Throughout history, natural disasters and disruptive events have had the power to throw daily life into chaos. While wildfires, earthquakes and floods have had disastrous consequences, the current COVID-19 pandemic has changed both the personal and professional landscape permanently.
With such critical events hovering on the horizon, organisations’ must intentionally consider the safety of employees, safeguarding assets and the continuity of operations. Such volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (VUCA) environments do not respect organisational boundaries or borders and call for thorough risk monitoring as frequently as possible, in as efficient a manner as feasible.
Having a comprehensive situational awareness of disruptive events significantly increases an organisation’s ability to assess risk and allows them to understand, effectively manage and mitigate the impact of the critical event. They can then disseminate response-information across the entire organisation rapidly.
An effective platform, such as an integrated solution that can automate threat identification, filtration, evaluation, reporting and communication of potential threats based on an organisation’s risk profile is the need of the hour. Solutions that will help improve risk mitigation, reduce business impact, protect the health, safety and productivity of employees, streamline risk-related decision-making processes, and help reduce costs should be the focal points for most organisations’ safety procedures.
Strengthening risk intelligence in an organisation cannot be achieved by simple awareness alone. The dissemination of vital information must be real-time, thorough high quality, and applicable to an organisation’s risk mitigation profile. Furthermore, incident monitoring processes and the supporting technology must be in line with the urgency, the quality and relevance of the information, and comprehensive monitoring to cover even the smallest of risks, not just the big events.
The quantity and type of data indicating a potential threat, or an early warning indicator is so massive that one individual or even a team cannot filter through the clutter to find the relevant material needed without wasting much-needed resources. An organisation will need a robust and refined set of tools and systems to scan, detect, and evaluate potential disruptive incidents.
Utilising technology for risk assessment provides hyper-localised, highly customisable information. The detailed and contextual level of the risk intelligence system must trigger proactive notifications based on a personalised organisational profile. To develop such a management approach, organisations must know how to minimise the threats while ensuring operational effectiveness.
However, most organisations find it difficult to create an effective risk awareness programme by themselves, inhouse. To identify, track and analyse information coming from hundreds of millions of sources and then communicate effectively and efficiently across the organisation, perhaps multi-nationally is a tall order. What is needed, then, are partners and experts who can guide organisations on this critical journey of resilience.
This was the focus of the discussion during the OpenGovLive! Virtual Insight: Enhancing Organisational Risk Intelligence – Safeguarding Assets and Ensuring Operational Effectiveness on 16 March with security experts and digital executives from a wide range of organisations and business enterprises from Singapore.
Obtaining intelligence from a vast quantity of data and information
To kickstart the session, Mohit Sagar, Group Managing Director and Editor-in-Chief at OpenGov Asia highlighted a prevalent contradiction – while disasters are imminent, people, as well as organisations, illogically feel somewhat immune. Most recently is the COVID-19 pandemic that took the world by surprise because we thought we were immune or perhaps ignoring the possibility that it would ever materialise in the first place. The pandemic put an 80-mile wind behind everyone’s back, either propelling people to the next level or thrown them farther from their goals completely.
Mohit stressed that intelligence must be gathered from the available data and information but given the current situation, organisations are struggling to do this. People have too much information, mistakenly believing that raw data can be their weapon in and of itself. As the adage goes – more of something does not always mean better. The fact is that organisations are inundated with so much information, that they cannot process nor understand it properly. Thus, contrarily, forgoing the very intelligence they seek.
Human beings by nature are hoarders. And data, sometimes called the new oil, is next on the grab and stash list; everybody to get their hands on as much as they can.
Like oil, data, too, comes in many different forms and types that need to be processed carefully to extract value. Organisations need the right tools, the right mindset and the right strategy within themselves to gather actionable insights.
With this comes fundamental questions: How much data and what data to collect? How is the data gathered? How is data stored? How is the data to be processed? How do you safeguard vital information and digital assets against another catastrophe and cyber intrusions?
Mohit concluded by emphasising that there needs to a paradigm shift in organisational culture. Business outlook and thinking have been hindering growth and innovation for a while. Organisations need to broaden their vision and look outward. They must seek the right partners who specialise and champion this arena. They must empower decision-makers and the wider employee base to do what needs to be done to prevent future risks.
