Sponsored By Oxley Developments
16 Apr 19. NCI Information Systems, Inc. (NCI), a leading provider of advanced information technology solutions and professional services to U.S. federal government agencies, today announced a strategic partnership with Tanjo, Inc., an award-winning machine learning (ML) company based in North Carolina. NCI will leverage Tanjo’s proprietary ML technology to infuse new data analytics capabilities into NCI’s artificial intelligence (AI) platform, Shai – Scaling Humans with Artificial Intelligence – to deliver real-time insights and actionable intelligence to federal customers.
“By augmenting our AI-as-a-service offering with Tanjo’s machine learning technology, NCI will broaden the capabilities we provide our government customers, especially around one of their greatest areas of need – data analytics,” said Paul A. Dillahay, president and CEO of NCI. “As the quantity of data being gathered across the federal government continues to surge, faster results, improved insight and more informed decision-making is paramount. Our collaboration with Tanjo will maximize the efficiency and value of our customers’ workforce and data strategies in this regard.”
Continuing its approach of bringing commercial technologies to the government, NCI will enhance its Shai framework with Tanjo’s proven ML technology, which studies the volume, velocity and variety of big data. The NCI-Tanjo partnership will enrich human and machine interactions through AI and ML solutions, resulting in the better harnessing of government data to learn and improve mission outcomes.
“Tanjo is looking forward to the opportunity to apply our data-driven machine learning to the work NCI is performing for its government customers,” said Richard Boyd, CEO of Tanjo. “Our machine learning tools analyze massive amounts of data swiftly and recognize patterns much faster than humans. Combining this capability with NCI’s AI solution set will arm federal workers with automated insight and access to collective knowledge, which they can use every day to solve critical challenges.”
Boyd and NCI Chief Technology Officer Dr. Allen Badeau will present “The Simulation Century – the Big Leap from Big Data to Immersive Intelligence” at MODSIM World 2019 on April 22, 2019, in Norfolk, Virginia. The session will address the growing need for managing and optimizing the balance between humans and machines to achieve the greatest outcomes.
15 Apr 19. Could artificial intelligence save the Pentagon $15bn a year? The first time Chinese government officials came to visit Tom Siebel in hopes of convincing him to work on artificial intelligence projects it was 2011. Then delegations of mayors and senior leaders came back in 2012, and in 2013, and in 2014. Siebel is a businessman based in Silicon Valley. He founded business application software company Siebel Systems in 1993, sold it for $5.9bn in 2006, and in 2011 started another company: C3IOT, which is known as C3.ai.
An artificial intelligence company specializing in predictive analytics, C3.ai has helped Baltimore Gas Electric save $20m annually by checking the health of the utility’s meters and reducing the amount of unbilled energy usage. The company’s web site also boasts testimonials from Fortune 500 giants, such as 3M and Shell. Since its founding, C3 has invested more than $500m in a software stack that performs artificial intelligence tasks.
Because of all that, the Chinese teams wanted C3.ai to help with the country’s Smart Grid project, a $250bn program to transform how China uses and distributes electricity. Condoleezza Rice, the former secretary of state currently on C3.ai’s board of directors, told Siebel to “run, don’t walk,” he recalled.
“I actually had very candid conversations with them when they were here,” he said. “I simply said, ‘I don’t understand how this could possibly work. I’m in the business of developing intellectual property, and you’re in the business of massive, state-sanctioned intellectual property theft. I mean, how are we ever going to find a business model that works for both of us?’”
This could have been the end of the story. C3.ai’s founders hadn’t expected to work in the national security sector in their first years. In 2015, however, shortly after former Secretary of Defense Ash Carter established the Department of Defense’s Silicon Valley outpost known (at the time) as the Defense Innovation Unit-Experimental, Pentagon representatives contacted Siebel. Like their Chinese counterparts, they too wanted help with artificial intelligence. Ninety days later, they had him on contract.
How people view this story is often colored by their view of how the Defense Department works, a kind of Rorschach test on Pentagon acquisition.
Maybe it’s evidence, perhaps unfair, that the Chinese government is at least four years ahead of the United States in how it thinks about artificial intelligence. Maybe the Pentagon is taking steps to improve how it uses artificial intelligence and is ready to fully take advantage of the expertise on the subject that now resides in Silicon Valley. Maybe this is work the nation’s largest defense contractors could already perform and haven’t been asked.
