During a college course under the Hacking for Defense (H4D) program, we were presented with a problem statement from an Air Force unit. The problem statement indicated, in part, that personnel within that unit lack an efficient means of collecting, sharing and fully utilizing data resulting from recent internal and external engagements. It was an amazing and exciting opportunity to make a profound impact within the Department of Defense; one we eagerly accepted. The result of our H4D course was a solution we called the Enhanced Situational Awareness Process (ESAP), which modernizes the flow of data resulting from engagements. ESAP not only collects, stores and disseminates data compliant with federal standards for military applications, it also draws conclusions from that data using artificial intelligence to categorize and prioritize information for end-users in near real-time.
In today’s international and interconnected world, massive amounts of data are endlessly accessible from virtually any location. From warfighters in the field to clinicians in a military treatment facility, service members have come to expect near-instant access to huge amounts of data. This expectation is mirrored in the civilian world. Search engines provide an intuitive interface and public facing means of traversing the internet for information. Proprietary systems, such as Electronic Health Record (EHR) systems, store and share complex, non-homogeneous data, significantly increasing the awareness and understanding of professionals and reducing the dependence on flawed physical media. ESAP builds upon the success of these systems. ESAP employs an array of data management, indexing and cross-validation tools to fundamentally change the process of situational awareness. A voice memo submitted into ESAP about a specific engagement may be matched with a text document submitted by a different user,in a different location, through the use of Natural Language Processing, creating a link between the two users, who now know that the other is interested in the same event.
These users can continue to submit data through ESAP, and all interested parties will have awareness of the change almost instantly. Continued use of ESAP will fundamentally shift how important data is collected and disseminated within any organization, not just the military. Streamlining communication will allow organizations to focus on refining and optimizing other processes. An analysis of the time and human resources devoted to making sure everyone has awareness of everything demonstrates the need for ESAP. We feel that the following quote is a perfect call to action:
"Thanks to Big Data and AI, future military operations hold the promise of real-time information gathering, fusion and sharing on one hand, and on the other hand to augment or even to substitute human thought. This is the prospect of a real techno-logical assistance in the management of complex crises that we are likely to face in the long term. In accordance, military decision cycles will need to be largely up-dated to make them more competitive during the compressed activities of future wars.”
(Desclaux, Gilles. (2018). Big Data & Artificial Intelligence for Military Decision Making.)