IBM: Turning Unstructured into Understanding

Q&A with Gabe Chang, federal CTO architect, IBM U.S. Federal and Industries


What products and services does IBM U.S. Federal offer?

To quote the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) motto: “Know the Earth, Show the Way, Understand the World.” Our technology solutions and services are designed specifically to help provide those insights. The geospatial world is a mash-up of structured and unstructured information. With video, human language, Internet of Things (IoT) sensors, cyberspace, and additional intelligence all trying to make sense of the space around us, their interpretation of the data we receive influences our interactions with everyday objects and people. IBM has a plethora of solutions, tools, and services that help us make those interpretations, predict with a high degree of certainty what will happen next, and help model the vast unstructured world.

What advice do you have for working effectively with government customers?

Know your client. Each promising technology in and of itself isn’t a panacea. Rather, we must understand the client’s mission, objectives, challenges, contributing factors, and definition of success before recommending a technological approach. It is important to remember that clients’ missions evolve and our recommendations and approaches should as well.

What should agencies know about the landscape of cybersecurity in 2018?

Most IT managers believe artificial intelligence (AI) will help prepare their agencies for real-world cyber attacks by making incident discovery and response faster and more efficient. Having a cognitive solution that can outpace threats and uncover hidden attack vectors and patterns can help you act with confidence within the environments you’ve taken so long to build. Modern threats are often unknown and surprising in a bad way, so having an AI system that can understand reason and learn on your behalf multiplies the effectiveness of decision-makers and security analysts.

How has IBM evolved to keep pace with the explosion of geospatial data throughout the last decade?

We understand the nuances of big data. There are four Vs, the last of which is increasingly important: volume, variety, velocity, and veracity. You need to be certain your intelligence comes from a reliable source and the fidelity of the information at every part of your supply chain is uncompromised. One technology, blockchain, fosters a new generation of transactional applications that establishes this trust.

Also, the speed to decision-making is critical. The ability to process these vast data lakes is bogged down by the actual ingestion of data—the challenge is the myriad and unending number of sensors. Today, we have specific solutions to help with metadata cleansing, annotation, and curation before entering the system, and also to triage, classify, and create semantic understanding out of the unstructured information.

What emerging GEOINT trends are IBM most excited about?

Speed is king, and of great benefit whether you’re reacting to an event, obtaining situational awareness, or determining the next course of action. How do you decide which asset to task? Or which processing models will yield the best stability? Or which systems and datasets to exploit? We’d like to speed up each part of the process. Until now, many methods were not available to support the rapid increase in performance.

We are excited about using AI to improve decision-making as well as about utilizing parallel paradigms such as streaming computation and high-performance computing, and, of course, graphics processing units. We are excited to incorporate data science into all of our mission solutions and to achieve revolutionary speed in every part of the system—including vast improvements of the performance of networked data stores, the implementation of parallel operational data flows, uncovering process efficiencies, disseminating intelligence to the user, and prosecuting the target.

Featured image: Inside the first IBM Q computation center, December 2017. Dilution refrigerators with microwave electronics operate IBM Q Network clients’ cloud access to the 20 qubit processor.


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