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Global Big Data Defence Summit 2017
Global Big Data Defence Summit 2017 14/06/2017
What projects is NATO working on at the moment and how does big data fit into them?

Robert Murray is the Head of Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) at NATO Headquarters. Rob shared his perspectives on the role Big Data plays in NATO’s latest projects, as well as the importance of data interoperability within a multi-source environment.

Rob will be presenting on 26th June 2017 (Day 1) at 9.30 am on Big Data and NATO

1. How is Big Data becoming more prevalent in ISR?

Big data is not necessarily more prevalent in ISR than other military areas, but ISR is all about understanding the ‘what, where, when and how’ in order to unlock the ‘why’. When this happens, it allows decision makers to make better and timelier decisions. If the ISR world can learn to harness big data it will allow for us to achieve what I call 'decision advantage'.

2. What is NATO doing right now in terms of Big Data?

We have a number of activities going on at present. One important current area of work is the NATO Industry Advisory Group’s study on Big Data which will allow NATO to understand where industry's thoughts are on what the art of the possible might be in terms of making best use of future technology for big data analysis.

3. What projects are NATO working on at the moment and how does big data fit into them?

A major effort ongoing right now in NATO is bringing into service a new drone (or 'Remotely Piloted Aircraft System' in military jargon) known as Alliance Ground Surveillance which will be able collect vast sums of data through its radar. How NATO handles and analyses this data, so that the data can be turned into useful information and intelligence, is unquestionably a big data problem, one which the NATO team is currently addressing.

4. If you were a soldier in the field, what sort of analytics are most important to you?

I think it really depends on the role. If you are a combat soldier then you need a clear understanding of the key analytics and intelligence for your task - analysed big data can help here, but if it is raw, then it can't and in fact it will likely be ignored. I think this is one of the major issues which big data proponents need to get around, namely de-mystifying the language and perception of big data and boiling it down so that clear insights can be drawn. Big data needs to help keep things simple, not add extra confusion and a combat soldier needs tools to help him or her have clarity of the task in hand.

5. How does NATO make the data interoperable given the pace of contemporary operations?

Both procedural and technical Interoperability is really at the heart of NATO and has been for many decades well before 'Big Data' became en vogue. In essence, NATO creates standards which Allies agree to and who subsequently operate to those standards to ensure all the 'zeros and ones' go where they need to go and that everyone talks the same language procedurally. It is a challenge to keep these standards up to date, but with various R&D efforts that are continuously occurring, plus all of the lessons that are coming out of current operations, the Alliance does a pretty good job.

6. An overview of NATO’s mission

NATO has three core tasks: collective defence, crisis management and cooperative security and all of these are really seeking to project stability in one way or another. To be able to do this effectively key NATO decision makers, both civilian and military, need timely and reliable information and intelligence and it is here where harnessing big data has the potential to add significant value.

7. An overview of your experience

For me personally, I've been a member of NATO's International Staff for just over four years and prior to that I was a British Army Officer. What impresses me most about the NATO environment is the diversity of the team who span from all of the NATO nations and who come with a really mixed professional background. This genuinely enables activities to take place which just wouldn't be possible in a national setting, regardless of which NATO nation that might be, and this international approach is a very unique function of the Alliance which I've seen flourish first hand. With that in mind, the Alliance is well placed to further develop some of the key answers associated to big data, from a defence perspective, and all that it entails.

Click here to see the agenda preview or download the full one here.

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