CAE spin-off could take modeling to the enterprise

Montreal-based CAE, which provides simulation and training technologies to the aerospace and military sectors, launched Presagis Wednesday, a spin-off that will provide commercial-off-the-shelf modeling and simulation software.

But even though Presagis’ primary target market will continue to be the civil aviation and defence industries, the company sees growth which may eventually take its products to IT managers.

“There is strong future growth in terms of the education market as well as the corporate training sector,” Mike Greenley, vice-president of modeling and simulation for CAE, said. “If you’re creating a simulation that trains a military command team to practice their decision making and group interaction, there’s nothing that says you couldn’t also use those same environments to create a simulation that helps train a corporate leadership teams.”

CAE combined its acquisitions of Engenuity Technologies, MultiGen-Paradigm and TERREX, an existing CAE software team, to create the new modeling and simulation software company.

Greenley said that CAE has often studied mobile networking and communications with its military customer base. But, he said tracking those complex systems in a realistically simulated terrain can be directly compared to the work that an IT professional might do.

“For example, in the emergency management and homeland defence, which is a primarily a civilian IT-based sector, they may want to study how to put there networks up properly in a city or a corporation and how they can study those networks under different conditions,” Greenley said. Greenley said that future growth in simulation use outside of the high-end flight and military simulators is very realistic. And while it may still seem far-fetched for some IT managers, some analysts have been predicting this trend.

“I have been saying for the last several years that simulations can really give people an experience because it puts people in a real-life situation, which is more effective for learning than reading about something,” Claire Schooley, senior analyst at Forrester, said. “The problem often is that they are complicated to create, so with an off-the-shelf template of some kind, creating a solid simulation can become more realistic.”

Schooley authored a research report in 2005 which indicated that simulations are moving from highly specialized uses, such as flight simulations, to building business skills and enhancing coaching and leadership skills for managers and executives.

The research also found that simulations increase the effectiveness of teaching as much as 75 per cent by involving employees in virtual job situations in which they gain experience without the risk of making mistakes while on the job.

Schooley said she was not surprised that this sort of product would come from a company who specializes in military technology.

“Think of the kind of learners the military has,” Schooley said. “They are young people that have had technology around them since they were born. It’s amazing to see how much training is done through warfare simulators and gaming in today’s military.”

One sector that Presagis has already started to show some interest in is civilian emergency management for cities.

“You can use this software to create simulations of cities, traffic and people moving about those cities, and of course, a bad day in the city in terms of a flood or some kind of other disaster,” Greenley said. “Once that starts to happen, it will be very interesting to see the other departments of the city suddenly get interested in simulation. The transportation department may want to study traffic patterns or the city planning department may want to examine urban growth.”

And while, Presagis has not focused on IT professionals just yet, according to Greenley, the sky’s the limit for use of this technology in the broader commercial sector.

“This software is definitely scaleable beyond defence or aviation and into emergency management and other broad applications,” Greenley said.

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