Shaping Generation-After-Next Technology

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As chief technology officer, I’m often asked, “What’s next?”

What’s the next technology breakthrough? What’s next after today’s fighter jets, combat ships and satellite constellations? And, what can we do now to lay the foundation for technology that will make day-to-day life better and—in the face of unprecedented challenges—create a brighter future?

In my role, I’ve had the opportunity to travel the world and speak with senior leaders, government officials and some of the smartest minds around. In all of these discussions, one narrative comes through loud and clear—that we’re living in one of the most dynamic and complex global security environments in decades.

We have looked at what we think our customers will need to address these challenges, not just today, but a generation from now. Through this lens, we’re exploring dozens of technologies with great potential, but we’re especially focused on five key areas that we think will help define “what’s next.” 


1. AUTONOMY

In its simplest form, autonomy is the ability of a machine to perform a task with limited human input. Thus, an autonomous system is a machine, that once activated, performs a task or function largely on its own. 

Imagine if we had small autonomous systems that could monitor adversaries and collect information without placing U.S. forces at risk.

Beyond improving safety, autonomous technology allows for the execution of new missions—particularly in cyber defense, where decision speed is critical to success. 


2. CYBER SECURITY

Cyber security focuses on protecting computers, networks, programs and data from unintended or unauthorized access, change or destruction.

Right now, we live in a wired world. We rely on cyberspace for everything from the movement of military forces to financial transactions. And almost every military platform, from satellites to aircraft and ships, include networked information systems. However, the openness that led to the Internet’s expansion has its own risks.

With new cyber adversaries surfacing every day, we’re looking at how we can effectively and continuously “harden” networks, sensors, platforms and systems from crippling attacks.


3. DIRECTED ENERGY

Directed energy is defined as highly focused energy that can be transferred to damage a target—think laser weapons.  

Directed energy weapons have a distinct advantage in terms of tracking and hitting targets, as the beam moves at the speed of light. But perhaps the biggest advantage is the supply of ammunition coupled with low cost per shot. A laser weapon can continue to fire as long as it is powered at the cost of a few dollars for electricity.

Expect to see directed energy systems being integrated on existing land, sea and air platforms beginning in the 2020-25 timeframe.


4. SENSOR TECHNOLOGY

Sensor technology records and measures everything from temperature, light and motion to physical indicators. And they’re deployed on multiple platforms, gathering terabytes of data.

The military is increasingly relying on intelligent sensors for surveillance and intelligence. For instance, if the military needs to know about activities in a contested area. One way to keep a squad out of danger is to use sensor technology that monitors for acoustic and electromagnetic vibrations.

To further the adoption of this technology on the battlefield, we’re looking at ways to make sensors more durable to perform reliable data collection in the rugged environments where warfighters operate, while integrating multiple sensor data sources to give warfighters a cross-domain common operating picture. 


5. SIGNAL PROCESSING

Signal processing is taking real-world signals like voice, audio or video and mathematically manipulating them into another type of signal that may be of use, such as converting analog to digital.

As today's battlefield has a wide variety of devices transmitting large amounts of data at once, signal processing and cutting-edge data analytics are required to enable effective communication and rapid decision making between the many information gathering and sending nodes on the battlefield.


Earlier, I painted a picture of the world. It’s a realistic view grounded in the challenges today’s leaders are facing. And it’s our job to think far ahead to anticipate what leaders will need to address those challenges and the ones that will emerge a generation from now.

We have a long history of developing solutions that are on the cutting edge of technology. And now we’re seeking to maintain this tradition. With these technologies, we’re looking up and out beyond the horizon—to the generation after next. 



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