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article imageBritish warships to get 'Siri-style' controls for digital warfare

By James Walker     Sep 13, 2017 in Technology
Britain's new warships will be equipped with a voice-control system akin to Apple's Siri. The Royal Navy is bringing itself up to date with the digital era. IT will be used across its vessels and weapons to create a flexible fleet for "decisive" action.
The Siri-style voice interface was announced by the first sea lord Admiral Sir Philip Jones, The Guardian reports. It'll be fitted to all of the UK's new Type-31 frigates, targeted for deployment by 2023. The ships will come with several "app-based tools" to assist the crew in making decisions and processing information.
Jones said the Navy's even evaluating augmented reality technology. While most people are just getting to grips with the concept of AR, using devices like Apple's new iPhone X, it could become a critical asset in the future of warfare. No industry is immune to the effects of digital transformation and the data economy. Jones said the use of tech on ships "is not a gimmick," instead reflecting the shifting realities of war.
"The Type 31e will feature different app-based tools which can access the ship's data. These will be operated from a series of touchscreen displays, Siri-style voice-controlled assistants and perhaps even augmented reality technology," The Guardian reports Jones said. "This is not a gimmick or a fad. As modern warfare becomes ever faster, and ever more data driven, our greatest asset will be the ability to cut through the deluge of information to think and act decisively."
Digital transformation is already having a profound impact on the navy, according to the first sea lord. During the event, held during the opening of one of the world's biggest arms fairs, Jones discussed the challenges in planning for future warfare.
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At some point, the navy will need to abandon its legacy platforms and move to a full data-first model. Jones said this will offer "truly transformative advances" but will also place new burdens on finances and manpower.
Security and safety also have to be considered. Although the technology has the potential to create a new era of warfare, it carries its own risks and limitations. A successful cyberattack against a warship could disable the craft entirely or wreak havoc with its systems. In implementing new technology, care must be taken not to move too quickly without proper evaluation.
The navy plans to spend over £60 billion over the next decade on fleet rejuvenation and digital platforms. It aims to be at the forefront of modern maritime technology and wants to work with start-ups to "tap into their entrepreneurial expertise." The push towards digital comes a few months after Britain's new aircraft carrier took to the seas, attracting attention because it allegedly still runs Windows XP. Evidently, the navy's still got some progress to make.
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