Homeland Security as Catalyst - InformationWeek

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Government // Enterprise Architecture

Homeland Security as Catalyst

Innovative software firms are answering the call from U.S. government agencies for advanced analytics to help combat terrorism and criminal activity. What's the potential of this software for strategic business applications?

Ever heard of NORA? Or how about these guys: InferAgent, CopLink, NameHunter, Bladeworks, and Sentinel? These ominous-sounding fellows are products from tiny software firms that are developing some of the most advanced analytic technologies today for homeland security. Some provide solutions for the conversion of garbled text into knowledge discovery. Others tend to the unearthing of associations of individuals to actions, locations, and events from hundreds of thousands of internal and external records. Still others offer innovative methods for detecting fraud, categorizing foreign names, and virtual, remote analysis of data or text from any database in the world for agencies such as the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Terrorist Threat Integration Center (TTIC).

Given the growing diversity and globalization of business enterprises, is it possible that these innovative technologies, finding clear purpose for homeland security, could also be of interest to private business enterprises? In this article, I will describe some of these new technologies and how they may be applied to your company today and tomorrow.

Who Are These Guys?

Innovative products I mentioned at the beginning are commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) software — a term favored by military and government agencies — originating from such companies as Attensity, InferX, Infoglide, Knowledge Computing Corp. (KCC), Language Analysis Systems (LAS), Searchspace, System Research & Development (SRD), and others. Almost all have developed applications based on artificial intelligence technologies to meet demand from first military and intelligence communities, and now from the emerging homeland security market.

Some of these technologies will no doubt prove beneficial to private industry in the very near future. For example, imagine having all of the benefits of real-time business intelligence without the expense of building a data warehouse or the maintenance of equally expensive CRM software.

From Chaos to Structured

Attensity's core software ability is that it can convert unstructured text and into structured tables or databases (see Figure 1). Given the fact that more than 75% of enterprise data exists in free-form content, this ability has immense implications and applications. The software can automate the extraction of "who did what to whom, where, and when" so that a system can extract a text string such as "John Doe bought C4 from John Smith in Cairo on Oct 4, 2002" into a table format that might use the following subsets:

Event: Bomb
Bomber: John Doe
Arms Dealer: John Smith
Location: Cairo
Date: Oct. 4, 2002

FIGURE 1 - Attensity's relational extraction engine.

Attensity's text extraction technology is accurate and can work with unknown words, misspellings, and ungrammatical constructions. It can process nearly 100 single-spaced pages per second. The company's text extraction technology relies on structural linguistic principles and can convert all types of unstructured content, such as email, notes, chat, written reports, warranty claims, customer feedback, and field service records.

The Central Intelligence Agency's venture capitalist firm, In-Q-Tel, was so enamored with Attensity's technology that it served as an original investor. The company recently received another round of funding ($12 million) from a private venture capital firm, which understood the potential benefits the software can provide to enterprises with problems in leveraging the content they acquire and store. For example, an auto manufacturer has used the software to spot key phrases from thousands of technician reports completed by mechanics in its dealerships to identify a pervasive and expensive service problem with clogged fuel filters.

Relationship Discovery

Infoglide Software's application suite, Bladeworks, is a distributed data matching solution for nonobvious relationship discovery. Infoglide's agent-based technology can access multiple, disparate, remote databases, eliminating the need for data warehouses by creating a virtual data network. Infoglide's "similarity search" can identify inexact as well as exact matches. Organizations can employ the technology to assess real-time risk through examination of employee backgrounds, documented insurance and financial fraud, false aliases, identity theft, money laundering, underwriting losses, and homeland security risks.

FIGURE 2 - CopLink's networked software sentry monitors conditions over disparate databases.

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