UMEX 2020 kicks off, addresses increased dependence on unmanned systems, AI

Photo: WAM

The UMEX and SimTEX Conference kicked off today in Abu Dhabi, under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces.

Under the theme ‘Manned-Unmanned Teaming in the Age of Smart Systems’, the conference discusses innovative solutions to current challenges, the future in a world of rapid scientific developments and innovations and increased dependence on unmanned systems and artificial intelligence.

It also addresses the latest scientific and technological developments in these fields, and created a platform for experts to share and exchange best practices. Moreover, the conference is providing audience and speakers with an opportunity to explore and develop a better understanding of the daunting challenges facing humanity today.

The Conference was inaugurated with an opening of speech by Mohammed bin Ahmed Al Bowardi, Minister of State for Defence Affairs, in the attendance of Hussain bin Ibrahim Al Hammadi, Minister of Education, Hakob Arshakyan, Minister of high-tech industry, Republic of Armenia, Lieutenant General Tim Keating, Executive Advisor Defense & Security, Kearney and Former Chief of Defense Force New Zealand, and a number of high-ranking military staff.

In his opening remarks, Al Bawardi said: "I am pleased to welcome you to the UMEX and SimTEX conference and exhibition, located in the United Arab Emirates; the home of will and ambition; the home of progress and creativity; the home of science and effort; and the home of tolerance, peace and openness."

He continued: "We are proud to belong to this land, which, first thanks to God and then it’s wise and visionary leadership and its open politics, has become a model for cooperation, with its achievements and impressive successes across various fields, in alliance with our partners and friendly nations of the world.

"This is reflected in the UAE's advanced competitiveness in various sectors, as we work with interest and cooperation for the common benefit of all. Welcome to Abu Dhabi, the capital of the UAE, and welcome to work together for a bright tomorrow for the future generations. The UAE has become the destination and venue for the world's most important conferences and international exhibitions, with the aim of discussing the various human, environmental, economic, technological, security issues."

Al Bawardi added: "The UAE is determined to be a workshop to prepare for the future, and to become the capital of the future, dedicating its efforts and resources for this goal. UMEX and SimTEX 2020 is be the preferred platform for research into unmanned systems and simulation and training systems as well as port security. One of the most prominent features of the era of artificial intelligence and digital technology, which in turn spawned the Fourth Industrial Revolution, was that it revolutionized technological development, accelerating advancement in human life. Machines and inventions are almost beyond human control, increasing the challenges and increasing the fears of technology becoming a double-edged weapon in their harmful uses."

He further noted: "The UAE has recognised the importance of anticipating events, looking ahead and preparing for the future. I take this opportunity to call on all countries to work together to meet the challenges and harness the advanced technology to serve humanity and to advance the prospects for our future generations instead of being involved in conflicts and disputes. The conference is an ideal platform for meeting and sharing experiences, as well as unleashing creativity and innovation to develop new inventions, as well as identifying uses and developing common strategies to face threats from the misuse of this technology, which will inevitably harm the interests and security of our societies.

Al Bawardi concluded by saying: "What we need today is to define the role of humans in their interaction with these machines and systems of all kinds, especially in light of the increasing uses of artificial intelligence by establishing controls, laws and systems of use. The use of unmanned systems has become multi-purpose and includes civil, security and military uses across land, sea and air transport, media, monitoring, traffic regulation, urban and remote area security and forest fires. In the era of the digital economy, it is well known that investment in future technology has become the most important area of investment, making a difference in the future progress and prosperity of countries. The United Arab Emirates aims to be a leader in the fields of artificial intelligence and developing the uses of unmanned systems. It aims at achieving security, stability and serving humanity wherever they are.

The conference attracted leading experts, academic researchers and global thought leaders to exchange views and explore the challenges and opportunities that have emerged as a result of artificial intelligence and the fourth industrial revolution. It also focused on the advanced participation of the unmanned systems technologies and their role in achieving its full capacity throughout the upcoming decade.

The conference agenda consisted of four keynote sessions and four panel discussions that hosted a group of 23 national and international speakers from 11 countries, holding discussion under four main themes, namely: Human Dimension, Missions and Operations, Industry and Market, and Border Security. The Human Dimensions theme addressed the human aspects of the unmanned systems and the mutual roles of manned and unmanned systems in the age of autonomy.

Hakob Arshakyan, Minister of high-tech industry, Republic of Armenia, delivered the first Keynote session titled "The Human Dimensions of Unmanned Systems".

During his speech, Arshakyan said: "Cyber security, artificial intelligence and robotics play a crucial role in the development of modern defense industries and ensure efficient processing, but the world is constantly changing, and so must we. We must continue to develop our human capacity and skills to continue to develop better technologies that serve us."

