Just Released: ‘Emerging Tech 2018’ to Watch in Federal Gov
FedScoop released its list of the top technologies to watch in 2018 in the federal government space.
According to the publication, which covers technology developments in the federal government, “If 2017 was the year federal agencies began to seriously explore adopting cutting-edge emerging technologies, 2018 could, in many senses, be the year many of those innovations become commonplace around government.”
The publication lists seven technologies on its 2018 list: blockchain, artificial intelligence and machine learning, virtual and augmented reality, drones, quantum computing, advanced biometrics and facial recognition, and the internet of things.
Blockchain, the “distributed ledger-based technology that rose to the spotlight as the basis for the cryptocurrency bitcoin,” will be one technology that undoubtedly has a major impact, the piece suggests.
“The first half of the last year was all about education,” said Mark Fisk, a partner at IBM Global Services Public Sector. “I think we’ve now kind of taken that turn, and now when I talk to clients — some of it’s education and what blockchain can do for them — but it’s really about exploring capabilities and actually thinking about proof of concepts. This will be the year of proof of concepts and then, hopefully, moving those proof of concepts into production pilots by the mid to end of 2018.”
A number of agencies are already running bitcoin pilot programs, including the General Services Administration, the Navy, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
FedScoop also sees a big market for artificial intelligence and machine learning, stating that the federal government is one of the sectors “that’s most likely to benefit from advances in AI and machine learning in the near-term, in large part because both are rooted in big data – something agencies tend to have lots of.”
Pilot programs testing the tech’s applicability are already underway in agencies including the Department of Homeland Security, the General Services Administration, the National Cancer Institute, and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
“Out of all the programs that we did last year, AI surprised me the most,” said Meagan Metzger, founder of government technology accelerator Dcode, noting that the solutions that came through the accelerator in those fields saw the widest levels of real-world adoption.
Although virtual and augmented reality technologies have made a rapid transition into the mainstream consumer market, thanks to the efforts of companies like HTC, Facebook, Microsoft, and Sony, the tech probably won’t have broad applicability across government, according to FedScoop. Most use cases will be highly specialized.
“It doesn’t have a huge amount of applicability across most agencies,” Dcode’s Andrew McMahon said. “But I think it could be interesting for some citizen-facing work.”
McMahon had a similar read on the adoption of drones within federal agencies, noting that they will be very useful in the specific cases that call for the technology, but that their broader applications are generally limited.
“They’ll have niche use,” McMahon said. For example, bridge inspections, natural disaster surveys or other dangerous tasks currently performed by humans could be taken over by drones, he said. And like IoT, drones have the capacity to be important data collectors, which may feed into the government’s AI capacities down the road.
But while VR, AR, and drones might not make a huge leap into widespread federal adoption in 2018, the coming year could see huge strides in quantum computing – that is, computers built around chips that use the physical properties of particles, as opposed to traditional, digital-binary, transistor-based chips.
A quantum computing milestone rests just within reach. Researchers are within striking distance of so-called “quantum supremacy,” the name for the point at which quantum computers begin to outperform traditional computers. Last month, Intel released a new chip boasting 49 qubits of processing power.
“I think we can say with a very high degree of confidence that the era of quantum computing has officially arrived,” said Scott Totzke, CEO of ISARA Corporation, a Canadian quantum security company. “We see a lot of commercialization efforts starting to manifest from IBM, Google, from the work that Microsoft is doing. We’ll see somebody — it could be Google, could be Intel or some other player — that has a quantum computer that more capable than the most sophisticated supercomputer we can build. We’ll solve some very academic problems, optimization problems, that we just can’t solve on a computer.”
Advances in biometrics and facial recognition will also have niche uses, FedScoop claims, and could potentially find uses in identifying fraudulent documents.
The internet of things is viewed less as an opportunity and more as a potential threat nexus, with an increase in the number of connected devices representing a corresponding increase in the number of vulnerabilities.
“The big question around IoT is going to be around the security of it,” Dcode’s Andrew McMahon said. “The government needs to be cautious.”
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