Commercial data solutions accelerate mission success in the federal space

By the Blueprint Team

Organizations often attempt to save time and money by looking at the innovative approaches coming out of their own sector. While retail is focused on what’s happening in retail, and oil and gas is interested in strategies other oil and gas companies are implementing, the problems organizations face tend to be universal – especially when it comes to data.

Nowhere is this more true than in federal agencies, like the Department of Defense, which is pushing to embrace new technology in order to maintain its competitive advantage. These agencies are in a unique position to adopt the processes and products of the commercial sector when leveraging data to accomplish their missions more effectively and efficiently.

“My challenge to everyone is always: Don’t ask me what your peers are doing,” Microsoft Cloud Solutions Director for DoD & National Security Kevin Kalkwarf said during a webinar focused on federal agencies finding the competitive advantage in data. “Think outside the box. Look at what the best and brightest in various other fields are doing.”

In August, Blueprint Technologies, Microsoft and Databricks joined forces in a webinar to discuss how federal agencies can leverage innovation and lessons learned from across industries to gain the competitive advantage necessary to improve readiness and overcome current and future threats.

Data is vital to mission success

No matter the mission a federal agency faces, data-driven decisions are key success factors.

During Blueprint’s webinar, U.S. Air Force Col. Michael Teter, Chief Data Officer & Deputy J6 for Digital Superiority at U.S. Space Command, discussed the importance data plays in space domain awareness, which involves identifying the number of objects in space and wrangling the data those objects produce. In July 2021, Space Force pegged the number of objects in near-earth space (e.g., satellites and orbital debris) the military was tracking at 30,000.

“Within space, we are a large producer and consumer of data and information — and the transport, storage and analysis of that information. It’s vital for us.” Col. Teter said.

Take, for example, the sensors and radar arrays the U.S. uses to monitor objects in space. They produce enormous amounts of critical data the military needs to operate safely in orbit and track possible terrestrial threats, Col. Teter said. If any one of those machines experiences an unplanned outage, it makes that mission much more difficult, which is why enabling predictive maintenance with machine learning is essential. So too are data models that run debris analysis and predict complications of satellite collisions, he said. If two satellites collide, the debris produced could have catastrophic implications years down the road, but with the right technology and processes, those consequences can be mitigated.

Siloed data is the problem

The problems facing most federal agencies right now stem from the siloed nature of their data, which keeps them from making the connections that produce insights that drive immediate action and quick threat response. A recent Office of Management and Budget report revealed that the government had more than 12,000 individual data centers, most of which were not adequately interconnected.

“Think of each one of those data centers and the number of operational data stores they have in each one,” General Manager and Regional Vice President for Databricks Federal Howard Levenson said during the webinar. “The best way to get value out of your data is to bring it all together and use the data to enrich other data sets and to federate that data together.”

More than 90% of the work behind AI and ML is wrangling the data. It’s understanding their data estate; it’s verifying the data is good, trusted and reliable, Microsoft’s Kevin Kalkwarf added. That’s where Microsoft, Databricks and Blueprint work together, building and optimizing the modern data infrastructure that extracts the absolute most value from the data.

Play Video about Databricks-Predictive-Maintenance-Rolls-Royce-Demo

Watch a Databricks demo on how to use data to develop predictive maintenance and asset optimization models, and a Blueprint demo about our video analytics solution that cuts the time needed for federal agencies to process video and detect critical anomalies from days to minutes.

The solutions exist in the commercial space

Legacy data warehouses and processes plague all industries, and the advantage gained by those who successfully utilize their data to make more informed operational decisions is tremendous. The manufacturing and logistics industries are in the process of modernization efforts around their entire supply chain operations. For example, hardware manufacturers are now routinely consuming weather pattern data to identify potential causes of downtime and interruption, allowing the company to pivot early if they need to ship components from an area outside a storm zone.

Retail companies use video-tracking algorithms to create heatmaps of store traffic, allowing them to see what is working well and where there may be logjams. Rolls Royce has combined streamed in-flight data with external environmental condition data as part of the data infrastructure for predictive maintenance for its airplane engines.

All these solutions have one thing in common: a modern data estate. Modernized data infrastructure allows an organization to consolidate all internal data in one place and integrates external data that traditional data warehouses and BI systems can’t easily handle. Funneling all this data into real-time dashboards, BI platforms and mobile apps allow an organization to predict maintenance needs and have the agility to manage and react to fast-developing situations, which is critical for the federal government. As even more data becomes available, modern, scalable cloud-based infrastructure provides the flexibility to constantly add new data as it becomes available without the heavy lifting that comes with more traditional methods of data ingestion.

The partnership between Blueprint, Microsoft and Databricks is at the core of delivering value to customers – public and private. The power and breadth of Azure, the speed and secure access of Databricks and the focus on actual, relevant outcomes by Blueprint enables us all to leverage innovation and lessons learned from the work we’ve done across industries to deliver the right solutions for our customers in the federal space.

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