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The line between the cyber and the physical world is blurring. Military and commercial organizations are trying to keep pace with technologies such as intelligent planning tools, digital twins, augmented reality and the solutions that can manage them—as well as combat threats in new domains. In 2019 and beyond there are three areas we can expect to see digital extend its reach and blur the dividing lines even more.

Prediction #1: Autonomous tech takes on the undersea arena

The global underwater robotics market is expected to reach a market size of USD 6.74 billion by 2025. Autonomous aerial vehicle (AAV) technology may get more public attention, but autonomous underwater vehicles (AUV) are being developed for military applications across intelligence, surveillance, inspection, underwater repair, maintenance, navigation and communication.

The need to safeguard networks and critical communications infrastructure, monitor territory disputes and combat trafficking has driven increased undersea activity. Non-state actors who have access to more cost-effective commercial off-the-shelf technologies also pose a threat to shipping and maritime activity. This is an area where autonomous and robotic technology will have significant cost-saving potential for defense and protection organizations as smaller autonomous vehicles can now conduct tasks previously only completed by fully crewed submarines and surface vessels which incur large costs.

Expect to see defense organizations put more focus on how to manage and operationalize digital ecosystems that come with a complex undersea operational domain. This includes new robotic hardware, software and data gathering and management tools.

Prediction #2: The role of digital grows for asset readiness and integrity

Enterprise software is an integral element of a military force’s equipment. It is now a strategic enabler and the most agile organizations will learn to balance the risks and complexity of software upgrades with the benefits they offer.

When looking at asset readiness, new data streams from digital twins, real-time monitoring and advanced analytics will have a big impact on operations. This is where software reporting and management tools will come under scrutiny. Tools such as Enterprise Operational Intelligence (EOI) can span this new digital complexity and provide the capability to model operational readiness by drawing data together from different source systems. This enables the mapping of readiness postures through the accurate identification of assets, resource status and maintenance requirements to give a much clearer view and ensure mission deadlines are met.

Digitization has also given asset integrity a whole new meaning. The military supply chain is diversifying, and software needs to be configured to enforce processes which ensure compliance steps are completed to protect the integrity of military assets, parts and components. These checks must span a wide range of topics, from ensuring compatible software loads to “administrative” issues such as managing export control.

Capitalizing on opportunities presented by this digital and physical shift will be achieved by breaking down all the legacy and inflexible stove-piped systems that stand in the way of establishing adequate information assurance and full asset visibility.

Prediction #3: A new look for cyber warfare

Cybersecurity has not always been a key focus of acquisition and requirements policies for weapons systems. But with recent reports pointing out various vulnerabilities we should expect to see more attention paid to securing these platforms against advanced cyberattack capabilities in the short-term future.

The reliance on networked connectivity for weapons systems means that even when next generation technology designed with cybersecurity in mind is deployed, there will still be a risk where this technology needs to be connected to the older, less secure systems that are still pervasive within defense ecosystems.

But it’s not just the weapons systems themselves which are becoming more connected. The whole supply chain is becoming more interconnected as it grows to involve military organizations, OEMs, contractors and third-party providers maintaining equipment via service-based agreements. The mix of new materials and software, legacy equipment and emerging technology offers a large and varied attack surface. Tier one vendors may be stepping up their cybersecurity game, but bad actors are shifting focus to tier three and tier four manufacturers and service providers.

With supply chain attacks potentially hitting many different machines from a single compromise, expect cybersecurity to become a bigger a priority for every player in the industry.

The digital-first mindset

Combatting new threats, the need to manage complex supply chains and sophisticated assets highlight digital’s impact on the physical world. Grasping the speed of this change will be key in 2019. The good news is that enterprise software is no longer being seen as a necessary evil, but an enabler for leaders to deliver performance improvements, better decision-making and increased awareness of asset readiness. This will go along way to delivering performance improvements, aid decision-making, and increase awareness of asset readiness.

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