RCN launches Digital Navy initiative

Navy News / November 14, 2019

In April of this year, the RCN began working on a Digital Navy initiative aimed at better positioning our Navy to leverage the rapidly evolving digital technologies that are disrupting the public and private sectors.

The Digital Navy initiative seeks to empower all members of the naval team with the digital tools and capabilities that will be needed to ensure the RCN remains a relevant and capable naval force in the years ahead.

It is broad in scope, covering all areas of the naval enterprise, and is intended to benefit all members of the naval team.

It explains how the RCN will leverage a wide range of current and emerging digital technologies, including:

  • modern cloud computing and mobile technologies that provide the potential to keep sailors better connected with friends and families while deployed
  • cognitive computing techniques like artificial intelligence that are driving improvements in data analytics and autonomous vehicles
  • robotic process automation to assist with repetitive, rules-based administrative processes
  • virtual and augmented reality technologies with the potential to enhance training delivery and how shipboard maintenance is conducted
  • additive manufacturing techniques like 3D printing that can help to improve equipment availability
  • digital twin technologies to optimize the operation and maintenance of our platforms

A strategy to guide the RCN’s digital journey, called Digital Navy, will be released later this fiscal year. It establishes the vision, goals and objectives of the Digital Navy initiative and the approach to be followed as we move into implementation.

As the strategy is being finalized, a number of concurrent activities are being conducted to build momentum and begin establishing the foundation that we’ll build upon in the coming months.

Digital Navy roundtable with industry and academia

On June 18, 2019, the RCN hosted a roundtable discussion with industry and academia in Ottawa to discuss and solicit feedback on the draft strategy for the Digital Navy initiative. Turnout for the event exceeded expectations with close to 100 participants, including 65 industry representatives from nearly 45 companies.

The event included five break-out sessions where smaller groups were given an opportunity to discuss how the RCN envisioned leveraging digital technologies in the areas of personnel, materiel sustainability, individual training and education, readiness and collective training, and business management and communications.

The feedback and recommendations received from the participants proved highly valuable in the ongoing development of the Digital Navy guiding document.

A similar engagement will be held in 2020 to help shape the early phases of implementation of the Digital Navy initiative.    

Digital use case workshop

To begin exposing members of the naval team to the innovative design methodologies that will feature prominently as the Digital Navy initiative is implemented, a digital use case workshop was conducted in Toronto this August with a team of military and civilian members from Fleet Maintenance Facility (FMF) Cape Scott, FMF Cape Breton, Director Naval Personnel and Training and Naval Staff from Ottawa.

The workshop examined two use cases of interest to the RCN. The first dealt with the idea of making certain pay-related services available through mobile device-based applications. The second looked at leveraging various digital technologies to improve the speed and accuracy of man overboard emergency response procedures at sea.

The user-centered design principles employed throughout both workshops helped participants consider their design through the eyes of the users. It also generated useful next steps to consider in the evolution of both use cases, and provided members of the team insights into the innovative design methodologies that will be used going forward.     

New RCN application in development

To help make naval service life a little easier, a mobile application called the RCN App is being developed under the Digital Navy initiative to provide sailors more convenient access to information and administrative services.

The ability to submit leave passes, make pay inquiries, and access online training courses from a mobile device are among the services envisioned to be made available to regular and reserve force sailors through the app.

The initial phase of prototype development was completed this summer. The next phase will include engagement with user groups to solicit feedback and suggestions on the app before its official release.