Transforming intelligence to empowering knowledge
Eric Boger, Senior Director of Global Intelligence and Analysis Everbridge took over the discussion. He acknowledged that 2020 proven to be a catalyst – not only with COVID-19 but with other natural disasters that had made businesses harder for everyone. It brought Critical Event Management (CEM) front and centre of all continuity plans and strategies.
Eric agreed that an effective CEM system always starts with intel. However, organisations know the true definition of intelligence. Intelligence is the result of a systematic process where raw materials are transformed into relevant and reliable knowledge. This knowledge should empower decision-makers and operators to act for their organisations.
Eric and his team provide organisations with a platform for disaster management with different phases.
The landscape of delivering intelligence varies across many service providers. Some churn out results quickly while some take their time in evaluating the possible conclusions. Eric stressed that organisations must find the right partner, tailor-fit to their profiles and immediate needs in terms of data and information that affects their operations.
Irrespective, Eric believes that there is a sweet spot when it comes to CEM. It is not just about speed; the information must be factual, especially in the social-media age, where information and intelligence can be received at an instant.
Assessing the situation is the starting point – discovering what is going on. A group or team should be in place to monitor and assess information coming from various sources. Putting adequate and appropriate resources to improve risk intelligence is vital in mitigating possible threats.
Eric explained that intelligence cannot be just one layer. It should be fused with other elements that affect business operations. Experts can help organisations nuance and peel all these layers. In improving risk intelligence, the right partner will provide a platform that supports all business cases in all forms and will find the appropriate solutions for different use cases proactively.
Eric concluded his presentation by pointing out that understanding the situation and acting on it with a sense of urgency will provide organisations with efficient critical event management strategies.
Utilising acquired knowledge to mitigate risks
After Eric’s informative presentation, the session was followed up by Dr Peter Simpson, Global Head, Safety and Security Standard Chartered.
Peter revealed that his organisation treats risk intelligence not merely as a data-gathering exercise but as a way to protect their people, buildings, assets and ensuring that their operations are unhindered. He acknowledged that risks such as natural disasters, protests, pandemics, etc. would happen, like it or not. They are inevitable. Accepting this, they aim to minimise the effects of these imminent threats.
He solidly agreed that more data and information is not needed. What is needed is the intelligence and wisdom to analyse the data so that organisations can make or shape decisions that will have a meaningful impact to mitigate risk.
When decision-makers in the organisation need important details to arrive at a verdict, people around should be well equipped to provide supporting data. The information needs to be relevant, timely and granular. Peter reiterated that organisations need to know when data is not valid and unreliable.
Peter understands that organisations get their share of information from a huge number of data or news sources including social media. while it is not bad to get intelligence from various sources, organisations need to take this information, validate it, automate it, evaluate what details will prove useful. Only then should they disseminate the information within the organisation to further ease possible threats. He shared several case studies on various risks and threats. One example was a physical protest that happened worldwide which was simultaneously being mirrored online with a cyber protest (where demonstrators takedown systems in the digital space).
Organisations affected by such threats such, who have a presence in multiple countries, do not want to go on full alert and disrupt their operations just because of one isolated incident. Organisations can just address the ongoing issues in the selected areas beforehand, by utilising intelligence gained from early risk management measures.
For Peter, it is all about organisations mitigating the present and future effects of threats in all proportions through relevant and reliable intelligence and knowledge gained from vast amounts of data and information.
Polling questions and discussion
After the engaging and informative presentations by the speakers, the session transitioned to an interactive discussion with polling questions posed to the audience.
The first question was about what level of risk awareness an organisation can attain given its capabilities. Over 80% of the delegates said that they have some clarity on risk awareness, and they want to improve it.
A senior executive delegate said that they have SOS platforms and numerous risk management companies, but they currently do not have the overview to pull things together and process information thoroughly. Other delegates also said that they do not have the templates to do the assessment needed.
The next question was asked what the biggest threat to the organisation’s physical safety and security was. More than half the delegates agreed that disruptive events like the ongoing pandemic takes the pole position.
A representative from the Commonwealth Bank of Australia said that manmade disasters are on the top of his list because of threats of a cyber shutdown. Another delegate from Johnson & Johnson said that natural disasters like typhoons that cut communication platforms that hinder government services are his organisation’s biggest threat.
