Mission 2022: 
Engineering the future

How is 2022 likely to shape up from an engineering perspective? Here we present the thoughts and predictions from some of our leading engineers as they consider what might lie over the horizon this year
Mission 2022 image icon The start of the year is an opportunity to turn the page. To start afresh. To reset and recalibrate. It’s also an opportunity to consider the trends and turbulence that may or may not be headed our way in 2022.
 
At BAE Systems we are always focusing on the future. The future threats and opportunities, the future technologies and advances, the future missions and developments which are reshaping our world around us.
 
Here, we bring together the perspectives of a number of our leading engineers as they peak into their crystal ball to identify what we might expect from the coming 12 months.
 
 

Chris Hesketh, Chief Technology Officer, Central Government Client Group


I predict that this will be a year in which the technology trends are dominated by AI, autonomous vehicles and the metaverse.
 
However, I also predict that they won’t feature in our end of year learning from experience wrap ups. Instead, I believe that we will find that their requirements were unclear and malleable, more quality communication across all stakeholders would have helped and the quality of our people is the key differentiator between success and failure.
 
Therefore, I will continue to find shiny new things exciting – because I can’t help it. I will also remind everyone to keep it simple and focus on the basics – because these are universal truths. And I will also invest the majority of my time in supporting our people to be even better engineers than they are now, and search the market place for diverse, high quality individuals to join our ranks – because that is the best way I can help our clients achieve their objectives.
 
 

Harriet Barr, Data and Mission Analytics Lead, National Security


Environmental Impact icon One of the most memorable things I read in 2021 was a Forbes article about the environmental impact of large AI and quoted that building the latest GPT-n series Deep Learning model for language prediction, GPT-3, is  estimated to have generated over 78,000 pounds of CO2 emissions in total – more than the average American adult will produce in two years.
 
I also just read my energy bill estimate for 2022 and these things do not add up! I think the pandemic has distracted us from the arguably much bigger issue of environmental sustainability and we need to reprioritise. We face a sustainability challenge for energy, both the provision of reliable renewable solutions and a security of supply.
 
Against this backdrop we have a responsibility to ensure that we balance the cost-benefit equation of the machine learning models and analytics we create. Our clients are talking about this too and asking how we go about making trade-offs between compute and precision, and prioritising the more important questions that AI can help us answer.
 
I think 2022 will be the year that these sustainability questions become part of the wider data ethics discussion. In data ethics we often talk about how to balance an individual’s data privacy and security with the benefits of sharing and using that data to create better security, health, wealth and life experience for everyone.
 
We now need to balance both these things against the environmental cost of doing them too. It is not ethical to destroy our planet to enrich our own lives and leave the costs for future generations.
 
 

Andrew Stock, Chief Engineer, BAE Systems Futures


From our Futures team’s point of view, I’m expecting 2022 to be the year where we take some of the capability we’ve been building and deliver it into operational usage across our clients. This is going to be very much in partnership with them as we understand how to apply this tech to their work and modify their processes and policies as appropriate. We’ve seen the potential impact over the last few months of trials, so to see this becoming part of how people do their jobs is really exciting.
 
A hope for the coming year would be that there will be more emphasis amongst technology folks on the environmental impact of what we build and how we build it. There are signs this is happening in some areas, such as AWS and their recent announcement of a customer carbon footprint tool. Unfortunately, any optimism on that is somewhat compromised by the stats around the colossal amounts of energy wasted by bitcoin.
 
 

Paul McCormack, Data Architect


Secure Mission icon It is probably fair to say that the end of 2021 knocked us back a bit. A new wave in the global pandemic prompted stronger guidance on home working, social distancing and isolation practices that restrict in-office work.
 
The nature of on-premises business operations in classified environments has meant IT delivery in secure government has been significantly impacted when compared with other sectors. So, what does this mean for Secure Mission Analytics in 2022?
 
Well, the first thing we can say is that the pace of analysis capability change continues to be unpredictable. A culture of best endeavours under difficult conditions endures. And whilst hybrid working offers great opportunity to develop technical skillsets from home and get a greater exposure to industry technologies, this trades against the rate of operational change and business impact.
 
As government departments strive to be more data-driven and digitally-literate the gap to broader industry continues to widen. Most commercial and non-government organisations have already moved their analysis platforms to the public cloud and are now advancing their maturity in finops models, intelligent computing and automated analytics.
 
For secure government, the sensitivity of data, legal compliance and ethical application of data science introduces significant considerations for safe data exploitation on cloud platforms. This inevitably hinders the pace of adoption. And in an already highly competitive market for data, engineering and analysis skills the flexibility of fully operational hybrid working is another challenge for secure government in talent recruitment.
 
Such a myriad of challenging obstacles requires a creative response. For me, that’s taking the benefits that a cloud digital transformation offers and finding other ways to achieve them. My hope is that in 2022 secure government makes tangible strides forward in mission agility through democratised approaches, greater flexibility by lowering the high bar of enterprise standards and establishing re-usable patterns for data and application sharing across government departments.

Then maybe we can take some steps forward to be more ‘cloud like’ in how we deliver analytics for the secure government mission.
 
 

David Hockley, Engineering Lead, Home Affairs


Here’s my perspective on a couple of topics for 2022: architecture and hybrid working.
 
I find it interesting how architecture patterns come about and why existing patterns are replaced. Is it in response to new business / technology drivers or the latest model from Google? Are they generally applicable or just in certain circumstances?
 
From my perspective, solution architectures have to balance a set of trade-offs between different 
properties, such as cost, performance and ease of implementation. As architects, it’s our job to come up with a ‘best fit’ solution factoring in the different properties.
 
Recently we have seen more clients move towards micro-service architectures. They are certainly harder to implement with the trade-off that they’re easier to test, deploy and maintain – I am interested to see how this plays out.
 
When it comes to hybrid working there is an opportunity to rethink our workplace and we need to be prepared to challenge existing ideas. Will we make minimal adaptation to existing processes or rethink some of them from the ground up? Time will tell…
 
 

Ian Horlock, Business Analyst


Innovative Thinking icon milkFloat is an initiative in our national security business which enables BAE Systems to demonstrate our ability to utilise ‘start-up’ and innovative ways of working. Following a really positive 2021, this year we’re expecting to deploy even more of our short engagement approach of one week solution workshops (based on Google Ventures Design Sprints) and one week prototyping sprints.
 
Both serve as a method of problem solving over the more traditional elaboration phases of projects or PI planning exercises. For that reason, I think a broader adoption of these ways of working across our business will really begin to take off and enhance our ability to deliver innovative solutions for our customers.
 
The big difference for milkFloat in particular this year, though, is that we must help the customer to address the challenge they have pulling through innovation from the prototyping phase to production, either from our team or other suppliers – a ‘valley of death’ that is stifling them finding full value in innovation. To help solve this we will be aiming to grow our footprint and capabilities to bridge that gap from prototyping to production.
                                                
Slightly more broadly, I believe 2022 will be a year that we really build deeper partnerships with small and medium enterprises (SMEs), as well as key departments tasks with doing this on behalf of our government customers. This will allow us to further help assess and work with the most valuable SMEs for our customers which is so important in a world where diverse thinking is key and resourcing challenges are so high.
 
 

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