Virtual is a Reality…but is it Virtual Reality?

The past year has seen us living with the reality of virtual. Video calls, online meetings, streamed events - the majority of our connections have happened through a screen. While this is our current reality it is not virtual reality in the truest sense. By definition, virtual reality (VR) is being completely immersed in a world that is simulated. Augmented reality (AR) allows a user to move around in the real world while interacting with virtual elements (think Pokemon Go). What we've called "virtual" during the pandemic does not fit these exact criteria but our comfort interacting with a screen and the related technologies does pave the way for virtual and augmented reality solutions to become part of daily work and life.

  • Workforce Connection - Think of a virtual reality meeting as an amped up version of the backgrounds people apply to their zoom meetings to hide the pile of unwashed dishes behind them. A VR/AR meeting would give the appearance and feeling of colleagues sitting around a shared table and offer multiple views of each other as opposed to just head-on camera shots. To make this happen, specialized equipment and software would be required.
  • Training - VR and AR are nothing new in the defense space. Warfighters have long been using simulation-based training. These training uses continue to expand and become more sophisticated. Civilian agencies could also benefit from these technologies for occupational safety, especially needed as people begin transitioning back to in-office work.
  • Asset Management - The Navy is using VR/AR technology in their digital twin program that allows them to see images of the parts and ships in 3-D along with corresponding data needed to track them. This replaces hard copy forms and spreadsheets that give just flat numbers and point-in-time data, creating a new form of data visualization.
  • Virtual Inspections - Inspections are critical to the safety and security of the public, but with health concerns, getting inspectors onto manufacturing floors, into schools and offices, and generally interacting with people in charge of regulated sites has been difficult. The state of Delaware took their inspections virtual, moving a step beyond a video call with inspected entities by using VR/AR technology that allows remote experts to virtually reach out to "touch" areas they want inspectors to examine. Through the application, inspectors can write on the screen, freeze images, use hand gestures, share pictures and add real objects.

Of course, making VR/AR a reality (pun intended) requires some changes in government policy and procedures. That process has been started with the VR TECHS in Government Act. This bill has been sitting in committee, but if enacted would establish a multi-sector advisory committee "to promote the use of reality technology as a tool for professional development for Federal workers, and for other purposes."

If you are interested in exploring the world and applications of AR/VR there are a number of events and resources to guide your journey.

  • Future Offices Winter 2021 (January 20-21, 2021; virtual event) - This event brings together technology, real estate, workplace, facility, and design experts for two days of case studies, panel discussion, keynotes, and round table discussions. Topics covered include aligning workplace investments with organizational mission, hybrid and remote working challenges & successes, and what digital workplace necessities prove a return on investment.
  • Military Space Situational Awareness 2021 (April 28-29, 2021; virtual event) - This event will bring together leading experts from the UK, US, Europe and beyond, to discuss how we can build a collaborative approach to space management, as well as how to balance operational necessity with responsible use of space. An area of focus will be how to manage further space congestion through policy implementation, technology, best practices and international partnerships, to ensure future sustainable use of space.
  • ABC's of Immersive Technologies Workshop (May 6, 2021; virtual workshop) - This workshop will show how augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR) and mixed reality (MR) can create value for any organization. The session will also help attendees evaluate solutions to see which ones are best suited for their needs.
  • The 21st Century Integrated Digital Experience Act: A mandate to catch up with constituents' digital expectations (data sheet) - Developments in technology are transforming nearly every industry--and government is no exception. Today, federal, state, and local government agencies are seeking to improve the way they engage with constituents online, and how they deliver public services.
  • Risk and Reward: A Framework for Federal Innovation (white paper) -- The federal government is one of the most prolific innovators in modern history, sending astronauts to the moon, curing diseases across the globe and helping launch the Internet. To launch and sustain these initiatives, federal leaders brought vision, collaboration and resources to address formidable challenges.

Let us know where you are learning about the applications of VR/AR in government. Share your thoughts in the comments.

Be sure to check out GovEvents for a complete listing of virtual seminars, training, roundtables, webinars, and a library of on-demand events.

Security in the “New Normal”

With telework expected to stay long after the pandemic ebbs, government agencies are looking to shore up the remote work solutions they put in place to ensure on premise security measures extend to the dispersed workforce. Multi-cloud environments are the reality for almost every agency. The many applications needed for the diverse functions of an organization require multiple cloud solutions to provide the specific support needed.

A report from Meritalk, Multi-Cloud Defense: Redefining the Cyber Playbook, found that 83 percent of respondents are increasing multi-cloud adoption to support telework and mission needs related to COVID-19. However, 42 percent said their cyber strategies cannot keep up. One part of the challenge is creating a solution that can be applied to the wide variety of endpoint devices and meeting enterprise security requirements.

One option for quickly developing and implementing security solutions for the reality of today's network is the practice of DevSecOps. DevSecOps is an organizational philosophy that combines agile software development with security testing and tools for rapid delivery of applications and services. The growing use of this approach has led The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to create DevSecOps guidance that would help agencies include security earlier in the development lifecycle. This builds a new level of transparency into the security of solutions being used on government systems.

Security has always been a paramount focus of government IT and now with the way we access systems and data changing dramatically and quickly it is an even more critical focus. Luckily, there are a number of events and resources that can help IT and business leaders navigate what this "new normal" means for security.

