Key defence technology trends that will change the world

Key defence technology trends that will change the world

From brain-computer interfaces to programmable materials, these are the trends that are going to change the world as we know it today.

These defence technologies will have a profound impact beyond the defence sectors, according to a recent report titled ‘Transforming Defence: Six science and tech trends set to change the world’, from UK-based research company QinetiQ in partnership with Wired. It considers commercial off-the-shelf or commercially available off-the-shelf (COTS) technologies versus in-house military monopolies of emerging technology.

According to the science and engineering researchers from QinetiQ:

…the last 30 years have brought multiple innovations such as smartphones, cryptocurrency, augmented reality, gene editing, social media platforms… the list is long. Many of these are underpinned by ground-breaking foundational technologies such as AI and cloud computing. Huge steps have also been taken in areas such as robotics, nanotechnology and biotechnology.


So what comes next? According to Elon Musk, one of the prime movers in this explosion of new technology, we will see humans on Mars within the next five years. But what about closer to home? Which innovations and trends will come to the fore in the next few years?


“In previous decades, we have seen cutting-edge science and technology stem from the defence industry, given the large capital budgets that were previously required,” says Mike Sewart, Group Chief Technology Officer, QinetiQ.


“As the pace of change increases and technology becomes more prolific, new products, services and business models are increasingly arising from the wider world of commerce. With that being the case, it is vital that the defence and security organisations learn from the global trends around us and combined with defence and security domain knowledge, use them to protect our national interests for the future.”


This report focuses on six key areas of advancement, exploring the technology behind them and the uses to which they can be put, while also speculating on the opportunities or challenges they may pose to the defence and security sectors:


  1. Brain-Computer Interfaces: By controlling machines using nothing but brain waves, we will fundamentally change the way that we interact with technology.
  2. Quantum Technology: The science of subatomic particles will revolutionise fields such as computing and sensors, transforming many areas of our lives.
  3. Programmable Materials: A growing suite of new techniques in material development will enable the integration of smart capabilities into the objects around us.
  4. Edge Computing: As the Internet of Things predominates, the ability to process data as close to its source as possible will become ever more important.
  5. Biomimicry: Nature-inspired technology, based on insights from millions of years of evolution, will unlock new areas of innovation in a multitude of fields.
  6. Electromagnetic Interference: Potential new threats will lie in store in a world that is increasingly dependent on sensors and wireless communications technology.


This is by no means an exhaustive list, but all these topics contain considerable food for thought for those in the defence and security sectors as well as for anybody else involved in the development of technologies. It should serve to inspire new ideas for future applications in defence and beyond.

Paul Budde is an Independent Australia columnist and managing director of Paul Budde Consulting, an independent telecommunications research and consultancy organisation. You can follow Paul on Twitter @PaulBudde.

Key defence technology trends that will change the world

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