Britain’s Centre for Defence Enterprise (CDE), a part of the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory of the Ministry of Defence, exists to fund “high-risk, high-potential benefit research,” in its own words. At a time when funding for the essential research and development underlying innovation and capability insertion has been severely constrained by budget austerity and the requirement to better manage scarce resources, it is interesting to examine the technology areas to which available funding is dedicated. This makes possible at least an empirical observation of the areas the military considers important for future exploitation.
CDE has traditionally focused a good part of its efforts on identifying and supporting the small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) from which much of the most effective innovation often springs. At a specially convened ‘Marketplace’ in London in late April, a number of SMEs were invited to demonstrate the value of the research for which many of them had already been funded in part by CDE, alongside some of the larger companies in the nation’s defence and security industry and several academic bodies. One of the several themes apparent during the presentations was the development and exploitation of cutting edge technologies for simulation and training applications. As Britain holds a prominent position in the field, at least as far as the number of companies active in the community is concerned, it is worth looking at a few of these initiatives as ITEC opens in London’s ExCeL conference centre today.
Transmedia Storyteller Limited has been funded to create the Connected Universal Assessment and Real-Time Analysis Training Tool (CUARATT), which significantly reduces the time required to achieve mission readiness: eercises that would previously have taken two months to develop and prefect can now be created, tested and deployed in as little as three working days. CUARATT also forms the development base from which the company intends to move forward with a cloud-based exercise control and assessment tool, Training and Performance as a Service (PaPaaS).
Close Air Solutions (who will be exhibiting at ITEC on the Bohemia Simulations booth) recently demonstrated the use of their immersive simulation technologies on Salisbury Plain. Innovative approaches to training Joint Fires troops using a combination of advanced simulation software, augmented reality headsets and advanced head-tracking techniques show the capability the solution has to radically reduce the number of ‘live’ flying hours required to support this type of training – providing for cost savings which are the Holy Grail of training planners in the current budget environment.
QinetiQ’s Java Augmented Reality and Virtual Stealth Technology (JARViST) provides a standards-compliant framework that integrates wearable technologies into simulation applications. Instructors can monitor trainee performance and reactions in real time, and a second phase of development now under way is intended to leverage expertise from the academic world to better understand the way in which appropriate metrics for performance and learning behaviours can be measured and integrated into instructor solutions.
NSC has also focused efforts on the development of a lightweight, field-deployable system for extracting, analysing and displaying data from wearable technologies using cloud-based facilities for exercise scenario preparation and social media exploitation. The company expects to be able to apply this approach to several existing UK and international delivery programmes in the coming months.
Plextek has created a virtual-reality skills assessment system to identify candidate training needs, thus reducing the training burden for equipment and operating costs. The skills test format lends itself easily to a wealth of military and civil training applications and the company is now seeking to partner with behavioural scientists to incorporate proven cognitive testing technologies into an innovative and dynamic solution. The company also received CDE funding to develop a new augmented-reality training system to increase the agility and preparedness of individuals and teams engaged in explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) operations.
Minerva Simulation was funded by CDE to develop low-cost, realistic and immersive training simulations for armoured fighting vehicles. The Thunderbird tactical part task trainer is designed to operate in a standard 4x4 double-cab vehicle, mimicking real life operational challenges in a virtual environment. Further development is being carried out in integrating motion haptics into the simulation, replicating weapons recoil and movement on firing.
The use of Google Glass to improve training effectiveness has been pioneered by Muretex. The research has seen trainees using wireless headsets, interfacing with a variety of wearable devices, to enhance training effectiveness and reduce costs by improving the instructor view of what the trainee sees and experiences.
QinetiQ have also focused some of their T&S efforts on the target of social media. As the panoply of low-intensity conflict and peace keeping operations the military have to prepare for increases, so there is a developing need for training individuals to be able to communicate and react to the social media that are an inevitable component of the operational environment. QinetiQ’s prototype solution is mounted on a laptop and provides for testing and reinforcing trainee’s judgement and decision-making skills under stressful conditions.
BMT Defence Services will be unveiling a solution to record, review and react to training data in real time and to significantly enhance the utility (and speed) of the after action review process at ITEC this week. The company’s solution places the individual at the focal point of the solution development process. And that, perhaps, is one of the recurring themes likely to be seen time and time again at ExCeL in the next few days. Initiatives such as Blended Warrior from I/ITSEC in Orlando last year and the continuing drive to integrate live, virtual and constructive training approaches into a single blended and integrated series of applications presage have driven a new wave of enthusiasm for innovative problem solving. And, to be honest, have also contributed to what appears to be a healthy atmosphere of intelligently combining common sense, advanced technologies and a wealth of operational experience into solutions that will enable the military to train where it wants, when it wants and how it wants. Long may that continue.
Tim Mahon, ITEC