Home Defence, Training & Simulation Why strong simulation needs hardware and software collaboration

Why strong simulation needs hardware and software collaboration

In defence simulation, where significant power is required and the threshold for failure is low, hardware and software need to be working together in perfect harmony. Otherwise, users can be left with impractical and unworkable solutions that don't offer a true reflection of real-time combat.

Of course, the relationship between hardware and software has always been a symbiotic one. After all, when one hand is not listening to the other, mistakes can and will be made. In a defence training situation, this can lead to significant setbacks.

It's up to software developers first and foremost to ensure their tools are able to work seamlessly on a variety of platforms - from desktops and laptops to games consoles, virtual reality platforms and even augmented reality devices. But that's not to say hardware teams should be simply ploughing ahead without considering the software that will be running on their platforms.

The reason so many people swear by Apple machines is due to their functionality out-of-the-box and a large part of that can be put down to the fact that the operating system and machine have been designed in parallel. But when was the last time you heard someone using an Apple computer to run a next-gen real-time battle simulation?

However, for most of us working in the defence and simulation sector, the more flexible and powerful PC is the favoured platform. There is so much more scope for experimentation on a PC, after all, which is always going to be a benefit for the fast-moving and demanding defence simulation space. But for hardware to get the most out of what software has to offer and vice versa, collaboration is always going to be key.

Communication is crucial

Rigorous testing before deployment is absolutely crucial for hardware developers. In a simulation environment especially, scenarios are often mission-critical and faulty hardware is simply not an option. But all the testing in the world is going to mean nothing if the software and hardware are incompatible.

According to Epic Games strategy and business development manager Mark Collins, for hardware teams, it should never be simply about building something shiny with lots of powerful components. Rather, it should be about building hardware rigs that are fit for purpose.

The key here, of course, is communication. He explains: "Teams need to have open lines of communication with one another and be clear about exactly why they're doing what they're doing and what they're trying to achieve. If you look at the overall challenge of what we're trying to achieve with modern gaming and simulations, the more complex the environment, the more powerful the hardware needs to be."

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Bespoke solutions

For a company like Novatech, our bread and butter, if you will, is in putting together the ideal IT solutions for companies of all sizes and from all sectors. Some solutions require a lot more planning and effort and a lot more communication than others. For example, you're often going to have practical size and floor space limitations to contend with. And that's before you factor in the actual bodies that will be using the hardware.

When you trade off all those things, it will always have an impact on the solution. So that's why collaboration and communication are so important. There are so many different variables to consider when it comes to getting the end product working in a way that suits everybody.

The future of hardware and software collaboration

Future users are always going to demand more from their hardware and software and there are always going to be further complications to manage. Could a hardware solution be too dangerous, too expensive or not eco-friendly enough? Again, collaboration is key here in putting together the right components that make sense on a practical level.

In many ways, it could be argued that the perfect collaborative environment has already been cultivated by necessity because hardware and software will always evolve in parallel. The former will always need to develop in order to become powerful enough to run more capable versions of the latter.

Mark says: "We can potentially run about a million different instances in the Unreal Engine at any one time right now, so entity count is starting to become a thing of the past. I appreciate in a modern battle simulation environment there might be more complex things to take into account but from our point of view, more capable software has already led to more capable hardware."

When it comes to more specific AR and VR solutions, meanwhile, a deeper and more specific level of collaboration is going to be required.

Perfecting the balancing act

Right now, we're in a period of peak experimentation and research. There's so much going on and so many concepts and ideas moving in different directions. That means working across so many different platforms, all of which need to work together seamlessly. In the military simulation space alone you've got software as diverse as Project Selborne in the Navy, and CCTP in the UK Army.

According to Major Tom Mouat, head of modelling and simulation at the Defence Academy of the UK: "That's the thing. There are so many different platforms all at different stages of development. They are also all very complex programmes, so they take a long time to come to fruition and in the meantime, you have companies like Epic Games leapfrogging everyone else with potential applications that might not even be possible for many of us to use for years."

So there's a difficult balancing act for defence which means meeting standards and giving users a training advantage without bankrupting them. Hardware companies depend on software companies like Epic Games to show them where the bleeding edge is and then they work as hard as they can to bring something to market that meets that bleeding edge while also offering value for money.

It's a difficult line to negotiate but it's one that Novatech is more than happy to help bring to heel.

Contact us today to discuss how Novatech can help you find the right hardware and software solutions for your business

Posted in Defence, Training & Simulation

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Published on 22 Feb 2022

Last updated on 22 Feb 2022

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