Siebel has his own interpretation.
To comprehend how Siebel, 66, an expert salesman and an adventurer who was once attacked by an elephant, first attracted the attention of the Pentagon requires understanding the Defense Innovation Unit.
Carter founded DIUx (now, initial experiments proven successful, just DIU) in 2015 with the thinking that the technology and the innovation the Pentagon needs for future battles won’t exclusively come from the defense industrial base around Washington, D.C. Instead, the Defense Department needed to attract new businesses, specifically those tech and IT companies in California, to bid on its work.
Today, DIU’s headquarters are housed in a two-story brick Army building that sits in the shadows of NASA’s Ames Research Center and its giant wind tunnels. On the inside, the meeting rooms carry Star Wars references.
Since its founding, occasionally lawmakers in Washington have questioned the success of DIU as a host of other organizations focused on future technologies have popped up. DIU received $30m in 2016 and $10m in 2017. The White House’s budget request for fiscal 2020 asks for the organization to receive about $30m for each of the next five budget cycles.
But sources in the Silicon Valley tech community said shortly after DIU’s arrival that the Pentagon staff was a walking example of what’s described as “tech tourism.”
That pejorative refers to the regular occurrence of officials, usually from the East Coast, wandering the offices of upstart IT companies with open office plans and casual dress codes to talk about what it could mean for their agencies or businesses, but without investing or signing on to become a customer.
More recently, the organization has won over skeptics with a series of low-cost, high-profile contracts. In the cyber realm, the team has set up contracts with security firms, including one with Recorded Future, to learn more about cyber intrusions.
Previously, federal agencies only had access to a small percentage of threat intelligence, but by purchasing information DIU was able to better understand open-source data associated with threat actors and shrink research times. The contract was only a few million of the Pentagon’s $700bn budget but was also used to incentivize other organizations to buy the information as well.
In the software arena, leaders at DIU helped open Kessel Run, an Air Force laboratory that has reimagined software development.
And one of its biggest successes, the example often cited by leaders in case studies and congressional hearings, has been with predictive maintenance and artificial intelligence. (Source: C4ISR & Networks)
16 Apr 19. Accurate Terrain Following with Laser Altimeter. With the help of a proprietary UgCS data logger and a laser altimeter, SPH Engineering has solved a problem that has been troubling the drone industry for quite some time: how to follow terrain without compromising effectiveness and precision. The new integration solution is especially significant for inspections, mining, engineering, agriculture and environmental industries where ground penetrating radars or analysers are used or where being able to fly over objects at a particular height is crucially important for other reasons. As this usually requires flying them above the ground at a very precise height, rough estimates are not good enough. Previously, digital elevation model (DEM) data was essential to do this; however, this is often not available for a given region or is not sufficiently accurate. For example, if a drone with a ground-penetrating radar needs to be flown at a height of one metre, but the precision of the available data is three metres, the data is of no use for this purpose.
However, having too much information can be as problematic as having too little. LiDARs nowadays can create extremely accurate terrain maps by providing a precision level of up to one centimetre. As good as this sounds, for drone mission planning, this would mean including too many waypoints. As the waypoints need to be loaded onto the drone in batches of no more than 99 at a time, following a LiDAR-mapped area of terrain with the necessary precision would involve flying over the area time and time again.
SPH Engineering has solved both of these issues by gathering and using terrain data on the go. The laser altimeter gathers an uninterrupted data flow by measuring the flight time of a short flash of infrared laser light as it bounces back off the surface of the terrain, while the UgCS data logger adjusts the drone flight height accordingly. As it uses actual and not pre-existing data, the mode is called True Terrain Following.
All of this, together with the UgCS software, allows for hassle-free drone mission planning with uncompromised flight height precision. The operator just needs to set the desired flight height and speed, and activate the True Terrain Following mode. The function is currently available for DJI M600/M600 Pro drones and can also be used with custom drones based on DJI A3 autopilot. (Source: UAS VISION)
12 Apr 19. Pentagon confirms it is ending the Jason advisory contract, but group’s work may continue. The Department of Defense has confirmed it is ending a decades-long, open-ended agreement with a legacy science advisory board, a move that has set off alarm bells for some analysts. But the department has not ruled out relying on that office for more information in the future.