Eric supported the fact that communication platforms are essential regardless of the threat and attack. Digital communication plans should be in place beforehand and speed is of the essence when it comes to disaster management strategies.
The delegates were also asked about how critical is it for their respective organisations to have a robust system or technologies in place that enables them with full risk awareness. About 63% of the delegates said having a system in place for risk awareness is critical for an organisation.
A delegate from PLUS Malaysia Berhad said that having a system in place will further help them manage information dissemination across their organisation and other related parties while mitigating physical and cyber threats at the same time.
The session ended with the closing remarks by Eric Boger. He thanked the delegates for attending the virtual event and for their insightful contributions.
He reiterated that they are in the critical event management business to help and enable organisations and their people with the technology and platforms to mitigate the forthcoming risks in all forms and all timelines in the best way they can. He encouraged the participants to reach out to his team to explore ways to collaborate on their risk intelligence journey.
The use of a simple organic molecule during the fabrication of a two-dimensional (2D) perovskite results in one of the highest recorded efficiencies for perovskite-based devices. Light-emitting diodes (LEDs) employing this 2D perovskite material achieved an external quantum efficiency as high as 20.5%, which rivals the best organic LEDs, according to research co-led by City University of Hong Kong (CityU).
Led by Professor Andrey Rogach, Chair Professor at the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, CityU, and his collaborator Professor Yang Xuyong from Shanghai University, the research team has worked on 2D perovskite materials and succeeded to realise such efficient and bright green LEDs.
Their technology yielded the best-reported performance on both current efficiency and external quantum efficiency. This work has now put the perovskite LEDs close on the heels of current commercial display technologies, such as organic LEDs.
The findings were published in the scientific journal Nature Communications, titled “Smoothing the energy transfer pathway in quasi-2D perovskite films using methane sulfonate leads to highly efficient light-emitting devices”.
The key to the powerful change lies in the addition of around 10% of a simple organic molecule, called methane sulfonate. This molecule reconstructs the structure of the 2D perovskite nanosheets, while simultaneously enhancing exciton energy transfer between sheets of different thicknesses. It is also useful in reducing defects in the 2D perovskite structure, contributing to higher efficiency.
The consequences for producing better LEDs are encouraging. The brightness of 13,400 candela/m2 at a low applied voltage of 5.5 V and external quantum efficiency of 20.5% is recorded. This is close to the maximum that can be achieved by many existing LED technologies and has almost doubled the external quantum efficiency level of 10.5% reported in the previous collaborative study of the same groups two years ago.
“The CityU team has built up its expertise on perovskite materials to a very high level in a relatively short period of time, thanks to funding support from Senior Research Fellowship by the Croucher Foundation,” said Professor Rogach.
“The high brightness, excellent colour purity, and commercial-grade operating efficiency achieved marks 2D perovskites as an extremely attractive material for future commercial LEDs, and potentially also display technology. It’s a tangible outcome from both fundamental and applied research into novel nano-scale materials” he adds.
Other collaborators include researchers from CityU, Shanghai University, Jilin University, University of Science and Technology of China, Nankai University, Wuhan University and the Chinese Academy of Sciences.
Innovation in LED tech
According to an earlier OpenGov Asia article, researchers at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) have discovered a novel way to enhance the efficiency of the ultraviolet (UVC) light-emitting diode (LED) disinfection technique and developed a closet that could kill 99.99% of the bacteria and viruses on the garment inside within a minute. The closet is now in use at three special schools under Po Leung Kuk.
UVC is widely used for disinfecting purposes in private and public facilities, but the light source of existing UVC disinfection products are mainly mercury lamps, which not only has lower germicidal efficiency but is also bulkier with a much shorter lifespan than the LED light.
Moreover, mercury lamp has a longer disinfection cycle and requires time for warming up while LED emits light instantly. Since last year, over 140 nations, including the US, EU, China, Japan and Australia, have implemented a treaty on gradually phasing out the use of toxic mercury in commercial and industrial processes.
However, despite LED lights’ superiority over its mercury-based counterpart, it is not yet widely adopted in sterilisation products due to its narrow beam angle and low output efficiency with traditional single-layer reflector.
