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How Synthetic Environments are Revolutionising Defence: Webinar Report
AdminJun 20, 20243 min read

How Synthetic Environments are Revolutionising Defence: Webinar Report

In a recent techUK webinar hosted by Hadean, UDSS Co-Chairman General Sir Richard Barrons KCB CB, Air Vice Marshal Bruce Hedley and Hadean Co-Founder & COO Mimi Keshani explored the transformative impact of synthetic environments on defence. Rory Daniels, techUK Chair & Programme Manager for Emerging Technologies, chaired the event.

These experts delved into the revolutionary role of immersive technologies, from AI integration to military IoT, and the urgency for rapid adaptation to maintain an operational edge.

Transforming Defence at Scale and Speed

General Sir Richard Barrons opened this compelling discussion by emphasising the necessity of large-scale and rapid transformation in defence. “The winners are not those who move cautiously but those who transform at scale and pace to retain an operational edge,” he said.

He likened the potential impact of synthetic environments to historically game-changing technology such as battleships and airplanes. Barrons urged the military to adopt insurgent-like thinking to dominate data and create a military IoT, especially with political re-evaluation looming in the form of an upcoming General Election.

Interoperability and Security by Design

The panel highlighted the importance of designing synthetic environments that are both interoperable and secure. Bruce Hedley underscored the challenge of informational integration to benefit individuals in multi-domain operations:

“Trying to integrate across allies and governments where everyone has access to information they need is a big problem.”

Sir Richard warned against reliance on legacy systems in upholding secure data processes and distribution: ‘security by design’ to prevent serious breaches. “It’s clear if we go down this road [multinational SSEs] then the user will demand that you know your data is good and assured,” he said.

Ms Keshani stressed the need for technology transfer to ensure a common operating picture. All three agreed on the necessity of secure data processes to prevent breaches and the value of modular approaches for efficient data management.

“The modular approach allows you to push more or less depending on what you need to get through,” clarified Mr Hedley.

Cultural Change in Defence

Adopting synthetic environments requires a cultural shift within the defence sector. Sir Richard pointed out the resistance to change within the traditionally hierarchical armed forces, calling for a collaborative environment where military personnel and industry talent can work together.

“We need to cause a response that understands the output of this technology.”

In discussing concerns about how the UK defence sector could appeal to alternative suppliers, Sir Richard illustrated how defence investment should be presented to support self-preservation and ambition; that it involves both the private sector and broader society:

“The key to surviving into the future is to recognise that defence and national security is a fusion of what the regular armed forces can do and the help they need with technology.”

In highlighting the dual-use nature of SMEs such as Hadean, Ms Keshani described the gap between problem understanding and software solution development, advocating for pathfinder contracts to foster innovation. Mr Hedley suggested creating a trust-based environment to reduce risk and encourage industrial collaboration.

Political Momentum and Defence Reform

The panel anticipated that defence culture and capabilities would become a key topic in the political discourse leading up to the General Election.

This political momentum could help secure necessary funding and policy support for integrating synthetic environments and immersive technologies, ensuring that armed forces can swiftly adapt to modern challenges.

Exploiting AI for Synthetic Environments

AI was recognised as crucial for enhancing synthetic environments. Sir Richard noted that AI enables the integration and analysis of vast amounts of data, facilitating insights and scenario simulations.

He also mentioned the potential of large language models (LLMs) to improve communication and operational coordination. “AI allows you to amass, integrate, and analyse more data.”

Ms Keshani highlighted AI’s ability to provide real-time analysis and operational assistance, moving beyond traditional interfaces to immersive spatial computing technologies. She explained that, “The ability to analyse and provide reviews in real time is a big advantage in an operational context.”

Mr Hedley went on to emphasise the importance of understanding AI and harnessing its potential under careful human oversight.

The webinar underscored the transformative potential of synthetic environments and immersive technologies in defence, highlighting the need for rapid adaptation, secure interoperability, and cultural change to maintain an operational edge.

Watch the webinar in full here.

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