Woburn, MA - February 28, 2011 --ASDWire-- Understanding whether a tribal leader and his followers are friends today or potential foes tomorrow is one of many crucial challenges in counterinsurgency and counter-terrorism operations in Iraq, Afghanistan and future hotspots. U.S. forces depend on human intelligence to stay abreast of the changing landscape, yet current methods of collecting and analyzing such intel typically lag, preventing troops from knowing the conditions they face.
To help U.S. forces more quickly and accurately understand this shifting human intelligence (HUMINT), Aptima, which applies expertise in human-centered engineering, is developing NETSTORM, the "NETwork STructural Organization and Relevance Mapper." NETSTORM will be a system of algorithms for better focusing intelligence collection and identifying these murky adversarial, neutral, and friendly networks. Where insurgents and civilians often blend together, slipping back and forth in their group affiliations, NETSTORM will help troops to understand these complex social environments, uncover hidden networks, and identify key figures of interest and impending threats.
NETSTORM is being funded and developed for DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Project Agency) for its 'GUARD-DOG' program (Graph Understanding and Analysis for Rapid Detection-Deployed On the Ground). As envisioned, the system of hardware, software, and analytics will have soldiers on patrol using handheld personal digital assistants (PDAs) to collect and assess human intelligence, which will be shared with analyst teams at headquarters. Powering both the handheld devices and headquarter computers, NETSTORM will map human networks containing millions of data points on people, places, and organizations, helping identify the key roles, relations and activities.
NETSTORM and GUARD-DOG in Action
Prior to embarking on a patrol of a village or urban neighborhood, U.S. soldiers will be given a PDA loaded with relevant information about the friendly, neutral, and hostile human networks they'll encounter. Providing the soldiers with cues and guidance on those they'll engage, the devices will also guide the soldiers to people they should interview and which questions to ask.
As new data is entered, NETSTORM will update the PDA's database, running analytics that in minutes will provide the patrol with additional context about these networks, influential individuals and their roles. When patrols may have been given false or misleading information, or critical intelligence is missing, NETSTORM will identify gaps and help resolve conflicting reports, suggesting follow-up questioning. This cycle of entry, analysis, and question prompting is expected to take place in less time than a cycle of questions and answers via the interpreter.
At headquarters, the PDA's newly collected data and analysis will be uploaded to a master database, allowing a larger set of analytics to be run for more comprehensive intelligence estimates. NETSTORM will detect patterns across the entire data set, classifying key network nodes, linkages, and prioritized information needs. In two hours or less, military intelligence staffs and tactical HUMINT teams will be able to quickly identify the key personalities for influence, engagement, and direct action.
Using advanced network pattern recognition algorithms that can handle 'noisy' data, NETSTORM will filter out webs of irrelevant entities and connections to deduce the roles and subnetworks of interest to U.S. commanders. The system will help U.S forces understand the social landscape of these urban and rural populations in context of the local culture, politics, economics, and current security conditions.
NETSTORM is expected to greatly accelerate the mostly manual processes of collecting, updating, analyzing and prioritizing human intelligence for actionable use. According to DARPA, currently this cycle can take up to 48 hours, with more than 80% of information lost, outdated, or otherwise unusable by troops. NETSTORM will enable the cycle to be completed in the field at the patrol level in minutes, and within two hours at battalion through company headquarters for broader analyses.
Aptima, the prime contractor, is developing NETSTORM in partnership with United Technologies Research Center, the University of Connecticut, Carley Technology Inc., the University of Central Florida-Institute for Simulation and Training, and Circinus LLC.
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