Dozens of students, lecturers, and officers at the Posts and Telecommunications Institute of Technology (PTIT) can now use motorbike parking services, keep track of class schedules, check exam scores, and pay for meals entirely on their smartphones.
PTIT is a key human resource research and development unit of the Ministry of Information and Communications (MIC). With the aim of promoting digital transformation to improve the quality of training and research, the Institute deployed the PTIT S-Link mobile application for students, lecturers, and managers with essential functions.
PTIT S-Link sends students alerts about an upcoming lesson. It notifies the user about learning subjects, venues, and other detailed information about the class. The app was made operational in late 2020 and has over 12,000 downloads.
According to a press release, a digital university is taking shape at PTIT. In September 2020, during a talk with PTIT members, the MIC Minister, Nguyen Manh Hung, noted that PTIT, a “miniature society” with young dynamic people has favourable conditions to build a digital society. To prepare the labour force for digital transformation, an online university is the best way to “train digital citizens”. The Institute plans to unveil D-Lab, an online practice platform, S-Class, a smart class platform, and an intelligence operation centre (IOC), shortly.
The Ministry of Education and Training (MOET) said Vietnam is striving to become a leading country with a fully digitised educational sector. It wants to produce a Vietnamese workforce that has globally recognised digital transformation knowledge and skills.
Though the institute has been using IT in its activities for many years, it still faces difficulties upgrading the application. The biggest problem is the lack of a digital university model and transformation at the Institute. In the first period, PTIT is focused on researching and shaping the architecture of the digital university and completing the digital transformation plan by 2025.
With the spirit of carrying out digital transformation in accordance with the “miniature digital nation”, the institute studied national policies and built its digital transformation plan under the three pillars of the national digital transformation programme: digital administration, service, and society.
“The fourth quarter of 2020 and first quarter of 2021 will be the time for the institute to cooperate with a digital technology firm to build a digital university,” Hung said. The Minister’s proposal spurred on development in the institute, the release noted.
In December 2020, Minister Hung stated that one digital university has likely become eligible for pilot transformation. With instructions from the Minister, the institute has become one of the pioneers in building and applying a digital university model. PTIT is not, however, the only digital school in the country.
The targets set in the Hanoi National University’s development strategy by 2030 are: reforming teaching methods towards modernisation, integrating personalisation into IT platforms, and creating learner-centric infrastructure. It also aims to establish intelligent university management and organisation models, execute comprehensive digital transformation in all activities, and operate the shared digital data knowledge system synchronously. The university will interconnect data for effective administration, management, and the renewal of teaching, learning, and research activities. One of the key tasks in 2021-2025 of the school is perfecting the modern university management and organisation model in association with building smart universities.
Invest Hong Kong (InvestHK) co-organised a webinar with the Moscow Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MCCI) on 7 April 2021) to update Russian companies on Hong Kong’s latest business environment under the new normal, and encouraging them to tap the business opportunities arising from the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area (GBA) development.
Speakers at the webinar provided Russian companies with the latest information on business opportunities in Hong Kong regarding retail, e-commerce and import trade. They also highlighted how the city can tap opportunities amid rapid changes related to the world’s digital transformation in the face of the global pandemic.
The event started with welcoming remarks by the Vice President of MCCI followed by a video presentation on Hong Kong under the new normal. This included business opportunities, challenges and prospects from the Associate Director-General of Investment Promotion at InvestHK.
He said that the pandemic has fuelled a digital transformation globally and Hong Kong is ready to benefit. The Hong Kong SAR Government is committed to promoting the development of innovation and technology (I&T), with a special focus on research and development, state-of-the-art I&T infrastructure, a tech talent pool, investment funding and other support measures to improve the ecosystem for start-ups.
Russian companies can leverage the city’s sophisticated technology ecosystem to meet the growing demand for digital marketing and technology-related services in the Mainland and across the region.
He added that the GBA development offers huge business opportunities to Hong Kong in various areas. He urged Russian companies to set up a presence in Hong Kong and make use of the city’s status as an international finance centre, the low and simple tax regime, its robust common law legal system and vibrant business environment to expand into the lucrative Mainland market.
