BLOG: pinch of salt not required
20 Dec 11 | By Tim Mahon
The major conferences and exhibitions in our industry never cease to amaze me. Not only is the prospect of new markets attracting first time exhibitors and attendees in greater numbers than ever before, but the sheer breadth and scope of the innovation on offer from these companies, and their 'usual suspects' peers, is expanding more rapidly than even the most gung-ho observer might expect.
I/ITSEC 2011 in Orlando last month was, unsurprisingly, no exception. I didn't actually deliberately set out to count the number of first time exhibitors - I just sort of fell over them as I pounded the aisles of the Orange County Convention Center. Talking to some of them brought a fresh and altogether engaging perspective to bear on what has become the industry's premier annual event and sometimes runs the risk of being too big or too high level to be easily assimilated even if, like me, you spend the entire four days at the show.
Ranging from Freewave Technologies, seeking to expand their current presence in the range and training area data transmission radio market, to Mimic Technologies, a company with a single product (a simulator for the DaVinci surgical robot), first time exhibitors this year gave me pause to reflect on the essential strength and enduring nature of our industry. If there were not significant opportunities to be addressed, then the ability to attract new and innovative companies to spend what for them are often significant sums in exhibiting at a event like I/ITSEC would be significantly diluted and the faces of Admiral Lewis and his cohorts would not be quite as energised as they were this year.
Even further down the pecking order of the industrial tree were those who visited but did not exhibit. Shows like this are an excellent venue for networking and competitor analysis as well as opportunity mapping and market assessment. But they are equally valuable for those who simply have a good idea and want to avail themselves of the opportunity to network with people they don't yet know, seeking validation, perhaps even acclamation - but certainly yearning for recommendations and suggestions. Of several examples encountered during the show was the lady from a university spinoff in Ohio (or was it Pennsylvania?) who was carrying her good idea on her brand new iPad and intended to visit just as many prime contractors and systems integrators as she could fit into three days. When I eventually find her business card, we will be running an interview with her early in the New Year.
Even more amazing than the number and varying sizes of the companies exhibiting or visiting, however, was the breadth, depth, width and any other dimension you care to define, of the wares, products, services, equipment, integrated solutions and just plain 'great stuff' being hawked around the bazaar. Flight simulation, of course, always occupies pole position, largely because of the complexity and cost of the equipment for which aircrews need to be trained and therefore the concentration on ensuring effective training solutions. But there were many other areas that drew the visitor's attention, with medical simulation, enhanced live training solutions and virtual reality being high on the list this year.
Indeed, it seemed you could hardly turn a corner without bumping into virtual reality in one way, shape or form. Although I am an avid reader of science fiction, I have never been quite as struck by the way in which life follows fiction as when I heard this year that one of the major exhibitors is building what amounts to a holodeck! Truly! Which is why I say that no pinch of salt is required. We will test this company's ability to deliver on what seems at first to be an extravagant promise in an interview after the holidays.
Exhausting, enervating, exhilarating and eminently unmissable, I/ITSEC is, like ITEC, an annual pilgrimage from which one never returns without being enthused and focused on the next opportunity to excel. But let us remember it is the exhibitors and presenters who make it so - and we should celebrate and trumpet their success, which, like Cleopatra's barge, beggars description!