“The upcoming Palmetto Tech Bridge will be the sixth office. Other locations include: Newport, Rhode Island; Keyport, Washington; San Diego; Orlando, Florida; and Crane, Indiana.
Michael Merriken, director of the Palmetto Tech Bridge, said the office will be concentrating on autonomous systems, cybersecurity and communications. Specific problem sets will be determined by the Navy, he noted.
Cmdr. Sam “Chubs” Gray, director of Tech Bridges, said the centers are a platform that each of the regional offices can utilize to better connect to different resources. The service wants to tap into Charleston’s advantages, such as the city’s academic community and technology sector, Gray noted.
Charleston’s community will be particularly useful for exploring 5G technologies, Merriken said. The service hopes that will allow it to leverage industry input early in the technology development process.
“5G is a great example of a technology that’s really being led by industry,” he said. “This is where Tech Bridge really comes into play. We want to have that ability to connect with industry and collaborate with them.”
Because some of the Tech Bridge participants will be members of industry, many of the technologies may be dual-use systems that will be profitable for commercial companies as well, Merriken noted.
“We work with these solution sets to then build this product that eventually goes to the warfighter, and then the commercial folks can take that technology and then build it into some product that they can use,” he said.
Initially, researchers will be examining artificial intelligence solutions for network diagnostics, he said.
Merriken said developers are still examining specific locations for the Tech Bridge in Charleston. However, the Navy hopes to find a building that fosters teamwork with features such as meeting rooms and quiet rooms, he said.
“We’re looking for a space that we can have these people collaborate and work together,” he said.”
On the industry side, Chris Sexsmith, Cloud Practice Lead for Emerging Technologies at Red Hat, says it’s reached the point where companies are becoming more concerned with a second layer: It’s not only about leveraging AI itself, but also how to effectively manage the data.
“What are some of the ethical concerns around using that data?” Sexsmith asked. “Essentially, how does an average company or enterprise stay competitive in this industry while staying in line with always-evolving rules? And ultimately, how do we avoid some of the pitfalls of artificial intelligence in that process?”
But one of the biggest concerns right now is the “black box.” Essentially, once an AI has analyzed data and provided an output, it’s very difficult to see how that answer was reached. But Sexsmith said agencies and organizations can take steps to avoid the black box with Red Hat’s Open Data Hub project.
“Open Data Hub is designed to foster an open ecosystem for AI/ML – a place for users, agencies, and other open source software vendors to build and develop together. As always at Red Hat, our goal is to be very accessible for users and developers to collectively build and share this next generation of toolsets,” Sexsmith said. “The ethical benefits in this model are huge – the code is open to inspection, freely available and easy to examine. We effectively sidestep the majority of black box scenarios that you may get with other proprietary solutions. It’s very easy to inspect what’s happening – the algorithms and code that are used on your datasets to tune your models, for instance – because they are 100% open source and available for analysis.”
Open Data Hub is a machine-learning-as-a-service toolbox, built on top of Red Hat’s OpenShift, a platform for managing Linux containers. But it’s designed to be portable, to run in hybrid environments, across on-premise and public clouds.
“We aim to give the data scientists, engineers and practitioners a head start with the infrastructure components and provide an easy path to running data analytics and machine learning in this distributed environment,” Sexsmith said. “Open Data Hub isn’t one solution, but an ecosystem of solutions built on Openshift, our industry-leading solution centered around Kubernetes, which handles distributed scheduling of containers across on-prem and cloud environments. ODH provides a pluggable framework to incorporate existing software and tools, thereby enabling your data scientists, engineers and operations teams to execute on a safe and secure platform that is completely under your control.”
Red Hat is currently partnered with companies like NVIDIA, Seldon.io, and PerceptiLabs on the Open Data Hub project. It’s also working on the Mass Open Cloud, a collaboration of academia, industry and the state of Massachusetts.
But Sexsmith sees a lot of possibilities in this space for federal agencies to advance their AI capabilities. Geospatial reconnaissance, law enforcement, space exploration and national labs are just a few of the federal missions that could benefit from AI’s ability to process massive amounts of data in an open, ethical way.