InvestHK’s Principal Consultant in Moscow told the webinar, “Through this webinar, we aspire to unveil the unparalleled advantages that Hong Kong grants to all sorts of entrepreneurial minds and daring corporations eager to expand into Asia and globally with all our expertise and care.”
An Entrepreneur and the Founder and Managing Director of a venture studio and consulting firm, based in Hong Kong and Co-Founder of Digital Week Online, a Business Development Specialist also shared his experience in doing business in Hong Kong, highlighting the business opportunities in retail, e-commerce and importation to Hong Kong.
InvestHK is the department of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government responsible for attracting foreign direct investment and supporting overseas and Mainland businesses to set up or expand in Hong Kong. It provides free advice and customised services for overseas and Mainland companies.
Hong Kong: an emerging tech hub
Hong Kong is rapidly emerging as a regional tech hub. Key IT infrastructure includes Hong Kong Science Park and Cyberport.
Hong Kong Science Park aims to transform Hong Kong into the regional hub for innovation and technology development. Home to 600 technology companies and about 13,000 technology talents, Science Park is a complete ecosystem that connects stakeholders, nurtures talent, facilitates collaboration, and drives innovation for commercialisation.
A leading information and communication technology hub in the Asia-Pacific region, Cyberport is a creative digital community of over 900 digital tech companies engaged in various forms of digital technology, such as FinTech, eCommerce, IoT/Wearables and Big Data/Artificial Intelligence.
The Philippines’ Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) and the Department of Education (DepEd) strengthened the partnership between the agencies to clear the path towards the digitalisation of the education sector with the establishment of the Public Education Network (PEN).
The DICT and DepEd started coordinating on the development of the PEN last year. It is aligned with President Rodrigo Duterte’s directive during his 5th State of the Nation Address (SONA) last year for both agencies to connect all schools, especially last-mile schools, and DepEd offices nationwide.
Under the memorandum of agreement (MOA) signed between the two agencies, the DICT will provide medium to long-term assistance to DepEd, including the allocation of bandwidth from the DICT’s high-speed Internet infrastructure project, augmentation of DepED’s future satellite capacity through DICT’s existing very small aperture technology (VSAT) satellite and teleport facilities, the building of internet backbone up to last-mile schools under the DICT’s National Broadband Programme (NBP), and the provision of data transport service using DICT’s fibre optic network under the Government Network (GovNet) project and Microwave towers.
Under the agreement, the DICT will also give immediate assistance to the DepEd on advocating for the presence of ICT service providers in public school premises; provisioning of online resources, materials, and systems for educational use; giving teachers and learners access to DICT’s Tech4Ed facilities and its attached computer laboratories and research facilities; and coordination with the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC), among others.
The agencies also inked a separate MOA for the use of suitable real estate properties owned or under the administration of DepEd as sites or locations for the implementation of DICT’s Shared Passive Telecommunications Tower Infrastructure (PTTI) or the Common Tower Initiative.
According to the DICT, education shall continue to play a key role in the socio-economic prosperity of a nation. Hence, the country needs to envision how education can emerge stronger, more responsive, and more effective from this global crisis than ever before. To do this, the agency is continuously assisting the DepEd with the transition from a traditional classroom setting to blended learning and shall continue to draw on the benefits provided by ICT to make this shift possible.
The DepEd said this partnership is designed not only to deal with COVID-19 but also to deal with the future. The agency hopes to improve the education sector with the help of partner agencies.
Accordingly, as reported by OpenGov Asia, the Philippine Full Digital Transformation Act of 2020 mandates all government agencies, government-owned and controlled corporations (GOCCs), instrumentalities and Local Government Units (LGUs) to adopt a digital plan that aligns with the Philippine Digital Transformation Strategy 2022.
With COVID-19, digital transformation in the government has taken on a sense of urgency. Contract tracing and distribution of aid could be smoother if data is harmonised, and digital systems are put in place more comprehensively. Lawmakers in the country plan to harmonise collected personal data of Philippine citizens, businesses, land, and transactions, among others. Further, it will open opportunities that will likely drive the government to invest in developing additional organisational capability and staff competencies.
With all these plans taking on urgency in the light of the pandemic, the government predicts it will be expedient to build a Digital Transformation Department to manage the ambitious and yet highly practical investment. The department would be expected to support and roll out the office’s digital transformation strategy. Lawmakers in the country stressed that there is no reason to delay the drive to realise the full modernisation of government services to serve Philippine citizens – adequately, efficiently, and securely.
