5 Things I'm Watching in 2016

Jan. 20, 2016

As we turn the page on 2015, I took the occasion to look back on the trends I saw for last year. Unsurprisingly, these trends are still driving forces in 2016. Some have gained even greater importance and they (along with some new ones) are changing our lives in dramatic ways.

So, for the coming year, this is what I am watching.

Social media

Our political landscape is being shaped by an unrelenting tsunami of opinion. The sheer force of this opinion will greatly influence who our next president will be and, by extension, how we structure our response to domestic issues, national security and military posture. In a real way, then, all businesses are affected by social media and ours is no exception. The passage of the bipartisan defense funding agreement (at a modest increase over fiscal 2015) has brought some stability to the military programs we support because both sides of the aisle recognize the devastating effect recalcitrance over the budget will play in social media in this presidential election cycle.

Inter-connectedness

In 2015, the IoT (Internet of Things) movement took massive leaps forward. The year saw the introduction of cloud-connected stuffed animals for kids, prognostic tools for home appliances, real-time health monitoring and car-based Wi-Fi, broadband at 1Gb/S, cellular at 300Mb/S and faster—worldwide. The proliferation of cloud-based services and inexpensive on-line storage has killed the CD, DVD and threatens the beloved “thumb-drive.”

This affects our business in many ways; as a benefit, it drives innovation and available technology for faster, richer data communications, but as a threat it opens new doors to cyber threat. In our business, we must cater to both the opportunity and the threat.

Visualization

Last year saw the rise of true “VR” (virtual reality). This tool, which requires powerful computational resources, is now achievable in compact, low power-consuming hardware—the very hardware we are producing now and will be producing in the future. VR is more than representing the familiar in a new way; it opens a window to data as a visual construct. 

We are working with partners to merge “synthetic” vision (constructed from pure data) with “real” vision to create information-enhanced views. In our business, this means we can provide warfighters with unprecedented understanding of their operational space leading to increased effectiveness and security.

Autonomy

When did you first hear about “self-driving” cars? Likely it was no more than two years ago. Did you think that, in 2016, one of these cars might pull up next to you as you did your Starbucks run? If you didn’t, don’t be surprised to see it—because that will happen. And, in a few short years it will be commonplace. 

The in-feed technologies (sensors, image processing, AI software and so on) produced for the massive automobile markets are finding their way into military platforms at a rapid pace. For our business, this means our products must achieve the best possible reliability and safety performance, while still being small, lightweight and of the highest performance.

Rapid development

Old-school military equipment development is dead. While many of these programs (you know, the ones that have been around for 15 years and never got to production) are still around, they cannot endure the change in the financial and geo-political environment of a world now 100 years past the first “technological” war. Threats emerge fully formed from stateless nations in months instead of germinating in a more understandable process within established countries. New threats utilize new technology, that is rapidly developed and constantly changing. 

The counter to this threat is obvious; fast, flexible, out-of-the-box development—a “Silicon Valley” mentality unfettered by the “way we have always done things.” In our business, this means we must look past the requirement to the sometimes complex need and get creative; this is customer-centric and market-driven; innovation in substance and in process—knowing that everything has a “best used by” date.

So, as the year unfolds, I will be watching these things—but I expect to be thoroughly surprised. Again.

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