Looking Ahead: 2017's Top Technology Trends

Looking Ahead: 2017's Top Technology Trends
December 22, 2016

Intelligent apps. Virtual reality. Flying cars.

While there is no shortage of predictions on what we can expect for next year, industry experts at Lockheed Martin have weighed in on some of the technologies that will define 2017.

Here are their picks for what’s coming, and the technologies that you need to know about right now. 


1. Autonomous Systems

Autonomous Systems

Autonomy is not a new technology -
 think Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa, and Microsoft’s Cortana. Each of these systems uses autonomous technology to function. So, it’s not surprising that demand for this technology will continue to grow in 2017 and beyond. 

But what is surprising is how engineers are “teaching” technology to be more autonomous. Using complex mathematical calculations, systems can learn patterns in data to provide reliable results when exposed to new data. This is known as machine learning. 

Researchers believe autonomous systems are the key to solving many of our most difficult problems—from exploring the ocean depths and deep space, to supporting emergency personnel in medical emergencies and natural disasters. 

“Lockheed Martin's continuous advancements in state of the art technologies for trust, complex control, and navigation in chaos positions all Lockheed Martin business areas to be leading providers of autonomous capabilities for our partners and platforms.” said Robbie Mandelbaum, Director of Lockheed Martin's Advanced Technology Laboratories.

Autonomous systems will be the key to solving many of our most difficult problems, from exploring deep space to providing aid in an emergency. 

An example of where autonomy is heading is the F-16 fighter jet's Autonomous Ground Collision Avoidance System. The system is designed to detect when something has gone wrong and take control of the plane before it crashes —saving the plane, and most importantly, the life of the pilot.

According to the U.S. Air Force, ground collision is the cause of 75 percent of F-16 pilot fatalities, making this autonomic technology one of the most important safety features added to the fighter jet since ejection seats. Learn more >

2. Human-Machine Collaboration

Human-Machine Collaboration

As the demand for autonomy rises, 
how humans and machines interact is becoming a focal point for many industries, including automobile, defense and healthcare. 

In 2017, we will continue to see a focus on developing technologies that improve the partnership of human-machine teams, specifically designing the right kind of sensors to expand the possibilities. 

“With human-machine teaming, it’s as much about the machine understanding the human’s day-to-day needs as it’s the human understanding how well the machine operates in various contexts,” explains Dr. Bill Casebeer, Lockheed Martin cognitive scientist. 

For instance, fighter jets outfitted with sensors can gather data on the environment to help pilots make strategic decisions. But, if pilots were also equipped with sensors, jet systems could monitor a pilots’ neurological activity to assess their performance and physical state, and respectively handle certain tasks that might distract from the mission. 

To bring this type of teaming into a combat environment, scientists, engineers and researchers, are looking at ways to make sensor technology more durable to perform reliable data collection in the rugged environments where warfighters operate. Learn more >

3. Materials Science

Materials Science
A key to building new, innovative products is better understanding the materials that compose them. And, as we better understand the fundamentals of materials—through computational methods, informatics and experimentation—researchers are able to determine how materials can be used in new ways to develop new structures and devices. 

The industry currently designs products based on the minimum capabilities of available materials. With improved materials science, the field will move more towards tailoring the components of materials to fit specific uses. 

Partnerships will play a crucial part in helping researchers continue to evolve the field of materials science. By working with the technology community, researchers will be able to develop state-of-the-art machine learning and informatics tools to rapidly mine complex data sets and help understand and predict the performance of a material. 

What will the future hold for materials science 10 to 15 years from now? Dr. Rick Barto, manager of material, physics, and computational technologies research at Lockheed Martin Advanced Technology Laboratories, believes we will begin to see materials that are self-healing and adaptive to their environments. 

Just think—one day an object will be able to rearrange its building blocks material to repair a crack. Learn more>

4. Broadband Electromagnetic Aperture

Broadband Electromagnetic Aperture
Imagine having simultaneous conversations with 15 people and being able to listen and process information from those conversations at the same time. 

That's essentially what's being done with the radio frequency spectrum through sensor technology, as both autonomous and manned aircraft (and other platforms, like ships, helicopters and satellites) will require new sensor technology to take on new threats confronting them in the battlefield. 

While you've probably heard of broadband in the context of wireless and Internet communications, Lockheed Martin is using broadband technology to support radar, electronic warfare and communications missions simultaneously. 

“Sensors could go into a contested environment and listen, detect, process and then deny or divert a potential threat,” said Jerry Nespor, a Lockheed Martin Engineering Fellow. 

This type of sensor technology is being driven by the fifth generation Wi-Fi community, as well as the automobile industry, as self-driving cars would rely on advanced sensors for increased autonomy, too. Learn more >