“Federal agencies obviously have a lot of restrictions on how data can be utilized and where that data can reside,” Sexsmith said. “So in this world of hybrid cloud, there is a need to be cautious and innovative at the same time. It is easy to inadvertently build bias into AI models and possibly make a bad situation worse. Full control of data and regular reviews of both code and data, including objective reviews of ML output, should be a top priority. At minimum, a human should always be in the loop. And while the simplicity of a proprietary service is often appealing, there is danger in not fully understanding how machine-learning results are reached. Code and data are more intertwined than ever, and the rules around data and privacy are always evolving. Maintaining control of your data in a secure open source environment is a smart move, and a primary goal of Open Data Hub.”
Photo: Military communications architecture (Rockwell Collins)
“NATIONAL DEFENSE MAGAZINE”
“U.S. defense contractor Rockwell Collins is an established global player in the military communications industry. But as the company seeks customers for its new tactical communications products, it is looking to the Canadian market as a potential launch pad.
Canada agreed to fund and test the company’s wideband high-frequency prototype radios, betting that Rockwell Collins eventually will produce these systems domestically for Canada’s armed forces, and later export the technology around the globe.
Wideband HF is becoming an increasingly attractive option for militaries and private industries that are looking for alternatives to satellite communications, analysts said. The Canadian government is interested in buying Rockwell Collins’ wideband HF technology, but the radios are not yet ready for production. Under the “build in Canada innovation program,” the company will receive funds to accelerate the lab-to-market process, said Alan Prowse, Rockwell Collins vice president and managing director for the Americas.
In this venture, everyone wins, Prowse said in an interview. Canada gets new technology for its armed forces produced domestically, and Rockwell is able to parlay is sales to Canada into a much bigger international market.
“We see a significant export market of more than $250 million in the next five years” for wideband HF, said Prowse. Rockwell Collins at large currently earns about $1 billion a year from export sales.
The company’s wideband HF technology was developed at its Ottawa location. It was selected in March to participate in the “build in Canada” innovation program, the company announced May 27 during the CANSEC arms trade show in Ottawa.
The government was looking for technologies that are close to “production ready” but still need to be tested and evaluated by the actual users. Canada’s armed forces have been seeking beyond line-of-sight communications that are less expensive and safer from disruptions than satellite networks. Rockwell’s wideband HF, with 240 kilobits per second of data throughput, was seen as a candidate both for the military and for homeland security agencies.
Canadian defense officials set up Rockwell’s wideband HF systems in three locations across the country for month-long tests, Prowse said. The feedback from the users is helping the company figure out what needs to be fixed in order to expedite the development process, he said.
The government is pursuing wideband HF because it believes it could save millions of dollars in data transmission costs, Prowse added. “With SATCOM, you pay for every bit of data that is transmitted over satellite. With HF, the customer has the ability to buy the equipment and the actual transmission is free. That becomes very attractive to many users, not just the military but also embassies, and the shipping and mining industries.”
Rockwell Collins has been in the high-frequency radio business since the 1920s, but the latest batch of products are not “your father’s or your grandfather’s HF,” said Prowse. Typically HF radios have been difficult to operate, noisy and only usable for voice communications because of their inadequate data transmission speed. Modern HF, with 240 kilobits of data per second, is the equivalent of narrowband SATCOM, he noted. “Once you get that much data over a network, you can start doing things like Internet Protocol networks, streaming video over an HF link, and interactive white boarding. It’s mind boggling for a lot of people that remember the HF of decades past.”
Worries about satellite vulnerabilities — including intentional interference and disruption of signals — are fueling the demand for HF, he said. “And we see a lot of interest from embassies and disaster relief organizations that have to operate where there is no infrastructure.”
The Canadian armed forces already own wideband HF tactical radios made by one of Rockwell’s U.S. competitors, Harris Corp. According to a company news release, the radios are used to transmit video clips, images, maps and other large data files at 10 times the data rates compared with existing HF radios, in mountains and urban terrain.”