RCN increases awareness of new technologies at latest Creative Destruction Lab

Innovation / November 9, 2020

Members of the Naval Innovation team have been scouting for new ideas and technologies for the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) at various Creative Destruction Lab (CDL) events held recently.  

CDL is a non-profit organization that allows new companies in science and technology to seek experience, advice and partnerships with industry, academia and government organizations. 

Attending gives the RCN exposure to state-of-the-art inventions at their very earliest stages which might grow into a capability that would be of future value to the RCN. It also gives the RCN situational awareness of potentially transformational emerging technologies; such as quantum computing, digital twins and Artificial Intelligence (AI). 

During the virtual Montreal session, RCN Innovation Team members got the chance to see Canadian companies showcasing their products and inventions that ranged from the digital twinning of human cells to mobile mapping devices to optical semi-conductor microchips. Other RCN team members attended the Toronto, Vancouver and Halifax virtual sessions with themes that ranged from space to nano-medicine.

“My eyes are opened. Some of the inventions these small companies showed are incredible and could honestly be game-changers,” said LCdr Lee Vessey, who attended the Montreal sessions virtually and saw 40 companies receive feedback and set objectives with experienced CEOs, founders and mentors. “It is so important we maintain our situational awareness of these fast paced changes – both for innovation and input into procurement.”

Some companies showed novel ways to automate research and fact-finding functions with AI that would augment human decision making with unique insights and big time-saving benefits. 

Quantum computing was observed as maturing quickly. Companies showed use-cases for civilian applications which have the potential to dramatically increase the power of number-crunching across a range of maritime uses – from navigation to deep learning. 

Space-based internet was also observed as moving forward at a stellar pace, and has the potential to provide a communications foundation for technologies such as 5G and augmented reality (AR) to be used inside ships in even the most remote locations, including in the Arctic.  This would create the ability for every component, pump, engine or other object with a sensor to communicate wirelessly with each other onboard a vessel. 

“The pace of change is staggering,” said Commander Scott Shortridge, Director Naval Innovation. “Previously, Government and Defence led cutting-edge research, but there is now incredible innovation coming from the private sector too – driven by market forces and competition. It is so important that we retain our agile ability to respond to disruption quickly.”

The Navy Innovation team can be contacted by emailing: InnovationRCN@forces.gc.ca.

Glossary

Digital twinning is another new technology that allows an interactive and live digital duplicate (or ‘twin’) representation of a system, or even ship, to be accessible from the Commanding Officer’s cabin or an operations centre ashore, which makes them more likely to be quickly adopted by the shipping sector.

A disruptive technology is one that has the potential to completely alter the way most people behave through its’ use, such as when the light bulb replaced the candle in the 1870s, the first Dreadnought battleship in 1906 which made every predecessor obsolete, or how smart phones have become ubiquitous in the last decade.

Quantum computing uses the unique properties of electrons to quickly perform complex calculations in moments that would take a traditional computer weeks, months or years.

Deep learning uses supercomputers to analyze large amounts of data to form multiple algorithms that are tested against each other to determine the best performing process. For example, multiple algorithms could be created to identify photos of cars and the algorithm that identifies cars correctly more often than the other algorithms would be the winner.

Augmented reality uses a headset or glasses to overlay digital information over the real world. This can be especially useful in a maintenance context where mechanical components can be identified and instructions can be given to repair or replace them.