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Training & Simulation Forum

BLOG: I-ITSEC under way

29 Nov 11

Despite predictions that the conversation at I/ITSEC would be all about budget austerity and particularly the US defence budget, keeping an ear open on the exhibition floor yesterday revealed a different focus.

“Busy for a Monday!” “Is it bigger or smaller than last year?” “Are we seeing enough uniforms?”

The conversations seem to be more inwardly focused than might have been expected. The reasons for this may lie in the changed dynamics of the exhibition floor. There seems to be a larger than previous disparity between the “haves” and the “have nots,” – between the large and the small.

The anticipated big players are here in force, of course. PEO-STRI, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, BAE Systems all have significantly sized stands – the latter having an additional stand featuring its T-X candidate, recently returned from a very successful roadshow around the US. The smaller stands seem to be greater in number, which perhaps indicates the health of the industry, since a notable number are first time exhibitors, taking the measure of the military training and simulation market as part of their expansion plans.

The small exhibitors seem to be extremely busy as potential customers and even potential collaborators line up to learn what they have on offer. One first time exhibitor to I/ITSEC, Mimic Technologies, is perhaps representative of some of the ‘cross-over’ fever that seems to be alive I the hall. A single-issue company, in that its sole product is a simulator for the Da Vinci surgical robot, Mimic is testing the waters here at I/ITSEC 2011, seeking to gauge the appetite for medical simulation among the armed forces. With a number of US military sales already under its belt, Mimic is especially interested in export opportunities. It remains to be seen whether they will have succeeded in such an assessment by the end of the show.

It is fascinating to watch the T&S community at work here. It reminds one of an Arab bazaar from “1001 Nights.” The old and the new mix cheek by jowl – cutting edge technological solutions mixing it up with tried and tested simulation techniques. A pervading theme, however, is upgrading, enhancing and making more cost-effective solutions and systems already in play. New versions of established software toolkits, new visuals, enhanced performance peripherals – all these combine to provide an undercurrent of excitement and expectation – albeit muted by comparison with the heyday of large scale training projects some years ago.

If you want proof that the training and simulation community faces a major opportunity, just open your ears in the hallways and hospitality suites around the Orange County Convention Center this week. You will hear questions – many, MANY questions – and you will hear opinions – multitudes of them. But you will also hear the steady heartbeat of an industry that recognizes the scale of the opportunity – and the task – ahead of it. Some may see their glass as half-empty, others as half full. But all agree that the answer to the conundrum of success in an uncertain world is locating and taking possession of the glass itself and filling it to the brim.

One day down – three to go.

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