety of exhibiting organisations, more disruptive technology solutions, a simpler registration process, an improved delegate catering format and more readily-available conference materials to help plan your visit. 

Highlights from the European Training & Simulation Association (ETSA) survey

The general opinion was that the (exhibition) event was poor and much worse than previous years. Concern was expressed that the size of the event had become less than the critical mass. Hence key companies are not attending, there is little innovation on show and people question the value of attending. The conference, however, received good responses.

Most people liked Stockholm but thought it expensive. As always, responders expressed a preference for the event to be held in London (at least next year, they will get their wishes!).

The evening networking event was seen to be too expensive, with the numbers of attendees reducing year by year and, again, questioned whether the event was worthwhile attending. Many responders didn’t go for these reasons. Indifference was expressed to the co-location of the other two events.