  • RSAC 365 Virtual Summit (January 27, 2021; virtual) - From security leader RSA, this one-day online event features four tracks - Analytics, Intelligence, and Response; Application Security; Machine Learning, AI, and Automation; and Impact 2020, looking at the resilience strategies that worked in 2020.
  • Cloud Security & Services: Matching Data Demands with Increased Security (January 27, 2021; virtual) - This session will look at the challenge of blending the different types of cloud and service models to provide access to needed data, while at the same time protecting a much-enlarged attack surface created by the large number of workers who are accessing the data remotely.
  • FCW Workshop: Pillars of Modernization (February 10, 2021; virtual) - This workshop will feature government and industry experts addressing the need for a holistic approach to modernization that looks at security, network infrastructure, multi-cloud architectures, data solutions, and the user experience.
  • Advancing Cybersecurity at Scale in the Cloud (white paper) -- Even though federal agencies are gatekeepers to some of the nation's most valuable and sensitive data, much of the core infrastructure tasked with securing these assets has not evolved. This paper looks at how to create a comprehensive platform to help modernize and holistically manage digital environments.
  • Cyber Resilience Review (data sheet) - Published by the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), this paper looks at how a review provides an improved organization-wide awareness of the need for effective cybersecurity management. It details how to map the relative maturity of the organizational resilience processes.

We'd love to hear where you are getting insight on DevSecOps and cloud security. Share your ideas in the comments.

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Artificial Intelligence Gains Energy

The development and use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) became official policy of the United States with the signing of an Executive Order in February. This order outlines and directs America's government-wide push to advance the use of AI through research and public/private partnerships. In the ensuing months, the Department of Energy has emerged as a leader in these efforts.

In September 2019, the DOE initiated the Artificial Intelligence and Technology Office (AITO) to help channel the department's vast resources across its national lab facilities. These efforts are paying off as DOE partners with Health and Human Services and Veterans Affairs as part of the COVID-19 Insights Partnership with the goal to increase data sharing and analysis in the fight against the spread of COVID-19. The DOE is also pressing ahead with private partnerships announcing the First Five Consortium with Microsoft, the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, and the Defense Department's Joint Artificial Intelligence Center (JAIC). Together they will develop AI-based solutions for data-first responders.

Another cross-government AI initiative involves the DOE partnering with the National Science Foundation (NSF) to establish new research institutes for AI development. Projects in these institutes will focus on machine learning, synthetic manufacturing, precision agriculture, and forecasting predictions. Research will be done in coordination with state universities nationwide.

Finally, the DOE will be combining their AI focus and their leading role in High Performance Computing (HPC) research to better secure these powerful resources. Malicious cryptocurrency miners look to these HPC machines as a way to gain advantage in the cryptocurrency market. They can (and have) hijack high-performing computers at universities and government facilities to take advantage of their processing power and save themselves from having to set up their own mining systems. DOE is working on AI technology that compares control flow graphs of programs actually running on the system to a catalog of graphs for programs that have permission to run on a given computer. This helps spot unauthorized programs, even if they have been disguised to look like legitimate programming.

There are a number of events and resources that examine the many applications of AI and detail where we are today in the use and development of solutions.

  • 7th Annual Defense Research and Development Summit (January 14, 2021; virtual) - Learn about research and development within the defense sector. The summit will address the latest priorities, advancements and challenges within the development and delivery of innovative solutions.
  • Ai4 2021 Cybersecurity Summit (February 3-4, 2021; virtual) - This event brings together business leaders and data practitioners to facilitate the adoption of artificial intelligence and machine learning technology within the cybersecurity industry. With a use-case oriented approach to content, attendees will get actionable insights from those working on the frontlines of AI.
  • AI Week 2021 (May 10-14; online) - This week-long multi-organization event gathers the biggest names in tech and artificial intelligence to discuss ways to harness emerging technology's potential to revolutionize all aspects of life.
  • American Artificial Intelligence Initiative: Year One Annual Report (white paper) - Published by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, this paper looks at the progress and a continued long-term vision for the American AI Initiative.
  • AI Readiness for Government (white paper) -- As various government agencies prepare to deploy artificial intelligence, a six-pronged framework can help assess AI readiness. To capture AI's potential to create value, government organizations will need a plan to retool the relevant existing processes, upskill or hire key staff, refine approaches toward partnership, and develop the necessary data and technical infrastructure to deploy AI.

We'd love to hear where you are learning about AI progress in government. Let us know what events you're attending in the comments.

Be sure to check out GovEvents for a complete listing of conferences, virtual events, webinars, and a library of on-demand resources.

Online Learning is Here to Stay

Online learning is nothing new. Colleges and universities provide online programs that enable working adults to take classes. Professional development and classes for re-certifications are offered via online means. Homeschooled K-12 students utilize numerous online programs to obtain specialized instruction and build connections. What is new is the scope of online learning--the sheer number of people participating in online education is historic.

The Department of Defense (DoD) has been focused on increasing the scope and effectiveness of online learning for a number of years. In fact, Enterprise Digital Modernization Learning reform started in 2018 to improve how DoD purchases and maintains its digital learning software and services, while modernizing systems. The DoD has been working on a consolidated course catalog that makes it easier to search for available courses across the vast DoD enterprise.

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GovTech Intelligence Platform, The Atlas for Cities, bought by Government Executive Media Group

From time to time GovEvents will come across information we feel our members and audience would benefit from. Here's something we wanted to share that was originally posted on TechCrunch.

The Atlas for Cities, the 500 Startups-backed market intelligence platform connecting tech companies with state and local governments, has been acquired by the Growth Catalyst Partners-backed publishing and market intelligence company Government Executive Media Group.

The San Diego-based company will become the latest addition to a stable of publications and services that include the "Route Fifty," a publication for local government and the defense-oriented intelligence service, DefenseOne.

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