Arshakyan added: "We are certain that the unmanned systems, simulation, training, and artificial intelligence sectors must evolve in parallel with each other, as we seek to serve global peace and further advance humankind," he added.

The first Panel Discussion "The Human Dimension: Manned-Unmanned Teaming in the Age of Autonomy" was moderated by Naoufer Ramoul, TV Anchor & Producer, Dubai Media, and drew the participation of esteemed panelists; Lieutenant General Tim Keating, Executive Advisor Defense & Security, Kearney and Former Chief of Defense Force New Zealand, Dr Arif Al Hammadi, Executive Vice President Khalifa University of Science Technology, Basel Shuhaiber, CEO of Marakeb Technologies, Oussama Khatib, Roboticist, Professor of Computer Science at Stanford University.

This panel discussion highlighted the incorporation of autonomy in new technology systems and teaming up between manned and unmanned systems to enable better decision making through gathering data. The panel also discussed the ethical and moral considerations and mechanism that have to be considered in the development of unmanned systems. The distinguished speakers also addressed the challenges of innovation and creativity and how the UAE is working towards mentoring a new generation of youth capable of solving future challenges.

For the second theme, the conference discussed Missions and Operations, examining the role of unmanned systems in supporting multi-domain operations, in addition to missions and operations in line with the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Hussain Bin Ibrahim Al Hammadi, UAE Minister of Education, delivered the second Keynote session titled "Missions and Operations in light of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

In his speech, Al Hammadi said: "We are witnessing a significant leap from the Third Industrial Revolution to the Fourth Industrial Revolution, through the development of technology, human capital and the skills required. To keep pace with these ongoing developments, we have been transforming and developing the curriculum in the UAE by introducing technological elements to enhance awareness and understand the best ways to benefit from the applications of these technologies."

Al Hammadi added: "Autonomous systems have given us the potential and the capability, but we must continue to develop youth skills within the educational framework and implement them at an early stage through various competitions such as the Mohammed Bin Zayed International Robotics Challenge. There are many applications being developed in medicine, automobiles, and smart factories that we will continue to incorporate into our learning methods to make the most of them and ensure that we have a bright and sustainable future."

The second panel discussion "Unmanned Systems Role in Supporting Multi-Domain Operations" was moderated by Mr. Mohannad Al Khatib, Anchor and Reporter, Sky news Arabia, and drew the participation of the panelists; Ismail Abdulla, CEO of Strata Manufacturing PJSC, PROF.LOW KIN HUAT, Programme Director, Air Traffic Management Research Institute Professor Nanyang Technological University, Singapore, Anna-Karin, CEO of Saab Ltd Abu Dhabi, Tate Nurkin, Founder and CEO OTH Intelligence Group.

This panel discussed the important contributions of industry, high tech industry and academia in supporting Multi-Domain Operations and the importance of allowing the industry to express itself innovatively. The discussion also encompassed the ability of unmanned technology to enhance yield and improve efficiencies for the end user, understanding what the human and the artificial role is within the wider application of the technology to improve our quality of life.

The third theme at UMEX and SimTEX 2020 special conference covered the future of the unmanned systems sector and the integration and interoperability of unmanned systems. The keynote session titled "The Future of Unmanned System Industry" was delivered by Lieutenant General Tim Keating, Executive Advisor Defense & Security, Kearney and Former Chief of Defense Force New Zealand.

In his speech, Lt. Gen. Keating said: Values and ethics continue to form the basis of any human decisions. Without the restrictions that humans place on these technologies and systems, they are very dangerous if they become the primary technologies that are relied upon in combat".

Lt. Gen. further added: Keating added: "Unmanned systems have become the primary option for countries to use in combat situations, and with a growing competitive industry, these systems become widely available at affordable and effective prices. This will also continue to develop the applications of these technologies to not only be used in the defense industry, but also for commercial use."

The third Panel Discussion "Integration and Interoperability of Unmanned Systems" was moderated by Tate Nurkin, Founder and CEO OTH Intelligence Group, and drew participation of; Dr Stephen Bruder, Associate Professor Electrical Engineering Department Embry –Riddle Aeronautical University, Bashar Kilani, IBM, James Walter, Jaime Walters, Senior Technical Direction, General Atomics Aeronautical Systems and Khalid Al Breiki is the President of the Mission Support cluster, EDGE.

This panel explored academia’s role in the development of unmanned systems and the need to foster the next generation to grow and think of solutions to problems that don’t even exist yet. The panel discussed in depth issues of warfare and cyber security, thinking about policing, logistics and manufacturing, and encouraging the audience to think about their engagement with 4th Industrial Revolution technologies in a different way.