More data centre and warehouse developments will qualify as state significant developments (SSDs) in NSW under planned changes to the state’s planning approvals process. The reforms, which come into effect in June, will temporarily lower the threshold for facilities to be assessed as SSD for two years to fast-track approvals and stimulate economic activity.
SSD is a type of development deemed important due to its size, economic value or potential impact, requiring Independent Planning Commission or ministerial sign-off before it proceeds. Proposals are assessed by the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment, instead of local councils.
The threshold for data centres will fall “from $50 million CIV [capital investment value] to 10 megawatts total power consumption (which roughly equates to a CIV of $40 million)”. Warehouses, on the other hand, will fall from “$50 million CIV to $30 million CIV for a two-year period” before reverting to $50 million CIV. The department said the changes will “more accurately” reflect the scale, complexity and potential impact of data centres and warehouses, providing a “clear and more certain planning pathway”.
The Planning Minister stated that the reforms would allow projects to travel through the planning system more quickly at a time when demand for data centres and warehouses is increasing. “During the pandemic, there has been a noticeable shift closer towards e-commerce, remote working and cloud storage which has led to an increase in data centres and warehouses. These are great for stimulating the economy – they’re simple to build, simple to assess and create a higher number of direct and indirect jobs,” he said.
Data centres and warehouses represent a $4.9 billion pipeline of projects so by lowering the threshold to assess more of them as SSD, the NSW Government is pushing them through the planning system more quickly. The Minister added that the number of planning assessment officers would also be boosted to help manage the demand as a result of the changes.
The SSD assessment pathway reforms come as the department plans further changes to the SEEPs to streamline the delivery of smaller data centres through the complying development pathway. The pathway offers an accelerated approvals process by the council or an accredited certifier for “straight forward developments”, as long as they “meet strict construction and building standards”
It follows a noticeable increase in the number of data centre development applications, particularly using the regional development of SSD pathways. “This means we’re making it easier to build small-scale data centres without lengthy planning approvals while providing a swifter pathway for large scale ones,” the Minister said.
Each data centre development is estimated to contribute up to $1 billion in construction and fit-out costs to the NSW economy. The Managing Director of an Australian cloud, data centre, government cybersecurity and telecom company said that the reforms were “really practical” and would “support NSW’s short-term economic recovery”.
His company has invested more than $200 million in the past year alone building two facilities. The firm is proud to be part of that economic rebuild and look forward to continued partnership with the state and federal government to do more, he added.
The Managing Director of Australia’s branch of the world’s largest data centre and colocation infrastructure provider also welcomed the announcement. “With eight data centres in the state today, any legislative changes that speed up the planning system is an important step forward,” he said.
On 20 April 2021, Army will launch its Quantum Technology Roadmap. The launch will occur during the Quantum Technology Challenge 2021 (QTC 2021) at the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre and will include presentations from Australia’s Chief Scientist as well as the Chief Defence Scientist.
Quantum technologies have been identified as having substantial disruptive potential across defence. However, their true capabilities, limitations, countermeasures and most disruptive applications are still being discovered.
Army aims to leverage Australia’s national strength in quantum technology research to gain and retain an early quantum advantage. The Roadmap provides the framework to achieve this through partnering with broader Defence, Australia’s academia and emerging quantum industry, and aligned nations. The Roadmap adds to Army’s accelerating engagement with emerging technologies and evolution, as described in Accelerated Warfare, Army in Motion and Army Objective Force.
Whilst the launch event is restricted to defence personnel and select guests, the Roadmap and a recording of the launch will be published on the Land Power Forum after a short delay on 20 April 2021. To be alerted of the publication and to view the recording, audiences are to register via the website.
QTC 2021 is a key first step in the Roadmap and will see teams of Australia’s world-leading quantum scientists and engineers compete to show how quantum technologies can deliver Army unprecedented capabilities. Pitches from each of the remarkable teams competing in QTC 2021 will be included in the launch recording.
