The public sector market is a hot bed of innovation and we've picked the 2018 class of Industry Innovators as the best examples of how government contractors are solving some of the most challenging problems in the market.
A common thread runs through the 2018 Industry Innovator winners. All 25 companies have developed capabilities and solutions that are laser-focused on their customers’ missions.
These aren’t solutions in search of problem. The problems were already there or were rapidly evolving to cause problems for government agencies.
Companies in this year's class responded to these challenges with creativity and ingenuity, and they will be recognized for their efforts at the Government Innovation Awards dinner Thursday night.
Take CACI International for example. They saw their customers struggling with the threat presented by the explosion of drones over the past decade. Even innocuous drone operators can create unintended risks. And as we know many drone operators are anything but innocuous.
CACI took its own investments and coupled those with the technology it picked up through its acquisition of Six3 Systems five years ago to create the SkyTracker product suite, which can track drones and identify who is operating them and where they are operating from. Features include the ability to take control of another drone or send it back to its operator.
All of the innovators invested their own time and resources, plus found customers who were willing to conduct pilots and develop proofs of concepts. Sometimes the answer was a new product from the ground up, but other times the innovator took an existing technology and re-imagined it for a new application.
In another example, Trillium Secure re-engineered its intrusion detection and intrusion protection solutions so they can provide cyber protections on vehicles, where weight is a consideration along with limited networking and computing resources.
Several of the innovators are targeting the cyber risks presented by the security gaps presented by the proliferation of connected medical devices. Application of artificial intelligence crops up in multiple places on our list as do other emerging technologies.
As the following Industry Innovators illustrate, for every customer challenge, there is an industry partner working on a solution.
Accenture Federal Services
Patient-Generated Health Data
Accenture has used a variety of investments to build its capability in the health care market with a special focus on patient-generated health data. Those efforts include the acquisitions of Agilex and ASM Research, plus alliances with outfits like Salesforce.
The firm worked with the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT to explore ways health care systems, research institutes and government agencies could collaborate to support the use of patient-generated health data. The team conducted two pilot demonstrations and developed guidance for a more collaborative relationship between patients and clinicians.
Akamai Enterprise Threat Protector
With cyber threats growing more complex and varied, Akamai decided to offer its Enterprise Threat Protector for free to the states as the midterm elections approach. The solution tracks threats via a cloud-based security service and checks all outgoing recursive Domain Name System requests against a real-time, constantly updated threat-tracking database.
The database uses artificial intelligence and cloud-based automation to track and update information on any threat it detects, ensuring that all malicious IP addresses are accounted for should a request to connect be made.
By activating Enterprise Threat Protector, states are enhancing the security of their systems, which otherwise would have been prohibitively expensive for many.
The Ambit Group
The Food Buying Guide
The Food Buying Guide is a web and mobile application for the Agriculture Department’s Food and Nutrition Service that supports operators and food manufacturers working with child nutrition programs. The application helps determine the correct amount of food for meal programs and helps calculate the requirements of individual children. It is Section 508-compliant and relies on Microsoft .NET, Microsoft SQL Server and the open-source Apache Cordova framework.
In developing the application, the Ambit Group identified nutritional standards for children and the risks of tailored sustenance programs. The company also realized that the current information -- presented in PDFs -- quickly went out of date, so they designed the application to be updated easily and frequently. The firm also developed a recipe analysis workbook for desktop users.
Booz Allen Hamilton
Booz Allen Hamilton has taken several of its notable attributes -- a 100-year consulting legacy, deep customer relationships and an elite group of cybersecurity researchers and engineers -- to develop a solution known as District Defend.
The company recognized the tension between the need for a highly secure environment and the productivity benefits of a mobile workforce. Therefore, District Defend provides automated policy enforcement, dynamic command and control, defense-in-depth architecture and mobile data protection.
It allows administrators to track devices throughout facilities in real time and triggers alerts when devices are outside designated areas for too long. Device wipes can be automated, and the solution can designate what Booz Allen calls “dynamic use spaces” where security rules shift based on who is in the space or the work that is being done.
SkyTracker Product Suite
Commercially-available unmanned aerial systems pose a problem. Because they are readily available to anyone, they present an ever-changing challenge to national security, the national airspace and high-value assets. There is a need for restricted airspace around airports, buildings, critical infrastructure and stadiums. Firefighters and first responders also face issues with UAS-related interference.
CACI International has committed to finding solutions to those challenges. With its 2013 acquisition of Six3 Systems, the company brought in new radio frequency technologies and capabilities that result in the launch of the SkyTracker counter-UAS product suite. To support continual development, the company has established manufacturing and testing facilities and entered into a cooperative research-and-development agreement with the Federal Aviation Administration to test SkyTracker at airports around the country.
SkyTracker exploits the radio communication link between small UAS and their controllers. The suite includes CACI’s CORIAN and AWAIR systems, which exploit that link to detect, identify and geolocate the drone and its operator. The systems can also use a variety of active techniques to disable drones and mitigate potential threats.
