Three Digital Innovations That Will Beat 'Rock, Paper, Scissors'

Frank Klipphahn

Rock breaks scissors. Paper covers rock. Scissors cut paper. Those are the rules of Rock-Paper-Scissors, the ancient game people play with their hands. But wouldn’t it be better if those tools could join forces for the common good?

The question also applies to three digital innovations: blockchain, digital solutions based on the Internet of Things (IoT), and machine learning (ML). These are technological tools that support each other in the process of digital transformation (DX).

The IoT connects the users and things across the world. Blockchain helps secure sharing of sensitive information via the IoT. And ML speeds cybersecurity checks to make IoT connectivity safer.

Corporate officers of companies investing in DX may view blockchain, IoT solutions, and ML as competitors for IT budget. Yes, they are distinct digital tools. But together they form a powerful team supporting the aerospace industry and its many clients.

Defense and aerospace contractor Lockheed Martin is at the forefront of companies combining the capabilities of these tools.

Launching into the connected digi-verse

The Internet of Things (IoT) is a vast network of digital objects with embedded intelligence connected to the Internet via sensors. Connected factories, smart equipment, and users connected via mobile devices have been successfully leveraging IoT for years to optimize A&D operations and products.

Other IoT devices range from global positioning systems (GPS) in vehicles to digital twin computer models of aircraft. A digital twin is a software model of a physical thing/asset that relies on sensor data to understand the full state of the thing, enables digital simulations and learning to improve operations, and adds value by aiding predictive maintenance. Engineers can use these IoT-enabled 3D models to visualize where repairs are necessary based on data the sensors produce.

Lockheed Martin has relied on 3D modeling for many years. Until recently, the company referred to its immersion in DX as creating a digital tapestry of seamless connections between the “conceptualization, design, verification, manufacturing and sustainment” of its ideas.

The company made a major announcement at the 2017 ML Summit in early June. A report in the Manufacturing Leadership Council blog indicated that Lockheed Martin intends to expand into the use of digital twins to improve simulations of all its products and processes. The company also announced that the tapestry analogy no longer fits its ecosphere of innovations, which it now calls the Lockheed Martin Digi-Verse.

You might say that Lockheed Martin actually shot off into the digi-verse two months earlier with the launch of its iSpace (intelligent space) software to protect space assets. The company announced that the software “tasks, processes, and correlates data from a worldwide network of government, commercial, and scientific community sensors and command centers.” It added that the system automatically sends users real-time information gathered from “optical, radar, infrared, and radio sensors” and recommends “the best course of action.”

Seeking blockchain protection of data

CNET reported in early May that the company is adopting blockchain as a strategy for speeding the discovery and solution of cybersecurity problems. CNET added that the company is using blockchain to protect its data and “secure software development and supply chain risk management.”

Blockchain is a digital tool for creating decentralized ledgers that are secure. Many industries are exploring potential uses of this tool, which developed as a way to exchange the universal digital currency bitcoin.

It works this way: Participants in a blockchain network add individual transactions (blocks) to a shared ledger. In addition to people, the participants may include machines (ML again!) that can make quick decisions for an organization based on rapid data analysis.

Blockchain technology allows participants to read but not change blocks created by others. This characteristic protects information in a shared ledger.

Blockchain networking saves time and money for individual participants and organizations. It also makes the ledger process transparent for all involved. In aAerospace, it helps to build trust and integrity, and allows cyber-secure provenance and traceability of parts and other assets across shared business processes.

Bitcoin news service News BTC reports that machine learning can team with blockchain technology to ensure the accuracy of data and limit false positive results when testing for cyber threats.

Turning Big Data into action with machine learning

Machine learning is a form of artificial intelligence. ML applications turn computers into machines that can learn from other objects such as Digital Twins without being explicitly programmed.

These programs access the flood of information created by IoT objects, which is called big data. They sort, analyze, and learn from it automatically. Big Data is so massive that it takes rapid computing power to process it in real time. People cannot do it.

Lockheed Martin says that ML “turns data into action.” In a post about warfare innovation at its blog, the company notes, “Today, the military gathers data through sensors on a range of platforms, including aircraft, weapon systems, ground vehicles and even troops in the field.”

Lockheed Martin defense products use ML to aid military intelligence gathering and identification of threats. The company reports that the goal is to increase automation in decision-making.

Speed in decision-making decreases damage to targets, whether they are troops and cities in warzones or databases concerning company inventions and operations. Lockheed Martin uses the IoT, blockchain, and ML to protect people as well as products. Together, these digital tools are a powerful force.

It quickly becomes clear that topics like the Internet of Things, machine learning, blockchain, analytics, artificial intelligence, and Big Data often need to be viewed in combination: This is the key to creating a framework for harnessing the latest digital breakthroughs.

Learn how to bring new technologies and services together to power digital transformation by downloading The IoT Imperative for Discrete Manufacturers: Automotive, Aerospace and Defense, High Tech, and Industrial Machinery.

Explore how to bring Industry 4.0 insights into your business today by reading Industry 4.0: What’s Next?


Frank Klipphahn

About Frank Klipphahn

Frank Klipphahn is the Senior Solution Manager for the Aerospace and Defense Industry Unit at SAP.