The Jason program dates back the 1950s, when the Pentagon put together a panel of scientific experts to provide outside advice. That contract is now managed by the Mitre group, and run through the Pentagon’s Undersecretary of Research and Engineering.
According to a 2006 book written about the group, the panel played major roles in developing, or lambasting, technical ideas for the department, including pushing to sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty on nuclear weapons and a controversial stretch of ideas during the Vietnam War. Much of their work, however, has been classified.
In response to a request from Defense News, Pentagon spokesperson Heather Babb said that the indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity contract, which allows for an unlimited number of deliveries over a fixed time period, expired at the end of March. And while there is an active task order with Mitre covering some of the same ground, that is set to expire at the end of April.
“After the expiration of the Program Management Task Order, there will be no active OUSD(R&E) sponsored contractual vehicles with MITRE for the JASON program,” Babb wrote in a statement.
“The department has determined that the requirements previously supported through JASON National Security Research Studies have changed and that the Office of the Undersecretary of Defense, Research and Engineering will require only one study, rather than multiple studies, as projected under the previous solicitation. Because our requirements have changed, the DoD does not anticipate issuing a follow-on IDIQ.
“The department remains committed to seeking independent technical advice and review. This change is in keeping with this commitment while making the most economic sense for the department, and it is in line with our efforts to gain full value from every taxpayer dollar spent on defense.”
In essence, the department is ending its open-ended contract with the advisory group, but not looking to sever its relationship entirely, instead moving to one-off contracts for the future. That could include a contract to study issues around electronic warfare in the near-future, Babb confirmed. Of course, other contractors would also be able to bid for such work.
News of the contract cancellation for the Jason panel was first reported by Science Magazineafter Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Tenn., chairman of the House Subcommittee on Strategic Forces, brought the issue up to National Nuclear Security Administration head Lisa Gordon-Haggerty during a Tuesday hearing.
“I found their reports to be fulsome and the members of Jason to be knowledgeable about issues associated with our programs at NNSA,” Gordon-Haggerty said, adding she had asked staff to look into what the Pentagon’s cancellation of the contract would mean for her agency. (NNSA operates under the Department of Energy).
For some, Jason represents a key technical advisory voice from outside the building, with Steven Aftergood of the Federation of American Scientists writing that the move is “a startling blow to the system of independent science and technology advice.”
The move appears to be “part of a larger trend by federal agencies to limit independent scientific and technical advice,” Aftergood added.
Mieke Eoyang, a former Hill staffer now with the Third Way think tank, tweeted that “Congress has enough difficulty getting unbiased scientific and technical assessments. Between this and OTA (shuttered after the ’94 GOP takeover), Congress’ ability to understand technology has gotten worse even as technology becomes more ubiquitous & complex.”
Others, however, question how much impact the Jason panel actually had.
“Cutting off government access to sensitive scientific expertise is problematic,” said Loren DeJonge Schulman, a former Pentagon and National Security Council staffer now with the Center for a New American Security.
“But it’s worth exploring in more detail how the Jason Advisory Panel was actually utilized — who tasked them, was their work useful, was it translatable to policymakers in an approachable way, and is this the best means to access the sort of expertise the panel historically brought forward,” she said, adding: “There are dozens and dozens of advisory bodies across government, of highly variable utility and cost to taxpayers.”
A former intelligence official, speaking on background, agreed that Jason’s importance may be overblown. They said that the one time in over a decade of intelligence work they encountered a Jason study, the findings “didn’t really represent reality.”
“It seems like most people talking about it are from the outside, who view this as a check on government thinking. I don’t know where that comes from,” the former official said. “Every time something happens along these lines with this administration, there’s almost a temptation to view some nefarious intent behind it and connect dots that don’t really exist. I just don’t think that’s what happened here.” (Source: Defense News Early Bird/Defense News)
05 Apr 19. ARL wants anticipatory AI to adapt to soldiers’ needs. Scientists at the Army Research Lab are studying how brain activity could be harnessed to optimize a performance of a human-machine team. By feeding artificial intelligence systems information about a soldier’s intent, advanced systems “could dynamically respond and adapt to assist the soldier in completing the task,” said Jean Vettel, a senior neuroscientist at ARL’s Combat Capabilities Development Command and co-author of a recent paper on the topic.
