Ahead of the Big Data for Defence (BDD) Summit, conference chairman, Major General (retd) Dr Andrew Sharpe, Director of the British Army’s Centre for Historical Analysis and Conflict Research, Strategy and Security Institute, shared his thoughts on how important Big Data is for the defence industry, and the potential it has to modernise and transform militaries of the future. Read an excerpt of what he had to say below.
STATEMENT FROM MAJOR GENERAL (RETD) DR ANDREW SHARPE:
“So-called ‘Big Data Analytics’ has already changed the face of the civilian world, with commercial organisations worldwide gaining huge benefits from the introduction of data analytic platforms and artificial intelligence systems. Militaries and security services too have made huge leaps forward in their ability to gather and process data, but, having witnessed the gains made in the civilian sector, senior military commanders and defence organisations worldwide are now realising that the opportunities and applications can, perhaps, be much better exploited. So there is a drive to incorporate these new technologies in data analytics, artificial intelligence and machine learning into military organisations, and the defence sector is committing huge resources to developing these capabilities. Building upon their success in the intelligence sector, these defence units are now turning to artificial intelligence and data analytic platforms to gain advantage across every field of defence: be it combat, logistics, intelligence, information operations or cyber warfare.
Despite this considerable investment, across all of the fields noted above, the world’s Armed Forces are still faced with four key questions:
How can they ensure that data in all these fields is secured against external threat?
How can they trust that data is analysed and assessed both quickly and accurately without a human interface?
How can they exploit these new systems, ahead of the competition and potential competition, to maximise the current opportunity?
And, inevitably, what are the practical, ethical and moral issues of ‘taking humans out of the loop’?
While these questions are specific to the military environment, it is apparent that many of the answers will come from the civilian sector, with their proven experience and technical capabilities. This summit, in partnership with the UK MoD’s Defence and Security Accelerator, is therefore designed to introduce the military question to the civilian response – bringing together senior capability leads from the world’s leading defence organisations with commercial big data experts to forge new partnerships, develop new capabilities tailored to the defence requirement, and address the four key questions of incorporating big data analytics into the defence environment.”