About QTC 2021
The first Army Quantum Technology Challenge (QTC 2021) will be held at the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre on 20 April 2021. The Challenge will see teams of Australia’s world-leading quantum scientists and engineers compete to show how quantum technologies can conceptually deliver Army unprecedented capabilities, including:
- Making the ground transparent: imaging what is hidden subterranean
- Resupplying troops in battle quickly, safely and efficiently: optimisation of large-scale resupply by squads of autonomous uncrewed ground vehicles.
- Denying the enemy secure communications: countermeasures quantum encryption.
QTC 2021 will be the first in a regular series of challenges that will enable Army to leverage Australia’s national strategic strength in quantum technology to rapidly identify the most disruptive and advantageous applications of quantum technologies for the land domain.
Future challenges will respond to opportunities and problems identified by members of Army and the wider quantum technology community.
The challenges are a key component of Army’s Quantum Technology Roadmap, which will also be launched at QTC 2021. The Roadmap also contains plans for the development of the high-value applications and technologies identified by the challenges, focused on Army’s needs. The Roadmap, a recording of the launch and recordings of the pitches by each of the QTC 2021 teams will be published.
The need for quantum technologies
According to an earlier article by Army, quantum technologies exploit the fundamental laws of nature to reach the ultimate limits of sensing, imaging, communications and computing, and thus promise otherwise impossible capabilities.
They are no longer scientific speculation; substantial public and private investments around the world are driving these technologies out of laboratories.
This acceleration will see quantum technologies transform our lives over the next 20 years. This will be even more evident when combined with other emerging technologies, such as nanotechnology, biotechnology, space technology, artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics. Now is the time that Defence must begin to understand, explore and exploit quantum technologies throughout its operations if it is to gain and retain a quantum advantage.
New Zealand has installed its most powerful supercomputer for artificial intelligence (AI) applications at the University of Waikato. The move aims to put New Zealand among the leading countries in AI research and development.
According to a news report, the NVIDIA DGX A10, nicknamed the Ferrari of computing, is the first computer of its kind in New Zealand and the world’s most advanced system for powering universal AI workloads. The machine can rapidly and efficiently process massive amounts of data, allowing students and researchers at the University to process at lightning-fast speeds. It enables machine learning and AI that can solve problems from addressing climate change to managing the country’s biodiversity.
Machine learning uses algorithms to explore huge data sets and create models that provide answers or outcomes mirroring human decision-making. Models can be trained to recognise patterns, facial expressions, and spoken words. They can also detect anomalies like credit card fraud. It uses artificial neural networks – computer software styled on the human brain – to learn how to make predictions in particular areas through deep learning. The model makes its own predictions then tests these against real-world results and is trained by humans to recognise what went wrong in a quest to create a more accurate model.
One of the first projects the computer is being used for is to train models that can learn and classify New Zealand’s plants and animals, based on a publicly available database of more than one million photos. Albert Bifet, a Professor at the university, said that students and researchers could take months, or even years, to process the data needed to create models like the one they are working on if they had to use more traditional computing. The computer will allow the researchers to process the data in a matter of days. It will enable them to gain insights and progress their research at an unprecedented scale, he noted.
The purchase was made possible through income from the sale of commercial licenses to the Waikato Environment for Knowledge Analysis (WEKA) software. It is a suite of Java-based software tools for machine learning and data mining that the machine learning group at the university has been developing for more than 20 years, the report explained.
“Being able to use the funds from WEKA, which has proved so successful, is a real win for us. WEKA software has been bought by several large international IT companies. It shows the success and depth of expertise we have here and has enabled us to reinvest back into our group,” Professor Bifet said.
The system was supplied by Fujitsu and fits into one-quarter of a computing rack in the University’s main server room. The NVIDIA A100 Tensor Core GPUs featured in the DGX A100 system enables enterprises to consolidate training, inference, and analytics into a unified, easy-to-deploy AI infrastructure. NVIDIA Mellanox InfiniBand networking ensures that the data is rapidly supplied to the system.
The report said that the A100 GPUs enable data scientists and developers to perform a massive number of calculations all at once, a key feature of the algorithms behind machine learning and AI. The DGX A100 has eight A100 GPUs containing 40 GB (gigabytes) of memory each for a total of 320 GB of GPU memory. When they all work together, they can process five quadrillion basic arithmetic operations per second.