— Technology —

Startups and tech empires alike need these in-demand skills.

With artificial intelligence reaching peak hype, many companies are seeking people with skills to master this much-buzzed about technology and are willing to fork out top dollars. According to new Glassdoor research, the average annual base pay for AI jobs is $111,118 — more than twice of that for full-time workers. Companies ranging from Silicon Valley-type startups to leading tech empires are all in the hiring race, but it may come down to who can afford it.

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Seriously — last week, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency awarded BAE Systems with a $12.8 million contract to build a virtual space-battle zone that can help military leaders understand the space environment. DARPA is calling the project “Hallmark testbed.”

The digital lab intends to provide commanders with “space domain awareness in order to quickly assess, plan and execute operations in this increasingly complex environment,” according to Mike Penzo, director of ground resiliency and analytics at BAE Systems.

These days, analysts have a lot to digest.

The U.S. spy community is looking to artificial intelligence to help find valuable needles of information in the endless hayfields of publicly available information online. Intelligence agencies commonly deal in secrets, but open source information — in this case, the bits of information available electronically to the public — can also become a key source of material. But the sheer volume and variety of available data has left analysts overwhelmed, so agencies are pursuing machine learning and other AI technologies to keep up.

But do we treat them as pseudo people or IT assets?

Agencies already use robotic process automation to operationalize data and cut time-consuming manual tasks, but officials say beware the early adopters and cautionary tales.  

Bots are software applications that automate simple, repetitive tasks at a much higher rate than humans, and can be used to augment customer interactions, artificial intelligence, and data processing, indexing and analyzing. In government, for example, the amount of available data is starting to hinder productivity in fields like emergency management.

Report finds cognitive technologies help caseworkers manage heavy caseloads.

It’s no surprise the government uses artificial intelligence to automate time-consuming manual tasks, but human service agencies nationwide are seeing a high return of investment after deploying smart technologies.

But these technologies are still limited in what they can do.

Recent advances in artificial intelligence and deep learning are being applied to expand the reach and power of face recognition systems, allowing law enforcement agencies, for instance, to more readily identify known criminal or terrorists. But some researchers warn AI-enabled face recognition systems also raise privacy concerns.

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And it worked! On Saturday, the space agency flew Dream Chaser, Sierra Nevada Corp.'s spacecraft, from 12,500 feet and it lasted a minute — but it was the first successful test flight of a mini, new-generation space shuttle.

The fully autonomous vehicle was dropped from a helicopter over the Mojave Desert in California and glided to the Edwards Air Force Base, thanks to its wings that let it land on a runway.

“The right idea plus the right investor equal success.”

You’ve heard of “Shark Tank,” where would-be entrepreneurs with great ideas compete for cash before a cutthroat panel of investors and business titans. But what if that panel were not only interested in the bottom line but a sustainable future for the planet? That’s the idea behind Piranha Tank, whose mantra is profit, planet, people.

Report finds local officials lack the right kinds of civic digital engagement tools.  

Members of the public aren’t always pleased with the quality of their city’s infrastructure, but the majority fails to submit requests for fixing potholes or broken sidewalks to their local officials. One of the reasons is that governments either don’t have the platforms to engage citizens, or those platforms aren’t known.  

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NASA is taking a stab at lower-altitude airspace. It recently contracted Uber to develop software for managing flying taxi routes similar to the ride-hailing services it designed on the ground.

The contract intends to solve the problem of operating hundreds of aircraft over urban areas by letting uberAIR services work with existing air traffic control systems around airports. So, Uber is building the software to manage networks of flying taxis in the sky.

Researchers get help to quickly comprehend massive volumes of disparate data.

The National Institutes of Health, the Veterans Affairs Department and other agencies are making progress on an ambitious research project aimed at using artificial intelligence to find new ways to treat cancer and other diseases.

As part of the White House’s Precision Medicine Initiative, NIH and VA are starting with raw data, each looking to gather DNA samples from 1 million participants and share the genetic data, biological samples and other information as part of their research.

Official: DOD should never buy another weapons system without artificial intelligence.

A Pentagon team is working to automate the analysis of millions of hours of video collected by drones and sensors, but the three-star general leading the effort has bigger plans for tactical, more defense-based artificial intelligence.

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Her name is Sophia, and she’s apparently been granted citizenship by Saudi Arabia. Sophia was designed by Hong Kong-based Hanson Robotics and she looks just like a human. In fact, she’s so lifelike, she was able to participate in an interview with a moderator live on stage last week at the Future Investment Initiative in Riyadh, making gestures and facial expressions similar to humans — all on her own.

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The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is asking robot developers to submit ideas for tactics and technologies that could allow U.S. Army and Marine Corps infantry squads to deploy swarms of 250 (or more) flying and crawling semi-autonomous drones.

Algorithms would aid military analysts find actionable intelligence faster.

The Pentagon plans to take artificial intelligence to the next level, particularly with regard to analyzing the millions of hours of video collected by unmanned aerial aircraft and other sensors in Iraq and Syria. While the Defense Department's immediate focus is on terrorists and other targets in Syria and Iraq — where the vast majority of the military’s surveillance footage is collected — this is also the kind of research that can bear fruit in associated areas, for other agencies facing similar big data dilemmas.

