There is no doubt — artificial intelligence (AI) is the future. Through significant investments in tools such as machine learning and deep learning, commercial sector organizations are leading the way in discovering what is possible with AI. By incorporating AI into their overall digital strategies, organizations are experiencing benefits such as increased efficiency and lowered costs through embracing innovation. The defense and intelligence community can experience these benefits as well. The promise of AI is real; defense and intelligence agencies simply need to realize it.
Federal agencies today collect more data than ever before. Between the information gathered from devices connected to the Internet of Things, to data gleaned from tools such as social media, location tracking and video, the sheer amount of intelligence available at an organization’s fingertips can be overwhelming. Even more overwhelming is the prospect of cataloging, tagging and analyzing this vast amount of data, which may come in a variety of different types from many disparate sources.
There is an ongoing need to be able to connect technology to analysts. There are several impediments to this, however. Many analysts fear job loss, that AI will soon take over everything and begin to solve all of an organization’s problems. Others are skeptical about entrusting vital processes to a non-human entity. These concerns, partnered with general funding challenges and a lack of in-house expertise, have made some agencies hesitant to adopt AI strategies.
In actuality, there is little chance that AI will end up fully -replacing analysts, or taking over processes that it cannot be trusted with. Rather, the role of the analyst will evolve: while time-consuming, monotonous and low-level tasks are entrusted to AI, analysts will be free to take on more cognitive work. AI isn’t replacing analysts, it is simply augmenting their role. By taking over low-level, time consuming tasks, AI frees up analysts’ time and allows them do more strategic work, as well as provides them with more information to make better decisions. Analysts must be able to trust the technology they are using, know what it is capable of, and put it in the best position to succeed.
It is important that defense and intelligence agencies take the promise of AI seriously, because we have only scratched the surface in terms of the potential impact it can have on the community. With modern tools, analysts and data analytics operations have the potential to become much more powerful. Effectively utilizing this potential will be vital to keep up with an ever-changing defense landscape where adversaries have access to advanced tools, threats are escalating and enemies hide in plain sight.
As the technology behind AI progresses, so will the benefits it can bring about. Already deep learning and image recognition software are being applied to cyber security, social media, satellites and drones, for example. Geospatial data is also quickly transforming the industry: no one piece of data tells a full story — everything happens in a specific place at a specific time, and often for a specific reason. The addition of a time and location into analyst’s repertoire, as well as the ability to connect these disparate data types can remove uncertainty and add the context needed to develop new insights.
This ability to collect innovative forms of data, and quickly connect them to find new understanding of complex situations could make all the difference. With AI, analysts could potentially have the capability to find patterns between incongruent data sets that they didn’t know existed. The real-time comparison of data to patterns established by analysts that AI is designed to do will greatly increase the speed that it takes organizations to make data actionable, enhancing analysts’ overall decision-making abilities.
Perhaps even more important than gathering and analyzing new data types is the ability to effectively communicate it. Once data has been processed and disseminated, AI and the geospatial data tools it enables can help analysts share the insights extracted from that data with leaders who may not be analytic experts. With easy-to-understand maps, timelines and dashboards, analysts are able to paint a clear picture of complicated situations that one does not need an advanced science degree in order to understand.
As threats evolve, so to must the tools and strategies we use to combat them. Defense and intelligence organizations cannot let misconceptions hold them back from taking full advantage of modern technology. In utilizing AI, organizations can more easily get the most value out of the data they are already collecting, which will allow them to protect against developing threats and make better-informed, predictive decisions. Modern technology is already reshaping the data landscape, and this dominance will only increase as AI evolves. Government can take advantage of it; leaders only need to take the first steps.
There has never been a better time to begin employing a strategic AI program. To speak with an expert about how to best harness these tools within your organization, visit the Esri booth at GEOINT.