July 31, 2023
Foresight analyst sounds like a job where you might need a crystal ball to go along with your degree, but as Inbal Marcovitch, a defence scientist with the Department of National Defence’s science and technology organization, Defence Research and Development Canada, explains, her work is more practical than mystical. Through risk assessment and close monitoring of science and technology trends, Marcovitch works with a team to help the Canadian Armed Forces prepare for emerging and disruptive technologies, and ensure continued interoperability with allies.
“On a personal level, we’ve all felt the frustration of not being able to plug in a device because we don’t have the right charger, or turn a screw because we don’t have the right driver. That’s because we don’t all use standard chargers or tools even for well established technology. Now imagine the impacts if NATO Allies were trying to work together in the field in joint operations and exercises, using new technologies where there are not standards yet,” Marcovitch says. “Anticipating emerging technologies and developing standards alongside them is necessary to ensure seamless transition as militaries are adopting new technologies.”
As new technologies emerge, standards need to evolve at the same time to ensure efficient development, interoperability and ethical use. For dual-use technologies, such as quantum and artificial intelligence (AI), that have both military and civilian applications, using civilian standards can help allied militaries work together.
Marcovitch presented on her work at the NATO Use of Civil Standards workshop in February in Greece, which brought together NATO allies to promote the use of civilian standards for military uses. Hosted by the Hellenic National Defence General Staff, the event’s mantra was “Civil as possible, military only as necessary.”
“Foresight, innovation and standardization are interwoven together and as we move forward we are going to see more convergence and we will need to see more cooperation between allies,” Marcovitch says.
At the Department of National Defence’s science and technology organization, Defence Research and Development Canada (DRDC), anticipating trends in a wide range of emerging and disruptive technologies is the role of the science and technology foresight and risk assessment program. Marcovitch’s area of expertise is biotechnical convergence, which brings together biology and technology with applications for health care, biosensors, and data storage, among many others.