This year’s Conference, staged by Worldwide Business Research, convened at London’s Royal Lancaster Hotel over three days in late January. The event attracted a record-breaking 650 delegates – almost two thirds of them serving in the military – from 47 nations, and fielded 114 speakers on topics ranging from strategy to tactics, new technology to new threats, and from recruitment to training and education.
The rapid evolution of AI and Machine Learning, coupled with an everything-connected world and exabyte-scale data volumes, placed the role, skills and needs of the GEOINT analyst very much at the centre of this year’s conference. Indeed, the opening day was set aside for this very topic, with two dozen presentations, panel sessions and case studies exploring every facet of how tools, workflows and organisational transformation can help tackle issues of cognitive overload.Air Commodore Tim Neal-Hopes, Head of Joint C4ISR & Cyber, Joint Forces Command at UK MoD, perhaps summed it up in his presentation by accepting that humans cannot keep pace with the need to direct or process current requirements. Moreover, the current challenge will appear trivial compared to that of the future. Despite this, his view is that understanding will remain key to operational success and that AI and the Human-Machine Team (HMT) will be key facets of the solution.
To spearhead work on this front, the Centre for Intelligence Innovation at RAF Wyton has teamed with industry under a fast-track MoD programme to provide defence analysts with a ‘predictive cognitive control system’ … one that exploits Deep Learning-based neural networks to make confidence-based predictions of future events and outcomes. This is currently being deployed and refined as a Beta service in a live operational network.
The second day – and the first day of the main conference – opened with a keynote address by Lieut. Gen. James Hockenhull, Chief of Defence Intelligence at the UK MoD. Appointed to the post last year, but with an Intelligence Corps background spanning two decades, he outlined how the new UK Intelligence Strategy will enhance decision support for operational commanders.
With so many simultaneous operations now underway, the demands on the intelligence services of all countries represented at the conference were, he said, outstripping their traditional way of doing business and change was needed. He suggested this could be achieved on three fronts:
• Closer engagement between analyst and customer
• Extracting maximum value by having a coherent, collaborative ISR enterprise that stretches across all services, both nationally and internationally, and encompasses industry and academia
• Switching the emphasis from all-source analyses and fused central products to make greater use of single or multi-intelligence capabilities that exploit the potential of Open Source and public domain information.
Hockenhull also touched on the organisational values he regarded as most important and which he summarised as creativity, courage and candour. “It’s challenging in a hierarchical organisation, be it military or government, but we’ve got to break down barriers so that people can raise their voice. This is about enabling the analyst to tell it how it is, whether it be a technical, business or cultural issue, but if I can encourage my organisation to be more creative, more courageous and more candid during my stewardship, then I feel I will have achieved something.”
Over the two days of the main event, keynotes by Jennifer Schnarre of the NGA, Brigadier Chris Middleton of the NCGI, Dr. Giorgio Cioni of JISR at NATO HQ, Lieut. Gen Ilias Leontaris of the Cypriot National Guard, and Dr. Philip Ritcheson of the NGA, topped a four-track conference programme. As well as some 50 speaker presentations and panel discussions, the event reinforced its continuing appeal with live polling, an exhibition supported by public and private sector organisations, and 15 hours of networking opportunities, including a Women in Intelligence Lunch.
DGI Europe 2020 will, again, be hosted at London’s Royal Lancaster Hotel, 20-22 January, 2020, preliminary details of which can be found at https://dgi.wbresearch.com/