Space Policy Official Says We Need To Step Up Our Game... And Other News You May Have Missed

Space Policy Official Says We Need To Step Up Our Game... And Other News You May Have Missed

Rounding up IT and advanced tech-related news impacting government and industry.

Stephen Kitay, deputy assistant secretary of defense for space policy, said the U.S. faces real threats as the global competition for space dominance heats up. And because we’re being challenged, the Pentagon needs to rethink its investment priorities from just buying the latest and best technology to also making sure the nation’s systems are protected from attacks. This means being prepared, having the right policies, securing international partners, and integrating these strategies into broad national security strategies in all domains — air, sea, land, cyber and space.

For example, military officials worry the Air Force’s missile-warning satellites can be targeted in the future; especially as North Korea’s intercontinental ballistic missile programs pressure the Air Force to design a new missile-warning system. Kitay said it’s “imperative that we innovate” in this space, and discussions are already happening.

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But how the Pentagon handles space investments will correlate to how the Defense Department wants to work with the private sector, as its still unclear how the military will benefit from emerging technologies. Space News

Alexa is Following You to Work

Thanks to Amazon’s Alexa for Business, an Alexa-powered Echo device intended as a digital assistant in the office, made to simplify the technology in conference rooms and desks. It’s a managed service plan that puts Alexa in the workplace to create a “smart office.” This Alexa will enable company-specific skills and assistant tools, and is able to initiate calls and meetings, schedule rooms, dial into conference calls, facilitate conference room settings, and manage devices.

Alexa for Business also leverages two routes to the enterprise, and the first is through developers. Because AWS is becoming an AI, data and infrastructure-as-a-service platform, Alexa has “an army” of developers for business applications and enterprise partnerships with companies like Microsoft and Salesforce.

The second route is through the workers and users. Employees are going to be familiar with Alexa, and devices at home are already familiar to the employee so Alexa will integrate into the home and workplace. The new digital assistance will also allow businesses to build their own skills, and is expected to include partners like Concur and WeWork when it launches. ZDNet

Elon Musk Wants to Blast Tesla to Mars

And he plans on using his SpaceX rocket, the Falcon Heavy, to do it. The spacecraft company, founded by Musk, has delayed the launch of its rocket it originally hoped to send off years ago, but is now planning to launch in January from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

It’s a complex vehicle with 27 engines, which all have to be fired off at once. And in what seems to be a cross-promotional marketing campaign, Musk tweeted SpaceX plans to put a Tesla Roadster on the top of the rocket, launch it into an orbit around Mars to David Bowie’s “Space Oddity.”

“I love the thought of a car drifting apparently endlessly through space and perhaps being discovered by an alien race millions of years in the future,” Musk tweeted. SpaceX still needs the approval of the Federal Aviation Administration, and to ensure the car in space doesn’t jeopardize public health, safety and national security. And, well, there are moral concerns, too. The Washington Post

You Mean You Still Have Cable?

Apparently, 85 percent of U.S. households still pay for traditional cable TV — but according to TDG Research, 40 percent of Americans will cancel cable by 2030. This isn’t so much of a surprise though. The consulting firm, which focuses on the future of TV, said Americans were already leaving cable behind to cut costs after the recession, and the trend has only grown with the rise of digital streaming sites like Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime.

If the yearly decline of cable subscribers continues in its path, TDG predicts the percent of households paying for cable will drop to 60 percent in the next 13 years. TDG thinks the future of TV is an app, which most Netflix-bingers can attest to. And years ago, internet subscriptions were an upsell from cable or telephone providers, but now the internet is a “must-have,” and cable or landlines are a luxury add-on. Motherboard

Google AI Can Make Sense of Genomes

The tech giant released a tool called DeepVariant, which uses AI to build a more accurate picture of an individual’s genome from sequencing data. Making sense of the amount of data associated with a human’s genome was a huge challenge, but this can help turn that information into something life-saving.

The tool turns what’s called high-throughput sequencing readouts, which makes genome sequencing more accessible, into a picture of a full genome. Before, the data produced from this sequencing only provided a snapshot of a genome, possibly with errors.

It was also hard for scientists to find small mutations from errors generated from the sequencing process, and these mutations could be directly relevant to cancer. DeepVariant automatically identifies the mutations in sequencing data, thanks to meaning machine learning. The Google teams involved collected millions of high-throughput reads and fully sequenced genomes, fed the data to a deep-learning system and worked on it until it learned to understand sequenced data accurately — helping prove machine learning can be used to advance genomics. MIT Technology Review