Industry scores a win with Military Technologies Conference

June 1, 2005
It’s been two months since the first Military Technologies Conference in Boston, and we at Military & Aerospace Electronics magazine have gained far more than enough lessons learned to help us continue to move forward with this strong and revitalized technical conference.

It’s been two months since the first Military Technologies Conference in Boston, and we at Military & Aerospace Electronics magazine have gained far more than enough lessons learned to help us continue to move forward with this strong and revitalized technical conference.

As many of you already know, the Military Technologies Conference is a totally new show that has its roots in two previous conference series from PennWell and Military & Aerospace Electronics-COTScon, and the Military & Aerospace Electronics Show.

The Military Technologies Conference compares in almost no way, however, to the two conferences it replaces. Attendance is growing, the quality of presentations is markedly better than those of previous conferences, and timeliness of the conference content and trade-show exhibits is like nothing the other conferences ever saw. Next year’s Military Technologies Conference will be held March 14 and 15 at the Hines Convention Center in Boston.

People often ask me about the old COTScon show, and whether this show is gone for good. The short answer is yes. The longer answer is we have something a lot better and more up to date with the Military Technologies Conference.

One of the most precious lessons we learned while putting together the first Military Technologies Conference is we can’t do it all alone.

For our latest conference we sat down with a panel of experts representing the most important corners of our industry. Their insights led us to craft three separate and distinctly different conference segments covering topics of immediate interest to the military electronics and optoelectronics industries-sensor fusion for command and control; transformational communications, and directed-energy systems.

This advisory board of experts opened our eyes to the necessity of distilling ideas among a group of enlightened equals, and the folly of formulating and running with ideas we came up with on our own. Even among our panel members were floated what, in hindsight, were some pretty harebrained ideas. I could tell you about some of them, but I won’t.

At press time we were ready to sit down with an expanded conference advisory board at a retreat in Long Beach, Calif. With us will be representatives from prime systems integrators, embedded computer designers, software executives, optoelectronic component suppliers, and even more industry segments.

What we expect to get out of this encounter is an up-to-date structure for conference segments, solid ideas for compelling conference presentations, and a short list of keynote speakers whom electronics and optoelectronics designers need to hear from. Stay tuned for details.

Concerning the first Military Technologies Conference last March, attendees got an earful on topics such as how to do business with the military services, how to sell technology legally overseas, about the military communications world beyond software-defined radio, and much more.

The keynote speaker, U.S. Air Force Col. Gary S. Connor, is head of the Command and Control, Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance Systems (C2ISR) Wing of the Air Force Electronic Systems Center at Hanscom Air Force Base, Mass. Connor’s advice: component suppliers cannot simply sell widgets and expect to be successful.

Instead, Connor told attendees, the military services need their help in understanding how industry products can directly meet military needs. “What we need from you is to articulate things with a capabilities-based focus,” Connor told the hundred-plus industry representatives who attended his speech.

To be successful as a military technology supplier, companies and engineers first need to understand the military’s “concept of operations,” and then explain in detail how their components, subsystems, and integrated systems fit into that concept.

“Help us transition technology to the field,” Connor said. “Help us make it work for the warfighters.”

On a separate front, Gregory M. Suchan, deputy assistant secretary of state in the State Department’s bureau of political military affairs in Washington, told attendees that U.S. trade regulations do not have to be barriers to commerce; it all depends on how they approach the challenges.

Suchan said military electronics manufacturers can gain reasonably quick access to the international market if they follow simple steps to improve their trade applications involving the International Traffic in Arms Regulations-better known as ITARs.

Federal regulators today deny or amend 41 percent of applications to export sensitive equipment, but it doesn’t have to be that way, Suchan said.

Companies applying for export licenses can cut processing time in half if they use online application forms, enterprise resource-planning software, and radio-frequency identification tags, Suchan said. In addition, companies should not only create “virtual conference rooms” with enterprise resource-planning software, but also invite State Department regulators into those rooms as they meet with their suppliers and customers.

Finally, Suchan recommended that attendees share information from radio-frequency identification tags with State Department staff to show compliance with ITAR laws.

The information certainly didn’t stop there. Attendees heard about the next frontier of wireless radio communications, widely believed to be “cognitive radio”-or RF transceivers that use artificial intelligence, neural networks, or other advanced technologies to make informed decisions based on past usage, explained Wayne Bonser, principal at the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) Information Directorate in Rome, N.Y.

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These “smart” radios will be able determine their locations, sense spectrum use by neighboring devices, change frequency and output power automatically, and perhaps alter transmission parameters and characteristics, often without any human intervention.

John Keller,
Editor in Chief

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