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.
The 30th ITEC exhibition and conference took place at the Stockholmsmässan in Älvsjö, a suburb of Stockholm, Sweden in mid-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.
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.
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 interoperate effectively. He observed that cultural differences 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.
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.
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).
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.
Statistics provided by Clarion indicate that there were more than 2,100 ‘unique visitors’, and this did not include delegates from UDT and AOC EW who were able to migrate on payment of a fee.
Of the delegates, 25% were military, a goodly proportion in uniform. The event was particularly 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 – 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 November in Orlando; however, there were still some interesting things to see.
Saab – 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, 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.
As regards the aims and achievements of the conference, the last word goes to Ms 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.”
ITEC 2020, from 28-30 April, will herald a return to its old haunt at the ExCel in London’s Docklands.
Originally published in Issue 3, 2019 of MS&T Magazine.