Key customers include the State Department, Department of Homeland Security, intelligence agencies, Army, Navy and Air Force.
Holistic Approach to Digital Transformation
Citizens have high expectations in the Digital Age and don’t understand why interacting with the government should be more challenging than interacting with commercial entities. As a result, a key component of agencies’ digital transformation is improving the customer experience to promote self-service.
CGI Federal takes a holistic approach to digital transformation that goes beyond the right technology to incorporate other elements such as cultural changes. The company’s process focuses on three key areas: strategy and organizational change, business and process transformation, and technology transformation.
That holistic approach looks outside the organization to provide agencies with a clear picture of what successful organizations are doing and looks inside the organization for potential transformations.
Blockchain for Biodata Solution
In 2016, Chemonics International used internal resources to launch the Blockchain for Development Solutions Lab. The initiative represented the first concerted effort by an international development company in the U.S. to build, test and scale blockchain solutions. The lab explores the technology’s potential to promote financial inclusion through digital economic identities, increase efficiency and visibility in global supply chains, and streamline back-office business processes.
With technology partner BanQu, the lab developed a blockchain for biodata solution to verify data on the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Contractor Employee Biographical Data Sheet, reducing turnaround time and increasing accuracy.
FedRAMP-Authorized Unified Communications as a Service
Collab9 created a secure, turnkey unified communications service that uses best-of-breed technology and top-tier data centers to help the federal government address the challenges associated with its outdated, expensive and inefficient communications infrastructure.
The company’s partners include Avaya, CenturyLink and Presidio. The team has sent its offering through two Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program audits to ensure that more than 325 security controls were validated.
The service was the first FedRAMP-authorized unified communications-as-a-service capability, with the Federal Communications Commission backing that authorization.
Synthetic Analyst and MetaSift
Engility is being recognized for two solutions.
First, Synthetic Analyst. The solution is a modular, open architecture, artificial intelligence tool that expedites decision-making and course of action planning. It incorporates “explainability,” the ability to deconstruct what the AI is “thinking.” This characteristic helps users so that they can build both trust in its outcomes but also can take effective action following the technology’s logic. It can be scaled and customized to meet the needs and challenges of each customer..
Second, MetaSift assists the intelligence community in processing and analyzing the vast amounts of data it collects and stores. That data can include high-resolutions videos, audio files and text documents across multiple platforms.
To develop MetaSift, Engility created the startup-like Nascent Technology Center within the company so it could draw on talented individuals across the organization and create disruptive solutions without putting intelligence customers at risk.
General Dynamics IT
MilCloud 2.0 and Navy SPAWAR Pacific Cloud Brokerage
General Dynamics IT has earned recognition for two cloud-related projects. MilCloud 2.0 was launched as the military sought to better manage the sprawl of its more than 3,000 data centers and remove a roadblock to IT modernization.
The company and its partners are improving server architecture and storage technologies, and a GDIT-built test facility has been enhanced to evaluate emerging technologies more quickly. Some processes for provisioning infrastructure that previously took months now take just 30 minutes.
For the Navy’s Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command, GDIT created a standardized framework for cloud adoption and a brokerage that supports 17 Navy warfare centers. The brokerage centralizes the process for securing funding and onboarding new customers. It has transformed the way the centers access and provision cloud services.
LITES and VERA
IBM was responsible for two innovations: the Army’s Logistics Support Activity IT Services (LITES) and the Video Exploration and Recognition Assistant (VERA).
Through LITES, IBM decommissioned a legacy data center and upgraded the Army to a state-of-the-art, on-premises, hybrid cloud model. The system processes 40 million data transactions daily and supports 65,000 users and 150 Army suppliers worldwide. As a result, the Army is saving more than $2 million per month over the cost of its previous logistics system.
VERA is a new method for classifying images using a deep learning model called a 3D augmented convolutional neural network. IBM clients were looking for ways to automate manual processes for detecting, changing and summarizing full-motion video. VERA combines machine learning models and computer vision techniques to reduce the time analysts spend evaluating the data.
Hypori manages security on network-connected devices that could easily be lost, stolen or otherwise compromised. The solution essentially creates two separate phones on a user’s mobile device with no data or apps saved locally. Should the device be compromised, hackers will not have access to government applications, data or the broader network.
VOR Advanced Analytics Technology
ISSAC has leveraged government funding and internal investments to create an advanced artificial intelligence and complex data analytics platform known as VOR. It is currently being used in the intelligence community and for commercial logistics optimization and health data analytics.
The company also developed a proprietary machine reasoning technology. And it is worth nothing that ISSAC made these investments as a service-disabled veteran-owned small business.
Leidos Enterprise Application Framework
The Leidos Enterprise Application Framework was developed to decrease the time and money involved in developing new solutions and modernizing legacy applications. The disruptive and reusable capability uses extensible framework technologies to develop high-quality applications faster than previously possible
One example is the Army Advanced Field Artillery Tactical Data System, which collects target data from frontline sensors, assigns fire missions and updates forces on the effect of the missions.
LEAF has helped Leidos unseat incumbents in the command and control segment of the defense market.
