Next week, some of the region’s best and brightest technologists and the area’s most exciting and innovative technology startups will be coming together for the 2019 Washington Technology Showcase, a half-day event designed to highlight the National Capital area’s culture of technology innovation and leadership.

This year’s showcase will focus on three key technologies that will change the way we live and work, and revolutionize how companies and government agencies operate across the country: the Internet of Things (IoT), 5G and artificial intelligence (AI). One of the presenters at the upcoming event, Dr. Mikel Rodriguez of MITRE, is particularly experienced with AI, having done extensive work with the private and public sector in decision science and the use of computer vision. is a not-for-profit organization that works in the public interest to bring innovative ideas into existence. The company works across government through federally funded research and development centers (FFRDCs) and public-private partnerships to tackle problems that challenge our nation’s safety, stability and well-being.

MITRE is partnering with the National Capital Chapter of ACG to sponsor the Washington Technology Showcase, and Dr. Rodriguez’s presentation is one of the most anticipated on the half-day event’s agenda.

We recently sat down with Dr. Rodriguez to learn more about the evolution of AI, the new technologies that are opening the door to increased AI capabilities and why the Washington Technology Showcase is being considered a “must attend” event for technologists and investors in the National Capital region.

Corporate Growth, Capital Style (CGCS): Can you tell our readers a little bit about you, your background and your current role at MITRE?

Dr. Mikel Rodriguez: I joined MITRE in 2014 as a machine learning researcher looking to harness this exciting technology for the public good.  Today I help oversee part of MITRE’s independent research and development efforts in the area of decision sciences. I work with partners from industry, academia and other R&D organizations to improve our nation’s security, help people stay healthy and promote government stability.

Before coming to MITRE, I had the opportunity to work with some of the pioneers in artificial intelligence at INRIA in Paris, France. Throughout my career, my passion has been to work at the cutting edge of science and technology for the benefit of society.

CGCS: One of three focus technologies for the upcoming WTS is AI. What new technologies and advancements have opened the door to the advanced AI applications and capabilities that we’re starting to see be introduced today? Why does it seem like so much AI innovation is happening right now?

Dr. Mikel Rodriguez: It’s been an incredibly exciting few years when it comes to AI. While this field has been around since the 1950s, recently the emergence of large-scale datasets and powerful new computing hardware has turbo charged advances in AI, which is why we are seeing so much progress in recent years.

CGCS: What is machine learning, and how is it related to AI? What is “Computer Vision?” What real world applications does it have?

Dr. Mikel Rodriguez: Put simply, the goal of AI is to enable computers to perform tasks that usually require human intelligence. The best way to think of AI isn’t as a particular technology, tool or software application. AI represents the next era of computing, after the era of tabulation (the very first computers) and the programmable systems era.

Machine learning is one of the ways we expect to achieve AI. Rather than teaching computers everything they need to know about the world and how to carry out tasks, machine learning enables us to teach computers to learn for themselves, which is where computer vision comes in. Computer vision describes the ability of machines to process and understand visual data like images and videos.

CGCS: What are some of the things that AI and machine learning are starting to be used for today? How do you see that evolving in the next five years? Where do you see AI and machine learning capabilities and applications going in the near future?

Dr. Mikel Rodriguez: Great question. Contrary to what many people think, AI isn’t a futuristic vision, but rather something that is already here. It just didn’t show up the way we all expected. Today we are seeing how AI is being integrated and deployed across a wide range of challenges in the public sector—from assisting during natural disasters, improving safety though video analytics, improving traffic flows in intelligent cities and helping healthcare professional develop customized medicines.

As AI increasingly becomes a part of our daily lives, the need to trust these AI systems with all manner of decision making will be a significant challenge that we will need to overcome.  The decisions and predictions being made by AI-enabled systems are becoming much more profound, and in many cases, critical to life and personal wellness.

Going forward, we will need to have AI systems that are able to explain decisions and predictions they make and offer more transparency.

CGCS: You’re going to be presenting at the upcoming WTS. Why is this an important conference right now? What are you planning to address in your session? Who do you think can most benefit from attending the WTS?

Dr. Mikel Rodriguez: Personally, I think this will be an important conference because the DC metro area sits at the center of the densest concentration of federally funded research and development. Federal research labs and local companies in attendance are producing cutting-edge technologies for use in the public sector, but many of these technologies are likely to have broader potential applications.

Innovations driven by public sector challenges are a rich source of potential new business opportunities.  So, this event should be a good opportunity for entrepreneurs seeking to expand their product offerings and technologists interested in learning about some of the unique challenges and opportunities that lie in harnessing recent advances in science and technology to address challenges in the public sector.

For addition information about the Washington Technology Showcase, click HERE.