Big data and artificial intelligence (AI) will revolutionize the military domain

Published: 01 Feb 2023

[Evolving Interdependencies Amongst Emerging Technologies in the Military Domain]

Rear Admiral Dr S Kulshrestha, retd

Big data and artificial intelligence (AI) are being increasingly used together to achieve new levels of efficiency, automation, and intelligence. It is more like a symbiotic relationship. Big data is often used as the input for AI systems. One of the critical ways that big data and AI are used together is through machine learning (ML) algorithms. Machine learning algorithms can analyse big data to identify patterns, make predictions, and take decisions. Big data, on the other hand, is being used to train and improve AI systems. Large amounts of data are needed to train the algorithms that enhance AI systems’ performance. This data is used to “teach” the AI system how to recognise patterns, make predictions, and take decisions. For example, big data from sensor networks are used to train an AI system to detect and classify targets in images or videos.

Another way big data and AI are interwoven is through using deep learning (DL) algorithms. Deep learning is a subset of machine learning focused on developing algorithms that can learn from large amounts of data. These algorithms are designed to learn from data hierarchically, with each layer learning more complex data features. Deep learning algorithms are beneficial for analysing big data, such as images and videos, because they can learn to recognise patterns in the data that are not easily visible to humans.

One central area where big data and AI are being used in synergy is intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR). For example, AI algorithms can analyse large amounts of data from sensors like satellite imagery and drones to identify targets or track enemy forces’ movements. This would allow military commanders to make more informed decisions about where to deploy resources and how to conduct operations.

An emerging arena where big data and AI are being used is the development of autonomous weapons systems. These systems use AI algorithms to make decisions about when to engage targets without the need for human intervention. This can potentially increase the speed and effectiveness of military operations; however, it also raises ethical concerns about the potential loss of human control over the use of force.

Big data and AI are increasingly used to improve logistics and supply chain management. For example, using big data analytics to optimise the use of resources, such as fuel and ammunition, can help to reduce waste and increase efficiency.

Neural networks (NNs) are machine learning algorithms inspired by the structure and function of the human brain. They consist of interconnected nodes, or artificial neurons, that process information and make predictions based on their input. NNs can learn patterns in data and make predictions based on that learned knowledge, making them well-suited for tasks such as image and speech recognition, language translation, and decision-making. In NNs, the strength of the connections between neurons and the processing done at each neuron is adjusted through training, in which the network is fed large amounts of labelled data and makes predictions. Based on the difference between its predictions and the actual labels, the network updates its parameters to minimise this error and improve its accuracy over time.

NNs have also been integrated into military systems to enhance target identification accuracy. For example, NNs can be trained on large datasets of images to recognise specific objects or targets and then used in real-time to identify and track these targets in the field. They can learn patterns in data, such as images or audio, and make predictions based on this learned knowledge.

Now, a brief look at quantum computing and blockchain technology, emerging as supporting technologies for AI and Big Data in military applications. Quantum computing is a nascent technology based on quantum mechanics, computer science and information technology. It aims to solve highly complex problems which classical computers cannot solve. Quantum computing is capable of processing large data sets at much faster speeds. It can supply data to AI technologies to analyse data at a coarser level to identify patterns and anomalies. It has the potential to revolutionise military operations. Quantum computing offers several significant benefits that can enhance decision-making capabilities and improve the efficiency and effectiveness of military operations.

Enhanced Cybersecurity: Quantum computing can improve cybersecurity by providing faster and more secure encryption algorithms. With the ever-increasing cyber-attack threats, quantum computing can help ensure the security of sensitive information in military operations.

Modelling and Simulation: Quantum computing can be used to simulate complex scenarios, such as the impact of weather on military operations, by providing faster and more accurate results than traditional computing methods.

Target Identification and Tracking: Quantum computing can process large amounts of data from various sources to identify and track targets in real-time, providing military personnel with critical information for their operations.

Optimisation and Decision-Making: Quantum computing can solve complex optimisation problems, such as resource allocation and logistics, to help military personnel make informed decisions.

Quantum Communication: Quantum computing can enhance security by providing unbreakable encryption for secure communication between military personnel.

Blockchain technology utilises a distributed ledger with growing lists of records (blocks) securely linked together via cryptographic hashes. One of the most significant advantages the blockchain provides to Big Data Analytics is the data security that exists within the blockchain. Storage and distribution AI models using blockchain would ensure an audit trail. Further, data security can be enhanced using Ai and blockchain in tandem. Blockchain also has the potential to transform military operations.

Blockchain technology can improve supply chain management by providing an immutable record of the movement of goods, from procurement to delivery. Blockchain can help military personnel track supplies, minimise waste, and ensure that the right supplies are delivered to the right place at the right time.

Blockchain technology can maintain a tamper-proof record of important information, such as logistics data and mission plans, that cannot be altered or deleted. It can be used to manage data in a decentralised manner, providing military personnel with secure access to critical information regardless of location. It can automate contract management, reducing the need for manual processing and minimising the risk of errors and fraud.

The symbiotic impact of these technologies on the Five F’s kill chain of Maj Pako, the seven-step cyber kill chain of Lockheed Martin or the good old OODA loop of Col Boyd will be a game changer and an exponential force multiplier.

Integrating AI, Big Data, quantum computing and blockchain technologies into military operations is challenging. One of the main challenges is ensuring the security and privacy of sensitive information, especially in an era where cyber-attacks are becoming increasingly common. One must remember that the adversary, too, would have similar capabilities. The ethical implications of using such technologies in warfare, such as accountability and responsibility for its actions, would be important considerations.