Advanced Cyber Range Environment
The Advanced Cyber Range Environment is an infrastructure-as-a-service model used to train employees, evaluate cybersecurity tools, conduct security architecture testing and manage live-fire exercises. It replicates users’ networks and makes attack simulations as real as possible so that users can improve the effectiveness of their people, processes and tools.
The solution is in use by Defense Department agencies and the Department of Homeland Security.
MerlinGlass is an internet-of-things solution that enhances the security of connected medical devices and helps providers access information from multiple locations and platforms. It automatically identifies different types of unmanaged devices such as smart TVs, IP-enabled thermostats, unauthorized mobile device hotspots, and mobile and stationary medical equipment.
Through a combination of agentless query, telemetry and applied cognition of geography and topology, MerlinGlass addresses the gap in visibility in these environments, and its sophisticated policy manager automatically executes a range of responses depending on the severity of the issue.
Scaling Humans with Artificial Intelligence
NCI’s Scaling Humans with Artificial Intelligence uses AI to augment employees, not replace them, by relieving them of repetitive, high-volume back-office operations.
Pilot projects for "Shai" are underway with the Army and Navy in areas such as Active Directory maintenance, auditing capabilities and system access. NCI is also using the tool internally in areas such as service desk support, back-office support, and data entry and migration.
Nfusion allows analysts and researchers to perform stealthy cyber operations and engage online without being identified by their targets. The cyberthreat hunting tool has been used by law enforcement and national security customers.
The solution manages the digital fingerprint that can reveal a user’s identity and location. Nfusion also masks potentially identifying attributes such as applications, operating systems, language, browser version and plugins.
PuriFile and xWAN
Peraton’s PuriFile automates the process for sanitizing sensitive digital files across multiple domains and security levels. The first such product certified by the intelligence community, it deconstructs files and removes nonstandard data, then reconstructs the files before passing them to the end user. Peraton continues to invest in the product’s ability to sanitize common commercial file formats, such as those supported by Adobe and Microsoft.
The company’s xWAN was developed for a specific customer need and has since been adopted as the “backbone of the future” for one of the most important military networks. The disruptive technology shortens critical project timelines and helps leaders make time-sensitive decisions more quickly and effectively. The capabilities are critical as the military and other potential customers increase their use of internet-of-things technologies and systems.
Qlik Sense helps organizations better manage and use the reams of data they collect and enables them to make more informed decisions. Qlik Sense uses data analytics and visualization to gain critical insights from large datasets. Deloitte and the humanitarian aid organization Medair used the tool to improve support for Syrian refugees in Lebanon.
Q-Compliance and Q-Audit
Qmulos built Q-Compliance and Q-Audit on Splunk’s data platform to create two offerings for risk management and insider threat requirements. They use algorithms to automate security and privacy control assessments, event detection and reporting. Customers get actionable, event-driven risk management and insider threat visibility and workflows. The data is delivered via a dashboard in near-real time to provide users with up-to-date information on their overall cybersecurity status.
Red River Technology
Medical Device Isolation Architecture
Red River’s Medical Device Isolation Architecture addresses concerns about devices that increasingly connect via internet-of-things technologies. MDIA continuously analyzes a device’s security posture using network behavioral analysis, next-generation intrusion prevention and passive vulnerability detection. If that posture changes, the solution can automatically adjust the device’s risk classification, add security controls, alert administrators and automate a containment or restriction response. MDIA does all that with minimal impact on the devices’ ability to deliver patient care.
The company worked with several partners, including Cisco, Tenable and Splunk. The Department of Veterans Affairs has been an early adopter.
Chirrp uses artificial intelligence to provide human-like interactions via several messaging channels, including Facebook Messenger, Skype and Amazon’s Alexa. Through its admin portal, business experts can define, modify and manage conversations, rules and responses without any programming required. And they can upload structured and unstructured data such as existing FAQs, policies and procedures, knowledge bases, web content, and manuals and guides to inform those conversations
RIVA recognized agencies’ need for an AI-based solution through its seven-year partnership with the Education Department’s Federal Student Aid program.
When the Army Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center was looking for a way to protect military vehicles from cyberattacks, Trillium restructured some of its existing solutions to better fit the Army’s mission.
The result is a multilayered approach to intrusion prevention and detection that makes minimal demands on network and computing resources. It streams and delivers over-the-air updates when required, and keeps large data storage and analytics downstream.
Geospatial Intelligence Center
The National Insurance Crime Bureau tapped Vexcel Imaging as a foundational partner in the Geospatial Intelligence Center, a coalition of companies that have come together to transform how federal and state agencies, first responders and insurers respond to natural disasters.
The center’s focus is on delivering imagery quickly to save lives in the immediate aftermath of a disaster. For example, after Hurricane Irma hit Florida in 2017, Vexcel flew its UltraCam Osprey camera over 506 square miles of the hurricane’s path. Information on an additional 13,787 miles was collected using Vexcel’s UltraCam Eagle. The imagery was processed and delivered to first responders and law enforcement within 24 hours.
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