ITEC 2015 - The exhibition was judged excellent in most aspects, but the conference was dogged by crosstalk. MS&T’s Europe Editor Dim Jones writes.

The 2015 Clarion Events ITEC Exhibition and Conference, the 26th edition, took place at the PVO Expo, Prague, from 28th to 30th April. This was a new venue for the show, and proved a popular choice. Dealing with the technical and administrative arrangements first, the location, in the north-east suburbs of the city, enabled rapid road and metro transit from the centre. The two linked exhibition halls provided ample accommodation for both exhibition and conference, and enabled easy and speedy access to all facilities. The catering outlets, for those not fortunate enough to dine in the delegates’ restaurant, provided good and inexpensive food, but struggled for capacity at busy times, as did the restrooms (there was no catering going on in the restrooms!). Registration and admission were mercifully free of the crowding and security which beleaguer the larger events, and a delegation from the Franciscan order, handing out leaflets, ensured that we entered the show with a message of peace in our hearts. Support from the armed forces of the Czech Republic was excellent, and the Expo staff were friendly and helpful, with the possible exception of the gentleman who, on the stroke of closing time on Day 1, and without warning, literally pulled the plug on one booth in which there were any number of high-powered and sensitive computers and projectors running at the time.

The Opening Ceremony took place in the morning of Day 1, and was introduced by the Chairman of Clarion Defence & Security, Rear Admiral Simon Williams, and the Conference Chair, Tess Butler. The Keynote Address was delivered by General Petr Pavel, Chief of the General Staff of the Czech Armed Forces, who informed the audience that the CR, having in the recent past neglected defence in favour of other spending priorities, was now committed to a defence budget of 1.4% of GDP, rising to the NATO target of 2% by 2020. He observed that recent events in the Middle East and Ukraine had reinforced the need for nations and alliances to be prepared to face threats across the spectrum of warfare. Gen Pavel then took part in an interesting panel Q&A session with Brigadier Peter Gates, Commandant of the Australian Command and Staff College, and Pete Morrison, CEO of Bohemia Interactive Simulations. Mr Morrison generated some discussion – as doubtless he intended – by the assertion that small business were the heart of the S&T community, and that the procurement processes of some nations did not ensure that they got a ‘fair deal’. The US and Australia were cited as examples where the procurement structure supported small business; the UK was not.

In terms of exhibitors, the show appeared slightly smaller than in previous years, continuing a trend. However, the pure number of stands may have been reduced by another current trend, that of smaller companies joining forces in a single ‘community’ display with larger ones with whom they are associated. Two examples were the Bohemia stand, on which Terrasim, D-Box, Fujitsu, and Motion Analysis were displaying, and 2 adjacent stands which linked the Close Air Solutions JTAC training system, supported by MetaVR, Immersive Display Group, Selex, Battlespace Solutions, Teleplan Globe and Novatech, directly connected with the Omnifinity live instrumented treadmill system. This amalgamation of companies may not be good for the organiser’s revenue stream, but it does, in the erudite words of Tess Butler, ‘allow the effective display of abstract technologies in a training context’. It may also secure the continuing support of some smaller companies which otherwise would not exhibit at all; this can only be a good thing. Some ‘global’ companies were notable for their absence, and others had a token presence somewhat at odds with their industrial influence; many booths were long on meeting space and short on display.

Overall, the result was an exhibition floor that had a purposeful ‘buzz’ to it, and gave the impression of being busy without being excessively crowded. The attendance figures told a slightly different, but equally positive, story. According to Clarion, the event attracted 2213 unique visitors, of whom over 75% were classed as ‘decision-makers, and over 500 military, 125 of whom were senior officers. 72 nations were represented overall, almost a third more than for ITEC 2014 in Köln.

The ITEC 2015 Conference did not have a titled theme, but was billed to focus on interoperability, advanced training and education. The absence of a requirement to submit papers many months in advance meant that presenters could include really up-to-date material. In an attempt to ensure that the conference was relevant to the needs of the customer, Tess Butler had set up, and sought the views of, a Military Advisory Panel, an Academic Advisory Panel and a Medical Advisory Panel. This hard work bore fruit, in that the conference programme - conducted in 4 streams over the entire 3 days - provided something for everyone – indeed, too much for me, since I had not perfected a technique for attending 2 or 3 presentations at the same time. At least, I thought I had not perfected this technique; however, sadly and to the significant detriment of the conference, although the space allocated to the 4 ‘theatres’ was more than adequate, the soundproofing between them (consisting only of curtains) was decidedly not, and the whole threatened to descend into a competition to determine whose sound system was the most powerful – a lesson for future events.

