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People and organizations must often make decisions quickly, with incomplete information, and in military situations, this can be particularly true. The mission of the military has not changed since the time of antiquity: if you can observe, orient, decide, and act faster than your opponent, you gain an advantage. As a retired British Army officer, I can attest to how quickly things can change, and the need to be comfortable making hard decisions without having all the information available to you. The COVID-19 pandemic is a prime example of a disruptive scenario that created new requirements for remote work and social distancing practically overnight.

Defense and intelligence organizations need the flexibility to adjust to rapidly changing situations and new requirements while keeping service personnel, staff, and families safe. It’s about modernizing military workplaces, facilities, and installations, delivering trusted and secure infrastructure and services, and protecting the information domain and growing cyber force capabilities. What’s also exciting is that there are now many opportunities for you to optimize operations and enhance data-driven decisions by leveraging Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the commercial cloud. You can learn how in this new white paper by Frost and Sullivan, Artificial Intelligence and Cloud Computing for Defense and Intelligence. Let’s look at some of the paper’s key themes and opportunities.

The Internet of Things, AI, and the cloud

Thanks to developments in the Internet of Things (IoT), we have more mature sensors, networks, data analytics, and visualization tools available than ever before. AI and cloud computing are key technology enablers for IoT and are already being used in nearly all aspects of defense and intelligence operations.

For example, the armed forces have a huge number of sensors operating across multiple domains: space, air, sea, land, cyber, and the electromagnetic spectrum. The nodes in each domain provide indications and warnings data in many different formats, and the various sensors and communications systems are often not interoperable. Many are siloed proprietary systems with different types of data. Defense and intelligence organizations are improving multi-domain operations by standardizing on commercial software and networking sensor nodes to scalable cloud systems. By applying AI to analyze the sensor data, they can then parse and share enormous amounts of data across organizations and present results in a way that enables rapid and informed decision making.

Sensor data, AI algorithms, and cloud-based networks are helping staff members accomplish a wide variety of tasks and missions, particularly in deployed cloud computing and edge cloud computing scenarios. Deployed units can use smaller form factor computers and a medium scale cloud and AI architecture to communicate and carry out their mission. The systems can be networked via satellite as needed. In edge cloud computing scenarios, personnel can use small, ruggedized devices that allow them to stay connected even in low power, limited bandwidth, and communication-challenged situations. This means service personnel can stay mobile and get the data they need to make decisions quickly, without getting bogged down with routine analysis of mountains of data. When you’re in the field, having fast access to the information you need can make or break you and your team.

Modernizing with commercial IT

Thanks to the US Military’s DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency), we have technologies such as the internet and computer networking. But in recent years, the defense and intelligence industries have been somewhat reluctant to adopt cloud technology, mainly due to security and sovereignty concerns.

The need to adapt for the COVID-19 response, including social distancing and increased remote working, has accelerated the adoption of new solutions in defense and intelligence, including commercial cloud-based audio/video and data sharing conferencing tools. These tools allow service personnel and those that support them to collaborate in a secure, flexible work environment. They can access connected cloud data and analytics across multiple devices and locations, whether they’re using a rugged device in a remote location or accessing enterprise-scale systems on base. It’s about ensuring everyone from field commanders to defense contractors have the right information at the right time, in any environment. Additionally, cloud-based conferencing tools allow deployed service personnel to stay in touch with their families. In my experience, knowing your loved ones are taken care of back home allows you to better focus on doing your job, no matter where you’re deployed.

Defense and intelligence organizations are embracing commercial cloud solutions because the technology is mature, with proven use cases among government, business, and industry. They’re realizing the benefits of working with commercial IT providers to help with data interface, sharing, and open architectures that can integrate across domains. And they’re using AI and cloud computing technologies to improve joint operations and real-time collaboration with deployed units and remote workers.

Learn how you can optimize your operations and enhance the effectiveness of your missions by visiting the Microsoft Defense and Intelligence Industry website. And download the Artificial Intelligence and Cloud Computing for Defense and Intelligence white paper by Frost and Sullivan.