Trends from I/ITSEC Conference 2015: Simulation Technologies

In the film The Matrix, the lead character, Neo, is ‘woken’ up from the reality he has lived in all his life, to find that it has all been a simulation of that reality, which is actually a computer generated world.

Science fiction films like The Matrix touch on a technology that has become a powerful computing tool used to model systems, environments and situations. This technology is known as Simulation. Simulation uses various methodologies, including computer assisted modeling techniques and computer-human interfaces, to create an expression of a particular element. Simulation can be used across multiple disciplines and industries, from healthcare to manufacturing and design, to defense, for a myriad of purposes, but with training being a prime example.

Defense is an area that is increasingly turning to computer aided, Simulation technologies to help in what has become a complex theater of war. The 36th U.S. Marine Corp. Commandants Planning Guidance specifically pulls out the use of Simulation technologies to better train for modern warfare. This focus on Simulation is a result of warfare becoming more entangled in geo-political conflict and terrorism, resulting in defense operations having a wider scope and being less predictable. Simulation methods are becoming increasingly used to provide deeper intelligence and offer more focused training across the types of diverse environments modern troops find themselves in. Simulation is becoming widely used in defense across a number of areas. This includes uses within information systems, simulation being used to model communication networks that support field operations. This type of simulation can offer an intelligence based view of changing environment and operation variables, it creates a virtual theatre of operation that can be used to see the impact of varied command structures and orders. The simulated environment that can be used to make informed decisions around risks and outcomes. Another popular use of simulation is through the use of Computer Aided Technologies (CAx) in training through simulation based exercises. Application of simulation in this context has major advantages over field training because the environment can be easily adjusted  and new actors added.

Trends in Simulation

In recent years the discipline of data modeling has become more accessible due to increased computing power and more powerful Machine Learning algorithms, such as those used in ‘Deep Learning’. These advances have allowed us to develop solutions that can provide the intelligence and analytics required for accurate and complex simulation.

Virtual Reality Based Military Training: One of these trends is, ‘Virtual Reality’ (VR).  Virtual Reality is a technique whereby real world environments and events are simulated. The simulation is highly interactive and fully immersive.  Virtual Reality has really come into its own in the past few years with the development of brain-computer interfaces and voice recognition,  increased computer power and performance, ensuring these technologies can be optimized for simulation uses.

Virtual Reality is not only an extremely useful tool in defense training, but also one that can give feedback to help measure performance and offer help with understanding skill requirements within a given arena. Virtual reality is particularly useful in tactical training and armed group co-ordination. VR systems have the capacity to allow many types of environments to be generated and support the insertion into those environments of a wide variety of operatives and features, offering a myriad of training opportunities.

‘Touch Feedback’ or Haptic Technology in Surgery: This technology provides a type of feedback to the user based on their actions. A typical Haptic device is based on a computer-user interface utilizing tactile sensors, which provide feedback on the motions of the user.

In surgery, these devices are used to create medical simulations that can then be used for training and even remote surgery using robotics. Laparoscopic surgery is one area of medicine that has successfully used haptic-centric simulation to train surgeons. The success of these types of simulation programs for the training of surgeons is due to the ability to recreate the true touch and feel of a particular procedure. It also allows the trainee surgeons to perform multiple simulated operations, giving them the opportunity for practice, without any real patient intervention. Another area of surgery that is successfully using haptic simulation as a training method is in the removal of brain tumours.  Brain surgery is complex and the learning curve for neurosurgeons is extensive, involving mainly observations. The use of haptic simulation in this area of surgery allows the trainee surgeon to have a more interactive, yet less intrusive method of training, which reduces the long learning curve and gives them a more realistic ‘feel’ for the surgical processes – allowing them to ‘train, without pain’.

The 2015 I/ITSEC Conference

A yearly conference focusing on the Simulation technology sector is the I/ITSEC conference. This is the world’s largest conference dedicated to the use of Simulation technologies for use in defense. It is a major conference that welcomes 17,000 visitors and 200 exhibitors over three days.

This year the show brought together a large volume of French military experts. This included representatives from the French army and the Direction Générale de l’Armement (DGA).

Many of the exhibitor stands also included military personnel, giving the show the ability to draw on direct military experience.

The show had many opportunities to hear about current technologies, issues and problems that can be solved using Simulation and emerging solutions.

The show was an excellent arena for the gathering of technology intelligence and to network with the main players in the Simulation sector.

Sopra Steria and the Simulation Eco-System

Simulation technologies enter the world stage through an eco-system comprising of:

  • Process Manufacturing and Engineering (PME) companies that use blue sky and emerging techniques to develop the Simulation technologies
  • Large Integrators such as Thales and Airbus that use the PME technologies to create the overall solution package
  • Consulting companies such as Sopra Steria, who specialize in understanding the specific Simulation technology needs of a given industry or company. They then create bespoke solutions for that given customer
  • Stakeholders, including governments, military organizations and anyone that requires the use of Simulation technologies

Consulting companies like Sopra Steria, who are a major integrator and system architect of the French Armed Forces Information System (SIA), are an integral part of the eco-system because they provide services such as training and support around engineering decisions, as well as offer their expertise in areas such as Simulation, big data and the Internet of Things; areas which most companies do not have the in-house expertise to make informed decisions on.

In France, the use of Simulation technologies within a military context is promoted by the ADIS group (Armed forces, Academy, DGA, Industry for defense Simulation). ADIS was created to co-ordinate and promote the use of Simulation technologies for defense purposes.  The group brings together all of the eco-system players, to allow knowledge transfer and sharing, solution availability, analysis of technologies and requirements, standard evaluation, creation of white papers to educate the community, and so on.

Sopra Steria is uniquely positioned to work across multiple jurisdictions because of their global presence and large size. Sopra Steria personnel offer a wealth of experience and knowledge in all of the areas associated with Simulation  technology and its application. Sopra Steria are able to offer a lead in negotiations and requirement analysis for military organizations, when determining their use of Simulation technologies, to ensure they get the optimal solution for their very specialized needs.

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