Government Seeks Forward-Looking Industry Solutions
The U.S. military relies heavily on companies to research, develop and manufacture innovative technologies to support missions. This hasn’t always been the case. A century ago, it was often the armed services that conceived and created the latest solutions. But when the world goes to war, it’s all hands on deck.
With unlimited resources, delving into fantastical technical solutions is easy. However, in the real world, the government and the private sector must solve real-life problems with realistic budgets. And today, both funds and available expertise are at a premium. Consequently, agencies must rely on companies they trust, and corporations only thrive when they invest in solutions likely to flourish in the future.
According to subject matter experts on the volunteer AFCEA Technology Committee, a number of technologies have risen to the top because of their potential to address military challenges and to prosper commercially in the future. Among these capabilities are far-reaching new manufacturing techniques, including 3D printing; advanced cybersecurity methods such as examining evolving threats; and artificial intelligence, which ranks with fire and electricity in its potential to transform the world, the experts agree.
Advanced manufacturing techniques are beginning to change the way engineers experiment with new construction methods and materials. Modular units facilitate construction, reduce costs and improve the design of parts, homes, cars and military equipment. For example, China’s Broad Group built a skyscraper in only 90 days, mostly from parts and units assembled in factories then transported to the build site.
For the military, advancements in 3D printing will enable warfighters to create the parts they need while on the battlefield. This capability will reduce the logistics footprint and the need to transport a multitude of spare parts. A 3D-printed rocket assembly can be made at a fraction of the normal weight with a huge improvement in performance of the vehicle. In addition, 3D printing will allow suppliers to re-create parts that are no longer manufactured or kept in stock.
Although these methods only account for about 10 percent of manufacturing today, TechCast Global, a research-based corporation, anticipates that high-technology modular units made using 3D printing will make up 30 percent of new construction by the mid-2020s.
In addition to manufacturing items as large as skyscrapers or as small as microchips, 3D printing will spur the creation of personalization companies that offer consumers a way to design and build their own customized tools and items with unusual features. Future materials could include self-healing concrete, aerogels and nano materials.
Experts also identify four cybersecurity technologies that show potential as an open field for industry to offer solutions. A series of current and near-future high-impact threats can devastate information systems as well as data at machine speed. They include weak cybersecurity features in commercial products, which threaten critical infrastructure security. Another threat is the speed at which the Internet of Things is being deployed, which is exceeding the ability to defend it against the threat.
These specialists state the future will feature autonomous cyber defense systems. In addition, they say cyber defense solutions must blend the strengths of both hardware and virtual machines, and improving attribution during cyber incidents can help determine appropriate responses.
“The threat of severe cyber attacks is growing exponentially as the digital world envelops all facets of modern life,” states Gil Duvall, president and CEO, Data Security Strategies. “At least 15 countries have been shown to launch large-scale sophisticated cyber attacks, with China, Russia and North Korea posing the biggest risks, hitting Western governments and companies daily.
“The problem is expected to grow more menacing as new terrorist adversaries become involved. NATO, the U.S., EU, South Korea and Israel are bearing the brunt of the damage, but it could spread easily to encompass entire global systems,” he adds.
TechCast experts estimate advanced cybersecurity will reach the 30 percent adoption level around 2023 and produce a market saturation of about $600 billion in 2035. Experts also estimate a roughly 30 percent probability that a major successful attack could be launched over the next few years with devastating consequences.
Artificial intelligence (AI), which experts identify as an area likely to grow in the near and midterm, could lead to solutions to prevent this cyber Armageddon. AI research is studying intelligent agents, which include any device that perceives its environment and takes actions that maximize its chance of successfully achieving its goals.
AI is at least partially responsible for the proliferation of the Internet of Things, including the networking of appliances, homes, offices, cars and battlefields with a fine web of intelligence that is now essential for managing complexity. By automating routine work, resources and people can be leveraged to take on bigger and tougher challenges, beat the competition and improve life, industry experts assert. It will be an essential part of addressing an array of challenges.
Other technological advancements that exhibit potential are those being made in the mobile and wireless realm, blockchain cryptographic methods, cloud computing expansion, big data and analytics usage, and quantum computing environment.
The AFCEA International Technology Committee’s entire Technology Vectors presentation is available online at https://www.afcea.org/site/technology-vectors-presentation.