Defence trials IBM’s Watson for psyops

Cognitive computing used to analyse target audiences for psyops, CTO says

The Department of Defence has carried out trials employing IBM’s cognitive computing platform, Watson, Mohan Aiyaswami this morning told a Cebit eGovernment conference in Sydney.

Aiyaswami, the Australian Defence Force's chief technology officer, said that cognitive computing was an important part of the information transformation being undertaken by Australia’s armed forces.

“We need to gather intelligence and information from several fronts and we actually think that machine learning and cognitive computing will be a very important part of our architecture going forward,” the CTO said.

The trials of IBM Watson have involved supporting psychological operations, or psyops, Aiyaswami said.

In particular, the platform has been used for a proof of concept project involving ‘Target Audience Analysis’ (TAA), which involves analysing intelligence and selecting target audiences that may be effective in realising the goals of a psyop mission.

TAA involves identifying and analysing an audience for power (their capacity to perform effectively), accessibility (by psyop media) and susceptibility (the degree to which they can be manipulated).

“Watson has been very helpful in doing this analysis for us,” Aiyaswami said. TAA can involve a significant quantity of unstructured data.

“It’s like picking a needle in a haystack – you need to go and understand various bits of seemingly disconnected information which when put together can make sense,” the CTO said.

The project utilising Watson delivered an order of magnitude timeframe improvement compared to traditional TAA development methodology (two weeks compared to three to six months, according to Aiyaswami’s presentation).

The use of the cognitive computing platform also delivered unexpected insights from the analysis of unstructured data.

Defence is currently looking to use Watson for several high-impact, classified initiatives.

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