The Royal Canadian Navy Drives Change for Tomorrow’s Sailors

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As the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) looks to the future and builds tomorrow’s Navy, we want to build that Navy around our sailors – inspiring them, their families and Canadians at large with a digitally-enabled organization that stands tall for Canada and Canadians.

We need to take an institution, break with tradition, and embolden our sailors by leveraging the best practices of leading-edge industries. It’s about empowering our people through a culture where innovation and change are the long-term determinants of success on a path that ensures the RCN remains a global naval leader.

Digital Navy is a mind set and culture shift, and an acknowledgement that going forward we need to continually evolve as an institution if we are going to maintain relevance and ensure success in a changing world. At the heart of that Digital Navy are our people – motivated and enabled to be at their best. Creating this culture of innovative thinking will take time, but it is foundational to the RCN.

The RCN’s Maritime Innovation Program plays an important role in this journey. The program is driven by a vision and commitment to create a culture of innovative thinking and problem solving throughout the Navy. Its mission is two-fold: (1) to find new pathways to solve existing and future problems and (2) to initiate change through new technology and processes. Our goal is not just about solving problems, it is about actively exploring and engaging partners to seek opportunities that strive to change how we do our business as a Navy.

One tangible example of the many ways we are making progress on our drive to become a Digital Navy is through a partnership with IBM Canada and Lockheed Martin Canada. We have partnered with these industry leaders to investigate ways of integrating Artificial Intelligence (AI) into systems to better enable our sailors and enhance their ability to make quick decisions in difficult situations.

The partnership has resulted in the development of a prototype Virtual Bridge Assistant called Boatswain’s Mate. Think of it like Siri or Alexa for naval ships, and built using Lockheed Martin Canada’s simulated ship data and IBM Watson that demonstrates the potential application of advanced voice command capability on ships.

Using the technology, we may eventually be able to automate commands such as ‘bring the ship to flying stations,’ or ‘bring the ship to rescue stations,’ and maintain other systems such as clerical record-keeping, freeing sailors to focus on other, more critical tasks, during emergencies or operations critical to a mission’s success.

We aim to be a Navy that embraces digital technology not just for what it can do in a specific application but because it also serves as a means to open up the imagination, provide previously unseen insights and create avenues for more change.

Rear Admiral, Director General Future Ship Capabilities, Royal Canadian Navy

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