On the battlefield, soldiers perform many tasks at once — surveying and navigating the landscape, listening to communications, assessing threats — each of which is carried out in different regions of the brain. Researchers want to be able to analyze brain data in the moment so they can tell what tasks soldiers are performing. Learning how areas of the brain work together to accomplish a task will help scientists build AI systems that can anticipate how a task should be accomplished and where they can assist.
The researchers ran MRIs on 30 people to map the tissue pathways that relay information among nine different large-scale cognitive systems in the brain, such as those associated with attention, motor skills, visual and auditory systems. The maps were converted into computational models, which allowed the researchers to see patterns among the regions in the brain and run simulations to show what would happen when specific areas were stimulated. A mathematical framework they developed allowed them to measure how brain activity became synchronized across various cognitive systems during specific simulations.
Although the research has broad applications, Vettel said the primary purpose “is to understand how an individual’s brain activity can be used to create novel strategies for a teaming environment, both for teams with soldiers as well as teams with autonomy.”
In 2015, Vettel described some of her work using brain waves to train computers to detect threats. An experienced soldier wearing headgear lined with electroencephalography sensors would be shown images – some threating, some benign – and the sensors would be able to detect heighted anxiety, fear and tension to the threatening pictures. Using brain waves to label threatening pictures would be a quick way to amass enough labeled training data to teach a machine learning algorithm to identify a threatening image. On the battlefield, brain waves detected by helmet sensors indicating heighted anxiety could be transmitted to other members of the squad to alert them of possible danger.
The foundational principles of brain coordination this new research describes could potentially be extended outside the brain, as well, creating dynamic teaming assignments in the future, Kanika Bansal, the paper’s lead author, said. The research was a collaboration between ARL, the University of Buffalo, Columbia University, the University of Pennsylvania, Carnegie Mellon University and the University of California, Santa Barbara. (Source: Defense Systems)
12 Apr 19. Quantum sensors to support Australia’s national security. The University of Adelaide, in partnership with Defence Science Technology Group, has kicked off a program of advanced quantum mechanics research as part of the Institute for Photonics and Advanced Sensing.
The Department of Defence, through its Next Generation Technologies Fund, has selected 11 projects that exploit the extraordinary properties of quantum mechanics to deliver improved security for Australians.
The Institute for Photonics and Advanced Sensing (IPAS) at the University of Adelaide is involved in four of these ambitious projects. IPAS will work closely with the Defence Science and Technology (DST) Group on four ambitious quantum technology projects, three of the four projects focus on quantum detection.
One project explores whether ‘quantum’ radar can be used to detect stealth aircraft. Detecting ‘exquisitely-small’ magnetic fields will be the focus of two other projects: these could be used to track submarines or detect hidden metal objects through a wall. The first of these magnetic sensors makes use of lasers to monitor the response of individual atoms to that magnetic field.
Tiny diamonds will be used to detect weak magnetic fields in another project in which IPAS will work alongside the Universities of Melbourne and South Australia, and RMIT.
These approaches offer an improvement in sensitivity over current magnetic detection technologies, with potential spin-offs into geophysical exploration.
Parallel to these projects, IPAS will develop a portable clock that will harness billions of cold atoms to provide ultra-precise timing: however, this clock will “tick” 500 trillion times per second. Working with scientists at Griffith, Curtin, La Trobe and Queensland universities, this will be the new state-of-the-art in clocks.
High-performance clocks are used in synchronising communications and computing facilities and are at the heart of the GPS navigation systems that are used in cars and smart-phones. If you improve clocks, then all technologies on which our society depends can also improve.
IPAS is built on a strong ongoing partnership with DSTG and its support of numerous research projects and positions. (Source: Defence Connect)
Oxley Group Ltd
Oxley specialises in the design and manufacture of advanced electronic and electro-optic components and systems for air, land and sea applications within the military sector. Established in 1942, Oxley has manufacturing facilities in the UK and USA and enjoys representation worldwide. The company’s products include night vision and LED lighting, data capture systems and electronic components. Oxley has pioneered the development of night vision compatible lighting. It offers a total package incorporating optical filters, equipment modification, cockpit and external lighting along with fleet wide upgrade services including engineering, installation, support, maintenance and training. The company’s long experience of manufacturing night vision lighting and LED indicators, coupled with advances in LED technology, has enabled it to develop LED solutions to replace incandescent and fluorescent lighting in existing applications as well as becoming the lighting option of choice in new applications such as portable military hospitals, UAV control stations and communication shelters.