MOD and CGI join forces to develop insight in space landscape

31 August 2016

The UK MOD’s National Space Security Policy and the 2015 Strategic Defence and Security Review call for improved oversight into the situation in space, as orbital satellites and debris increasingly congest the landscape. To support the MOD develop the capabilities to make space transparent, CGI is on the job to support the hiring of new analysts as well as develop a network of sensors to harvest data for analysis. 

As part of the UK’s National Space Security Policy and the 2015 Strategic Defence and Security Review, the UK set out a number of priorities for its relationship with space. Satellites remain key infrastructure for a range of critical functions within the UK and internationally, from communications to geolocation. Space however, harbours dangers, of which some are man-made and some are natural. Space weather, particularly solar flares, have the potential to severely disrupt a range of critical systems, making forecasting an imperative, while space debris is becoming an ever more pressing issue – with around one satellite per year lost to space junk. Space also remains a potential national security hazard, even with key global treatise banning its militarisation.

As part of the Government’s strategy, the UK Ministry of Defence (MOD) has hired CGI to create a transformation roadmap for the UK’s Space Operations Centre based at RAF High Wycombe – formally the UK’s Space Operations Coordination Centre. The contract has a number of dimensions, including a comprehensive framework for recruiting the space analysts of tomorrow (including a focus on capabilities in data fusion and real-time data analytics), as well as the creation of a “technical transformation roadmap”, through which the MODs space domain capabilities are enhanced.

MOD and CGI join forces to develop insight in space landscape

The firm will work with the MOD to develop space situational awareness (SSA) for the UK, through which the country, and its allies, are better able to identify and respond to natural and man-made threats within the domain. As part of SSA, a network of sensors will be positioned in orbit through which data can be harvested – data fusion and real-time data analytics can then be performed to provide a clear picture of the current situation, as well as future projections, for one of the world’s most strategic spaces. 

CGI’s Steve Smart, Senior Vice President, Space, Defence, National and Cyber Security, in the UK comments, “CGI is delighted to be working with the UK Space Operations Centre to support the growth ambitions of this UK strategic capability. For over 40 years, we have developed secure space and defence IT systems and we look forward to bringing this unique expertise, as well as our experience in business engineering, training, commercial tools and techniques from across CGI, to help the MOD develop its sovereign space capabilities.”

Group Captain Martin Johnson, Ministry of Defence’s Director of National Air Defence and Space Operations at HQ Air Command, says, “As stated in the National Space Security Policy and the 2015 Strategic Defence and Security Review, space situational awareness is of growing strategic importance to the UK.”


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Blockchain could boost Aerospace and Defence digital thread performance

23 July 2018

A global survey of senior executives in North America, Europe and Asia Pacific has found that Blockchain technology is increasingly being used to extend the digital capacity of organisations across all industries. However, the report finds that close to the entire Aerospace and Defence sector could be doing more to leverage Blockchain, which could help to boost digital twin and thread procedures.

Digital twin refers to a digital replica of physical assets (physical twin), processes and systems that can be used for various purposes. The digital representation provides both the elements and the dynamics of how an Internet of Things device operates and lives throughout its life cycle. Digital thread is a communication framework that connects elements often left in the siloes of manufacturing processes and provides an integrated view of an asset throughout the manufacturing lifecycle, enabling the flow of information across the entire value chain from OEMs to suppliers, partners, and operators. The concepts of the digital thread and digital twin have both traditionally been spearheaded by the military aircraft industry in their desire to improve the performance of future programs. They apply lessons learned through these digital technologies to current and upcoming programs.

While these concepts and technologies are gaining interest beyond their origin – converging with the digital manufacturing and cyber-physical system goals of Industry 4.0 and Smart Manufacturing – it is not particularly surprising that they are still most commonly used in the Aerospace and Defence realm. According to a survey by global consultancy Accenture, 97% of Aerospace and Defence organisations use or evaluate digital twin technologies as a core component of their product innovation process. However, Accenture’s research also suggested that in order to fuel additional growth, the sector could do more to “build new business models based on differentiated and value-added services that leverage their products as platforms” – in other words, to further their use of digital thread.

Blockchain use cases in the digital thread

However, realising the digital thread is easier said than done, as sharing complex and unstructured data across the extended enterprise by bringing together multiple organisations to share information in a secure fashion – while maintaining design, build, and maintenance authority – is usually a complex and lengthy proposition. As Aerospace and Defence players bid to move toward this end goal, Accenture’s survey of a portion of the sector’s OEMs and major suppliers uncovered two dominant evolving models of data ownership to support use of the digital thread. Either centrally managed digital threads controlled by an overall design entity, or digital threads based on shared data ownership across the extended enterprise.

The former, centralisation, might come as second nature to militarily oriented organisations, and be conceptually simple, however in practice it is complex and costly. According to Accenture, the model imposes a high cost of ownership, thanks largely to an unwieldy system of integration points across many Aerospace and Defence organisations, while making it difficult to extend the model outside the enterprise to partners. As a result, more organisations are turning to the shared model, for which Accenture believes Blockchain is a possible game changer. This is because it can help realise the shared data model, while providing for control of design, build, and support authority, as well as security.

The blockchain journey

Having come to prominence as the technology underpinning Bitcoin, blockchain initially made its presence felt in the financial sector. It has since made waves in the freight and logistics industry as a method of quality control and fraud prevention, while clients in every sector from insurance to retail to energy are pressing their consultants for advice on how to exploit, or defend themselves, from its disruptive impact.

According to Craig Gottlieb, Innovation Lead for Aerospace and Defence at Accenture, compared to traditional approaches to data sharing and security, “blockchain is the more exciting; it offers the flexibility of keeping the data closer to the source, and with the cryptography involved, we believe it provides distinct advantages.” He added, “Blockchain, digital twins, and digital threads are coalescing into a powerful combination of technologies that will launch the industry to higher levels of performance, data veracity, security, and efficiency.”

Accenture also listed a six step guide for entities in the Aerospace and Defence realm looking to adopt Blockchain solutions to boost their twins and threads efforts. First, groups should look to discover what others, including competitors, are doing with Blockchain via a market scan, to understand what needs the technology can address. Then, companies should move to design and plan their leveraging of Blockchain, before the mid-point of using a proof of concept. What is learned at this stage can be translated into the pilot phase.

When piloting, firms should look to continue learning about use cases for the technology, and build these strengths into the company’s roadmap for transitioning into Blockchain use. After a successful pilot period, firms can look to scale the results across larger segments of operation, eventually creating end-to-end Blockchain solutions by making them available to all eligible users. Finally, firms can expand the platform, once it is tried and tested, to additional elements of business, while making on-going improvements to work out any remaining bugs.