And next year’s goals include stronger interoperability, APIs and microservices

The top three IT risks at the Health and Human Services Department are cybersecurity, human capital and legacy systems, but this isn’t a surprise to Chief Information Officer Beth Killoran, who’s worked on ramping up the department’s cyber defenses.

Killoran spoke at the GovernmentCIO Magazine CXO Tech Forum on Oct. 19 about the current IT initiatives departmentwide and her biggest priority for 2018. This year, she’s been bolstering cybersecurity with legacy system modernization.

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Veterans Embrace Virtual Therapists

Service members are more likely to open up about PTSD symptoms to a virtual interviewer, rather than on Post-Deployment Health Assessment surveys, according to Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency-funded findings published in Frontiers in Robotics and AI. The virtual therapist is an artificially intelligent avatar rendered in 3-D on a TV screen.

Machine learning and other approaches can feed into AI, but they’re not the same.

Artificial intelligence is seemingly everywhere these days, from self-driving cars and virtual assistants to medical innovations. References to AI are so pervasive, it also seems to have different names. Depending on the project at hand, you might hear talk of machine learning, deep learning or cognitive computing, all of which produce a kind of “thinking machine.” But while those terms sometimes get used interchangeably, they’re not exactly the same thing.

Fewer than 1 in 5 agencies use advanced automation, new report says.

Automating mundane tasks could help free up federal agencies from wasting their time with manual processes. But most agencies say they don’t have the right tools that could make this a new reality, according to a recent survey.

A Fitbit for the mind tracks a wearer’s emotions and stress levels throughout the day.

Artificial intelligence is one of the hottest trends in government and industry. This column aims to shine the spotlight on where the most innovative uses of AI are happening, and explore the legal, ethical and economical issues organizations face.

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If you thought AI-based online targeted advertisements were invasive, soon your face — not only your search behavior — could alter the way you shop.

For example, if you’re at an electronics store looking at TVs and were scanned by store cameras using facial recognition software, that data could be cross-referenced with other databases that already have your facial data for retargeting campaigns. Your smart TV could start showing you commercials for the types of electronics you were looking at in the store, or avoid doing so if it was a different brand.

Because industry and government need to work together to reach IoT’s full potential.

Technology industry leaders have released a national strategy in hopes of helping the government create policies that will unleash the internet of things’ full potential.

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Connecting Public Health with Blockchain

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are exploring proofs of concept based on blockchain technology to better manage health data during a crisis, or to track opioid abuse. Most of these proofs focus on better public health surveillance.

The initiative, led by Jim Nasr, chief software architect at CDC’s Center for Surveillance, Epidemiology, and Laboratory Services, intends to turn these proofs into real applications next year.

Adoption will take time, but it'll get done.

Despite recent years’ focus on moving federal agencies to the cloud, a relatively small number has made that transition, according to one government technologist.

“Probably if I were to guess as to how far we are with actual adoption of cloud, we’re probably like less than 10 percent across the federal space,” said Federal Communication Commission Chief Information Officer David Bray, speaking at the Agriculture Department’s Sept. 26 Combined Cloud Computing Conversation event.

The most interesting tech-related stories impacting government and industry

The Internet Doesn’t Want Longer Tweets

First step is overcoming the fear of the future.

Artificial intelligence has the potential for long-term digital disruption across organizations and automated devices, and could even outsmart humans. To adopt and embrace what’s to come, decision-makers in both industry and government have to prepare, build trust, collaborate and educate.

Over 90 Americans a day die of opioid overdoses, a number that keeps climbing.

In the fight against the opioid epidemic that has ravaged parts of the country, one agency has turned to technology to help reverse the trend of this increasing public health crisis.

In fact, data analytics played a key role in helping choke off a deadly international supply chain of opiates and helped bring down several illegal suppliers, said Kelly Tshibaka, chief data officer at the U.S. Postal Service’s Office of the Inspector General. Tshibaka spoke yesterday at Fedstival, hosted by GovExec and Nextgov.

The most interesting tech-related stories impacting government and industry

ABBA to Tour As Holograms

Swedish 1970s pop sensation ABBA is following in the footsteps of Tupac Shakur and Michael Jackson by planning another global tour — as holograms.

The musical foursome — Agnetha Fältskog, Björn Ulvaeus, Benny Andersson and Anni-Frid Lyngstad — will be made into “digital avatars” for a virtual reality tour. Those avatars will mirror ABBA’s 1979 look, when the group’s music peaked

So why would ABBA want to do this? Commitment-free performances.

The technology can potentially save money, improve processes and enhance security.

Blockchain is not a new concept, but like most emerging tech, it’s slowly gaining interest and exploration in the public sector. Though the tech sits behind the scenes, a new report shows it has visible cost savings, security and service efficiency benefits for government.

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The Newest Wearable Tech: Tattoos

A tattoo-like skin-based sensor developed by scientists at the University of Texas at Austin can monitor biometrics, including heart, brain and muscle activity. It’s called the Graphene Electrical Tattoo, or GET, and it’s made of 2-D sheets of carbon atoms and attaches to a temporary tattoo-like device. It’s lightweight but about 200 times stronger than steel, biodegradable and transparent, allowing it to be worn for longer periods of time than other sensors.

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