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How IT professionals can help Australia’s defence industry rise to the data challenge

Defence person in headquarter control center

Though 2020 was a turbulent and uncertain year across many industries, for the defence sector it has been a wake-up call. Military organisations have been forced to adopt new ways of working due to social distancing and the need to collaborate remotely. This has driven a need for more technology and less traditional, paper-based, processes. 

Furthermore, with IT systems becoming increasingly innovative and evolved, it is imperative for Australia’s defence sector to remain at the forefront of this innovation, or else risk falling behind and potentially leaving the country open to vulnerabilities.  

This increased use of technology by military organisations and their in-service support partners is spawning a proliferation of valuable data being fed back to their assets, their people and their software.  

Those with IT and data skills are becoming increasingly valuable to the Army, Navy and Air Force, with data being the common thread which underlies the three key developments below that are predicted to shape the defence industry in 2021 and beyond. 

 

AI and machine learning 

The potential for AI and predictive analytics has been gaining traction within the defence sector over recent years, however now it appears that we are closer than ever to translating these principles into ‘on the ground’ strategies that have the capacity to revolutionise military asset readiness. 

According to an Artificial Intelligence and National Security reportAI research is underway in the fields of intelligence collection and analysis, logistics, cyber operations, information operations, command and control, and in a variety of semiautonomous and autonomous vehicles. Already, AI has been incorporated into military operations in Iraq and Syria. 

5G is a key enabler for practical AI for military operations, with 5G connectivity allowing as close as possible real-time data exchange. This can result in live maintenance updates from military assets, such as aircraft or vehicles, to be fed back into a logistics system. This system can then optimise maintenance personnel on the ground to make seamless scheduled or even unexpected repairs. 

Adding in machine learning is the next step to make maintenance as predictive as possible, bringing the ability to aggregate this data. Together, AI and machine learning have the potential to allow OEMs and military organisations to simulate wear on critical components such as engines in a fully digital environment. These models can then be used to inform decision-making for the physical asset — turning simulated data into an ‘on the ground’ strategic advantage. 

 

Anywhere operations 

In today’s increasingly digital world it’s easy to think that connectivity can occur anywhere, but this isn’t the case – particularly when it comes to the remote locations in which defence operations are often performed.  

According to Gartner, ‘anywhere operations’ will be one of the top strategic technology trends of 2021.  Described as an IT operating system, Gartner states that this technology will “provide unique value-add experience across five areas: collaboration, productivity, secure remote access, cloud and edge infrastructure, quantification of the digital experience and automation” in order to support remote operations.” 

The military often performs mission-critical ‘disconnected operations’ in difficult to reach locations beyond a forward operating base, which means they are perhaps the sector with the most pressing strategic need to embrace this idea of anywhere operations. Optimising operations in such a disconnected setting means ‘racing data’ back from these forward operating bases to a main operating base that has the connectivity to inform maintenance and repair requirements. 

 

Sustainable operations 

As many industries begin to make the move to more environmentally-sound operations, so too does the defence sector. The Australian Defence Force’s Environmental Strategy, outlines a roadmap for the five main strategic aims that will guide the level of resources and effort directed to environmental management issues. 

Sustainable efforts will directly involve logistics and IT support, with these efforts likely to be a data-driven. Firstly, more efficient asset management in terms of predictive maintenance will vastly reduce the logistics footprint associated with supporting complex equipment such as aircraft and vehicles. Secondly, the same software components that use data streams to help track asset performance and assess financial costs can also be utilised to track environmental costs.  

If you’re a defence employer looking for talent, contact Bayside Group today.  

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