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Debrief: Three Takeaways From SOFIC 2019

Hughes team at SOFIC 2019

Another year, another outstanding Special Operations Forces Industry Conference (SOFIC) from NDIA in Tampa, FL. The conference continues to be one of the best trade shows in the defense industry as evidenced by the show’s largest number of exhibitors ever (not to mention hotel rates and availability). This year, the show featured exciting new and emerging technology coming from industry to help sharpen the tip of the spear, so to speak.

A longtime supporter of SOFIC, Hughes was on the exhibit floor showcasing some exciting communications solutions. From a private, deployable cellular network with VSAT backhaul to our well-known Comms-on-the-Move solutions for rotary and fixed wing aircraft and Class III and IV UAS. We also took advantage of the opportunity to meet with multiple special forces teams and industry partners at SOFIC, discussing their needs for communications support for warfighters and listening to what they had to say. Three themes were prevalent:

Takeaway #1: Faster Acquisitions are Giving SOCOM an Edge

This year, we saw new levels of excitement from both government and industry, thanks, in part, to concerted efforts to shorten acquisition cycles. The emerging technologies showcased at SOFIC hold game-changing capabilities but if it takes too long to get these innovations into the hands of our special operators, they offer no edge in the field. Initiatives like Other Transactional Authority (OTA) are helping operators get what they need – and perhaps just as important -- when they need it.

Takeaway #2: Managed Services are on the Rise

We’re seeing more and more of the XaaS model, especially with new software-driven technology. Managing new technology can get very complex, very fast. More organizations in the military sector are seeing an opportunity to grow their capabilities by outsourcing areas that used to be managed “in-house.” Multiple teams from SOCOM acknowledged this as instrumental to enabling operators to focus on the mission not managing their technology.

Takeaway #3: The Future Calls for Open Standards & Modular Systems

When it comes to networks and communications, the end users we met with at SOFIC were loud and clear: they want system solutions, not a box or component. Whether modems or antennas, cables or power sources, military customers don’t want to shop around worrying about which modular products will or won’t work with others. Instead, they are asking for standard interfaces that can be combined into complete, end-to-end, system solutions for mission requirements.

It’s worth noting, some of the coolest technology on display on the exhibit floor SOFIC was found in the New Exhibitor aisle which was stacked with small businesses and startups. One of the booth demonstrations showed the ability to identify the emotion of individuals in the crowds based on facial recognition properties. Another booth showcased a small drone that was fully automated to seek and disable or capture other smaller quad-copter drones.

SOFIC is different than some of the other conferences because of the overwhelming sense of community. The world relies on our special forces more than it ever has since its inception in 1987. The industry that supports them understands this and aims to bring the latest innovations to help meet the mission demands of today and tomorrow.