- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 25, 2014

Pentagon officials monitoring combat zones and sensitive hot spots like Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya will soon have access to a breakthrough technology that will enable them to quickly decide how to react to an unexpected uprising or a dangerous embassy breach.

The game-changing tool, known as Insight, will allow Pentagon officials to analyze information collected by drone sensors in real time and consider it against existing intelligence for a fuller picture of what the battlefield looks like, according to Ben Cutler, a program manager for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.

But beyond just storing and indexing information, Insight features “prediction algorithms” that allow the automated program to recognize signs of suspicious behavior, quickly role-play potential threat scenarios and work through hypotheses to arrive at recommendations about how to respond.


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Officials say the technology will dramatically reduce the amount of time it takes to scramble planes to an unfolding incident or reinforce troops on the ground in situations in which the wrong response — or a late response — could cost lives.

The Army will be able to use Insight by the end of the year and the Air Force will have access to the technology beginning next year, Mr. Cutler said.

Insight was one of more than 100 new technologies demonstrated by DARPA — the Pentagon’s cutting-edge, high-tech development office — for military officials, contractors and reporters in the courtyard of the Pentagon last week.


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Technologies on display spanned from advanced prosthetic arm systems to an Urban Leader Tactical Response, Awareness and Visualization helmet. That futuristic tool uses an augmented reality system to project full-color holographic images of troops, targets, vehicles or hazards to soldiers on the battlefield who might not be able to see them.

Within the next several months, Insight is expected to be incorporated into the ground systems of the military services, changing the way officials prepare for battle.

For intelligence analysts, the technology is a big step toward resolving data collection issues that clog the information pipeline, Mr. Cutler said. It relies on a newly formed algorithm that rocked the mathematics world only a few years ago for its ability to create an integrated picture from disparate sources.

Since its inception in 2011, the technological tool has been developing at a quick pace and has attracted the interest of all the armed services, Mr. Cutler said.

DARPA began developing Insight after operations in Afghanistan unveiled a need for the military to understand and identify threat networks, such as dangerous insurgents or militants in possession of ballistic missiles, Mr. Cutler said. Two years later, DARPA scientists conducted a field test of the technology with the Army. Those scientists will work with Air Force officials in July, he said.

“We built the program in a way that we can apply it to a variety of military problems,” he said. “Because we don’t know today what the challenge is going to be tomorrow.”

DARPA scientists have had to be careful with sharing the technology tool due to concern that it had not been fine tuned to fit the exact needs of the military, Mr. Cutler said.

“One of the things you don’t want to do is say, ‘Here is a bunch of discs. This kind of works. Maybe you can play with it. It’s kind of great.’ That’s not a great use of taxpayer money,” he said.