As we head into a new year, it’s a good time to think about what’s on the horizon for the industries and markets we operate in.
When it comes to Defence, I see a number of potentially game-changing technologies set to disrupt and improve the industry in the year ahead. What follows is an overview of 6 emerging technology trends that I’ve got my eye on in 2017 – some of these are already being considered and in some cases elements being adopted. But 2017 I think will see them accelerate into faster adoption.
I encourage you to share your own insights in the comments section below.
1 Software-defined systems
Not only in Defence, but across the public sector and the enterprise, IT leaders are procuring capabilities from the cloud with an “everything-as-a-service” mentality. The benefits of this approach include greater agility, flexibility and the ability to rapidly right-size internal resources in light of changing operational demands. But the management of multiple suppliers can be challenging and complex.
To enable success, Defence organisations must adopt an “everything-as-code” model. With software-defined systems, configurations can be defined, changed and released more quickly. System templates can then be shared across the organisation, which allows a DevOps approach to app development.
Application can be designed, coded and deployed in a very short time, and in a way that takes into full account the end-user environment.
2 User services intelligence and automation
Automation is the name of the game in 2017, and this tool has the potential to streamline the Defence workplace.
Robotic Process Automation tools can help business units define processes and manage various events and actions with reduced human intervention certainly in the administration-type business areas. Artificial Intelligence-based assistants (bots) will start to handle more complex problem resolutions and service requests. And everyone in the organisation will have access to more data – as well as tools such as natural language processing to help understand it – in order to make better decisions.
3 Virtual reality/ Augmented reality
Virtual and Augmented Reality (VR/AR) provide rich opportunities for the Defence space. These tools allow for much better presentation and visualisation of information and intelligence in the field, and the possibility to turn traditional training sessions into more of an immersive gaming experience.
I see use-cases that range from telemedical support for soldiers on the front line, to mapping improvised explosive devices to using the type of gamification we saw with Pokemon Go to boost training efforts. Neat stuff if we don’t turn off to the fundamental capabilities of this technology and see it as something trivial!
4 Edge computing
As wearables, tablets, smartphones, the Internet of Things and even personal intelligence-gathering drones become more prominently used, Defence organisations need to provide more sophisticated computing capabilities at the edge of the computing environment.
It can be challenging for IT to meet the demands of soldiers stationed at forward-operating bases in difficult terrain and with limited resources. And edge computing will likely require the additional facet of more reliable and localized connectivity technology.
Organisations will need to get creative with how they provide this essential connection. Perhaps a small group of soldiers will act as a roaming WiFi hotspot. Or perhaps an armored vehicle could handle the connection. Regardless, organisations must remember, that as edge computing and the supporting connectivity expands, so does the potential attack surface.
All of which brings us to cybersecurity, which will continue to be a huge challenge for Defence – for 2017 and beyond. There’s a reason the threat is so large today: The same tools that make it easier to function in the workplace and on the battlefield make it easier for cyber attackers to gain access to our systems.
What the industry needs now is more sophisticated security event monitoring and detection systems that can look deeper and deeper in to user behaviours, patters of application use, data movement and network traffic – cybersecurity also needs to become even more integrated into the core of how systems operate and not seen as something you can simply bolt on the side. This will help the organization identify anomalous and, thus, suspicious trends or activity. IT can then move quickly to reconfigure the system (using ‘everything as code’ solutions) to reduce or remove spotted vulnerabilities.
Of course, the technology piece is just one side of the answer. The other is the people side and improving cyber education. Cyber safety doesn’t start and end with the cyber team; everyone plays a role in protecting the organisation. Augmented Reality training tools and bots that appear when a person makes a questionable decision could help educate employees, guide them in their use of the IT and management of data and change their behaviour.
6 Adoption and integration of consumerised technology
A really interesting trend of late is the growth in open-sourced and free, or certainly very cheap, consumerised technology. You may know it as “code-free software” or “no-code development.” With a little bit of know-how, anyone – including your adversaries – can exploit resources that are freely available.
Defence organisations will need a strong design team that can understand and tap into these Web-based, open technologies and API (application programming interface) offerings. These resources may provide a cost-effective, alternative route to the typical procurement pipeline in a way, maybe as an intermediate operational capability, that benefits the organisation. But they also have an inherent risk involved that needs to be managed.
To sum up the changes on the horizon I’d say that, in 2017, Defence organisations will be trying to become more digitized, automated, agile and efficient and better at supporting user demands particularly at the sharp end with a renewed focus and effort on looking at the really hard operational roles and understanding how the really important intelligence and situational awareness gets provided in a timely way. At the root of it all is the need to better exploit information across the ecosystem in a “whole force” model.
In my view, these 6 new and emerging technologies, coupled with a renewed focus on Enterprise Architecture strategic planning and robust Systems Engineering disciplines can enable IT capability providers meet the challenge and deliver this necessary and ever more critical information advantage.
We have lots of IT capabilities in our kitbag now, and by working together with clear commitments and agreements and improved levels of organizational trust, the Defence community as a whole can greatly benefit and the safety and security of the UK and its interests can be better assured.
Mark Perry is CSC’s Industry Chief Architect for Public Sector in the UKI&NL.