Finally, border security has been added to this year’s conference as a fourth theme and as one of the main topics for debate and discussions. It is one of the new topics at the conference where experts and decision makers on the border security sector will discuss the implications of the digital age on joint action in ports and border security as well as its new intellectual approach in the light of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

The fourth Keynote session titled "Collaborative frame- work for border security in digital world" was delivered by Major General Ahmed Bin Thani, Assistant Commander in Chief of Ports Affairs – UAE, where he said: "I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to be able to speak at such an event and have been listening with intent with the amazing ideas, concepts and experiences that we have been exposed to today".

He added: "The development of border security technology comes at a time when threats become more diverse and difficult to monitor. The growing use of unmanned systems to monitor border movements, through the speedy processing of data, make our borders safer. The challenges include limiting the use of technologies for illegal purposes, and although it’s impossible to fully control the use of this technology it’s imperative that we understand the different ways that it could be misused."

The fourth Panel Discussion "New narratives for border security in light of Fourth Industrial Revolution" was moderated by Dr. Mohammad Hamad AL Kuwaiti, Executive Advisor, The Supreme Council for National Security, and attended by Peng Xiao, CEO of Group 42, James Morse, President Rabdan Academy, Nicholas Holmes, Public Safety & Policing Global Leader – IBM, Ewan Duncan, Senior Advisor Defense &Security AT Kearney.

This panel underscored the critical importance of the deployment of unmanned technologies and it’s legislation to deal with the ever changing threats to border security, emphasizing the need for a flexible scalable architecture to combat these border challenges. They highlighted the need for organizations to cooperate to provide a seamless response to the challenges we face, warning that a lack of collaboration between entities in the industry will lead to the exploitation of our systems".

On his part, Major General Staff Pilot Ali Mohammed Musleh Al Ahbabi, Chairman of the Higher Organising Committee of UMEX and SimTEX 2020, said: "We are proud of the successful conference that was held and concluded today. This Conference will further promote the UAE as a leading global destination for hosting specialized conferences in the fields of unmanned systems, training and simulation systems and border security systems. We have witnessed a drastic increase in number of attendees and participants this year, which grew to reach over 600, reflecting an increase of over 100% from the previous edition".

Humaid Matar Al Dhaheri, Managing Director and CEO of ADNEC Group, said: "The success of UMEX and SimTEX 2020 Conference is a solid demonstration of our success and conviction in our ability to organize and host the most prestigious international conferences, which plays a pivotal role in raising the standards of the business tourism sector in Abu Dhabi."

Al Dhaheri, added: "Hosting such world-class experts and professionals at a conference of this scale, one day before the UMEX and SimTEX exhibitions, confirms the great flexibility of the facilities of the Abu Dhabi National Exhibitions Centre and its ability to host a wide range of events at the same time, using all the internal, external and marine facilities provided by the centre."

The conference activities addressed issues such as organising training sessions, renewal of simulation systems and next generation of advanced technologies. The panel discussions highlighted aspects of cooperation between manned and unmanned systems in the age of intelligent systems, as well as border security in the digital world.

The Conference was concluded with closing remarks delivered by Dr. Yehya Mohamed Al Marzouqi, Executive Director Strategy - Tawazun Economic Council, UAE, and an honoring ceremony for all the speakers and participants for their important contributions to this event.

In his remarks, Dr Al Marzouqi said: "We have had the opportunity to hear from a variety of experts on interesting topics about a subject that is becoming increasingly relevant as this type of technology is becoming more integrated into our lives".

He added: "Human capital is the cornerstone of all of the technology we have talked about today. The most important question is how we develop the youth of today, 35% of whom will be doing jobs that do not even exist yet? Tolerance is a building block of this nation and we have to channel that spirit into collaborating with the development of technology because technology, if not transferred into capability has no value.

"Tomorrow, we will see the beginning of a fantastic exhibition in which all these technologies will be on display. I hope you enjoy your stay in Abu Dhabi and enjoy your experience over the next few days."

It is worth noting that this Conference is organized by ADNEC in collaboration with Tawazun Economic Council, Ministry of Defense and the Supreme Command of the UAE Armed Forces, with ADASI as the strategic partner; International Golden Group (IGG) as the Diamond partner; Khalifa University as the knowledge partner, STRATA Manufacturing as the Gold partner, with the support of the Nation Shield Magazine; Etihad Holidays, General Authority of Ports, Borders and Free Zones Security, General Civil Aviation Authority and Abu Dhabi Health Services, Co. as the Official Healthcare partner.

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