Technology Initiatives to Satisfy the needs of NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory

James Rinaldi, CIO, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory

James Rinaldi, CIO, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory

JPL has always been a leader in the use of technology. What has changed over the past 10 years has been our approach to recognizing, evaluating and adopting emerging technologies. For example, we were looking at cloud computing early and testing it with our many areas of the Lab to see if it was a viable technology. In doing so, we were able to influence cloud providers with our usage and recommendations.

In addition, JPL IT has recognized that consumerization of IT brings great ways of working to us. For example, smart phones and applications helped us become mobile adopters and led us to work more mobile than ever. The productivity appears to have improved and removed many barriers to change. Many tasks can be done quickly and as needed vs. waiting to get back to the office.

3D Printing is another example where technology has been a factor at the Lab. We saw a need for affordable 3D printers and worked with engineers who helped us see the benefit to them versus just seeing an image on a screen. Now, since the costs are lower, many engineers can print their models before production assembly.

​  Having the ability to solve a problem for an individual, team, organization or enterprise may require scalable and configurable solutions 

The Challenges:

The technology challenges that concern me primarily center around cybersecurity. Closing vulnerabilities and keeping up with threats is a challenge. Too many vulnerabilities in vendor products and not having a consistent way of keeping current is a risk to our systems.

Vendors need a more concerted process for keeping their software patched and cybersecurity aware. I keep being surprised how some vulnerabilities exist given what we know today.

I feel data analytics, machine learning and IOT are trends that are having and will continue to have significant impact in many industries as well. The ability to gain insights using data from devices, history, inside data, external data and transactions has increased tremendously and will continue to grow. Machine learning will allow us to automate the patterns and make better informed decisions, allowing humans to focus on results.


Vendors should make sure their technology solutions have the flexibility to evolve to meet the customer’s environment. For example, contracts and pricing options that allow a business to use the solution(s) and adapt to the business vs. the vendor.

In my view, providing solutions for an enterprise does not always fit. In other words, one size does not fit all. Having the ability to solve a problem for an individual, team, organization or enterprise may require scalable and configurable solutions above that of just an enterprise.

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