On the exhibition floor, there was much evidence of uniformed military representatives of many nations. Exhibitors generally regarded the show in a very positive light and, although many observed that Day 3 had been ‘a bit slow’, they accepted that a 2-day show would not be viable, and that they had seen the vast majority of the people who were important to them. Understandably, with a paucity of new products to be rolled out in the current environment of fiscal restraint, and with the larger I/ITSEC the more likely venue for such events, there was not a great deal new on show at ITEC. Some exceptions to this were Rockwell-Collins, who were presenting their EP8100 Image Generator, Digital Projection, showing their 4K DLP Laser Projector, Theissen’s Hostage Target System, MASA’s Version 6 of their Sword computerised wargaming tool, and Esterline who were introducing the new Training and Simulation branch of their portfolio, recently acquired from Barco and rebranded ‘Treality’. Among first-time exhibitors were Florida-based Serious Simulations, and Windoor a Spanish-based company demonstrating a vertical wind tunnel for indoor skydiving training, with military application for Special Forces High Altitude Low Opening (HALO) insertion techniques. Among Windoor’s training staff was a Mr Pete Allum, who has over 30,000 jumps to his credit. My gast was totally flabbered – I have a grand total of one, and that was neither planned nor voluntary! I also had the privilege of riding in Buck Engineering and Consulting (BEC)’s Eyevis robot-based motion simulator (essentially a ball on the end of an arm which can be moved in all 3 axes, inside which the victim sits, clinging gamely on to a generic set of helicopter controls and surrounded by a visual display). I have to say that I found the experience masochistically enjoyable, and the environment much less claustrophobic than one might imagine.

Cyber warfare, and the training of key personnel therein, features in most keynote addresses at T&S conferences, and is always high on the stated lists of training priorities of senior commanders. It is curious, therefore, that the apparent take-up on systems which will allow the superimposition of cyber on CPXs and wargaming remains low. Key cyber warfare personnel, it would appear, are being trained, but not in the same environment as everyone else. I found one such system, the Network Defense Trainer, demonstrated by Scalable Network Technologies on the Antycip booth. It is an LVC system which creates a virtual cyber range that can be federated with other training systems, such as air traffic control and kinetic battle simulators.

My overall impression of ITEC 2015 was of a friendly, positive and, dare I say it, enjoyable show, well supported by the environment and people of Prague and the Czech Republic, on a much smaller scale than I/ITSEC but none the less effective for that. ITEC 2016 will take place from the 17th to the 19th May, at London’s ExCel – not the most glamorous venue for a Brit, but seemingly popular with everybody else. See you there!

Medical Simulation at ITEC 2015

The collocation of exhibitors specialising in medical simulation, which had proved effective at previous shows, was not evident here; medical simulation exhibits were distributed throughout the show floor. This year B-Line, CAE, Gaumard and Heart Works displayed their medical capabilities, and the medical military in attendance ensured that their booths were busy.

B-Line make software which helps lifelong learners improve how they deliver care: SimCapture, a software solution, enhances simulation and standardised patient centre operations and management; and the LiveCapture Video Auditor, which has applicability to field hospitals, provides a framework for enhancing and accelerating their Quality Improvement (QI) programs, by assembling multiple video feeds, medical device data and QI checklists into a single, hospital network-based interface. CAE showcased Caesar, the rugged full body trauma simulator designed for "point of injury" use by the military. Gaumard showcased their part task trainers, including: a lumbar puncture trainer, which provides realistic tactile feedback, combined with a fluid supply and pressure system; the adult airway trainer, HAL; and their arm trainer, which may be attached to a shoulder. Heart Works demonstrated their e-learning curriculum, which is an introduction to transoesophageal echocardiography. Each module, supported by video and images, benefits the realism of the HeartWorks simulation. The course, developed in modules has self-test and diagrams to help the learners understand the ultrasound images.

Additionally, the UK’s Col. David Vassallo demonstrated – and involved his audience in - a board exercise representing the care of wounded military personnel at a mock-up of Camp Bastion. This went through the steps that would be taken in triaging patients at the site of injury, be it from IED, helicopter crash or sniper fire, how patients were prioritized, and the reception procedure at Camp Bastion. Scenarios ranged from individual trauma cases to major incidents, and the exercise has already helped prepare medical personnel throughout NATO for operational deployment. – Judith Riess