Representatives from different Federal agencies at ACT-IAC’s Emerging Technology Forum today said that they are leveraging artificial intelligence (AI), robotic process automation (RPA), quantum computing, blockchain, and other emerging technologies to make strides in their work.

National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Information Technology Lab (ITL) Director Charles Romine said that his lab – which has done notable work in creating standards around cloud computing in recent years – has recently pivoted toward blockchain, as well as AI and quantum information science.

Romine added that since AI and quantum are quickly rising as significant industries, ITL is trying to get ahead in carving a path forward to ensure the U.S. leads the world in these areas.

“AI is going to be a multi-trillion-dollar industry; quantum information science is going to be a multi-trillion-dollar industry. We’re doing things at the forefront of self-development, trying to galvanize the community to try to maintain those areas,” Romine said.

In preparing to develop secure quantum capabilities, Romine spoke about NIST’s quantum resistor cryptography algorithm competition, because as quantum erupts in the economy, the United States will “need to ensure that we retain secure infrastructure for cryptography” in quantum.

While Romine and NIST are forging ahead in quantum and AI development, others are already incorporating those technologies within their agencies. Interior Department (DoI) Deputy Assistant Secretary Andrea Brandon, for instance, said that her team has started incorporating RPA in contract closeouts and hopes to introduce RPA to other parts of business processes.

“We are looking at providing RPA in contract close outs, and that’s only one segment of the contract lifecycle,” Brandon said. “There’s a lot of repetitive process that occur in the contract closeout segment of that lifecycle contract cycle. … We are looking at developing artificial intelligence on other parts of our business processes for finance, as well as for grants, and also property.”

The main goal, Brandon added, is “maximizing innovation across all the different lifecycles for all the different business processes within the department.”

Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Information Innovation Office Program Manager Joshua Baron also touched upon two projects he has worked on – Brandeis and Resilient Anonymous Communication for Everyone (RACE) – that leverage emerging technology and cryptography.

Brandeis, a program that looks to enable “safe and predictable sharing of data in which privacy is preserved,” according to DARPA’s website, is in its final year of privacy development, Baron said.

“The potential impact of the Brandeis program is dramatic,” DAPRA’s site states. “Assured data privacy can open the doors to personal medicine, effective smart cities, detailed global data, and fine-grained internet awareness.”

RACE, on the other hand, looks to create a communications system that can avoid large-scale compromise by utilizing communication protocol encapsulation methods and a distributed system that’s resilient to attacks.

Amid the work each of the agencies are doing, the speakers said that fostering a culture of innovation across their teams is integral to seeing the change and progress they seek happen, and that working with industry to be at the technological forefront is critical for them.

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Melissa Harris