This week, the Washington Technology Showcase, in partnership with MITRE, will bring together government leaders and commercial technology executives to highlight Washington, D.C.’s unique culture of technology innovation and leadership. This half-day showcase will focus on the Internet of Things (IoT), 5G, and artificial intelligence (AI) with special keynote speakers including MITRE’s Dr. Charles Clancy.
Recently, Corporate Growth, Capital Style, a publication featuring innovative companies in the D.C. area, sat down with Dr. Charles Clancy to discuss innovation in AI and the IoT and what attendees can look forward to at the Washington Technology Showcase.
Corporate Growth, Capital Style (CGCS): Can you tell our readers a little bit about you, your background and your current role at MITRE?
Dr. Clancy: I joined MITRE in the summer of 2019 as Vice President for Intelligence Programs. I ensure that MITRE has the right people, infrastructure, and capabilities to tackle some of the hardest mission needs of intelligence and federal law enforcement agencies.
Before coming to MITRE, I spent nearly a decade as a professor at Virginia Tech, leading a research center focused on engaging students in advanced research for defense and intelligence agencies with the goal of vectoring those students into the national security workforce. I started my career leading research programs in wireless technology at the National Security Agency.
At my core, I’m a technologist with a passion for national security.
CGCS: The upcoming Washington Technology Showcase (WTS) focuses on three topics/technologies: 5G, AI, and the IoT. Can you tell us a little bit about these three technologies and why they’re so exciting?
Dr. Clancy: Each of these areas – AI, 5G, and IoT – represents a fundamental shift in how society interacts with and is enabled by technology. We’re seeing exponential advances in AI right now because of new algorithm breakthroughs, but also because computers – particularly Graphics Processing Units (GPUs) – have gotten fast enough to handle much more complex problems in AI.
Similarly, 5G is in the process of fundamentally rearchitecting the Internet to make it more compatible with IoT, which will allow IoT to move beyond just smart toasters to connecting almost everything around us to the Internet, enabling entirely new classes of products and services we can’t even really contemplate today.
CGCS: While these three technologies are all different and separate, they can intersect and impact each other. What are the intersections between 5G, AI, and the IoT? How can these technologies work together to make a sum greater than its parts?
Dr. Clancy: There are significant intersections between these technologies. 5G is being developed to provide the connectivity to truly enable IoT. For example, 5G is being designed to support scenarios where there are more than a million connected devices in a few city blocks, while also being able to support extremely fast messages to enable near-instantaneous communication between autonomous cars moving at 70 miles per hour that need to ensure safety. In supporting these scenarios, 5G opens up a whole new range of use cases for IoT to tackle that it cannot do in today’s 4G networks.
Meanwhile as you consider the applications of IoT, it’s often labeled as things like “smart grid,” “smart cities,” “intelligent transportation,” and so on. Note the consistent theme of intelligence. The reason you want to connect billions of devices to the Internet is so that you can use AI to make them more efficient, deliver more value, and create entirely new products and services. AI needs lots of data. IoT generates lots of data. 5G moves that data around. It’s all connected, literally and figuratively.
CGCS: Your experience is in the government – specifically in the intelligence community. What potential do these technologies have for intelligence agencies? How will these three technologies make it easier for them to accomplish their missions?
Dr. Clancy: New technologies are a blessing and a curse for intelligence agencies. Technologies like AI have obvious applications in helping intelligence analysts sift through an ever-increasing deluge of data and deriving insights that can be used to inform policymakers and support the warfighter.
On the other hand, while technologies like 5G can help the government as a whole be better connected with itself and its citizens, there is the potential that foreign hackers could take advantage of those technologies, and the intelligence community and federal law enforcement need to understand how to deal with what could be a new threat.
CGCS: Are there any particular AI and IoT technologies, use cases or startups that you’ve seen that are particularly exciting?
Dr. Clancy: As a professor at Virginia Tech before joining MITRE, I had the opportunity to work with one of our researchers to spin off a venture-backed startup called DeepSig that is using deep learning to directly process wireless signals, straight off the antenna. They’ll be participating in the upcoming WTS event as well.
What’s fascinating is that using these advanced AI techniques, you can actually process wireless signals with more accuracy and do so faster with far less power than conventional approaches. Interestingly,. technologies like DeepSig’s are being talked about for beyond-5G standards, reinforcing the interconnectivity between AI, 5G, and IoT.
CGCS: You’re going to be presenting at the upcoming WTS. Why is this an important conference right now? What are you planning to address in your keynote speech?
Dr. Clancy: I think the D.C. metro area has a tremendous opportunity in front of it. The region’s economy has historically been tied to the federal government, which has promoted long-term stability, but arguably limited opportunities for non-linear growth. Over the past five years, big tech companies have realized that the highly skilled workforce of the region can be tapped to address non-federal, commercial markets, as exemplified by the Amazon HQ2 decision.
Overall the region seems to be embracing this diversification and growth, but some aspects of the overall ecosystem still have some catching up to do, like the scope and scale of university R&D to feed the regional innovation economy.
Personally, I believe the sweet spot for the D.C. metro region is to embrace both its deep federal roots and its broad commercial ambitions. China has emerged as the United States’ first true peer competitor in terms of economic capacity for innovation. They are placing bets on technologies like AI, not only because of the global commercial economic opportunity, but also because of their strategic military applications. China leading AI innovation globally is bad for U.S. national security interests.
The D.C. metro area is uniquely positioned to lead the country in technology innovation in areas of strategic national importance. It can connect a talented workforce with defense priorities and commercial scale. Certainly AI, IoT, and 5G all fall into this category, but so do other technologies like quantum computing and microelectronics.
CGCS: Who do you think can most benefit from attending the WTS? What do you think they’ll get out of their participation in the event?
Dr. Clancy: The event is going to be a great opportunity to see home-grown D.C.-area innovation and be inspired by what the region has to offer, in addition to networking with other key business leaders and members of the entrepreneur ecosystem. Oh, and free coffee, which is always a plus.
For addition information about the Washington Technology Showcase, click HERE.