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‘IoT devices are a growing source of data that can be collected to learn intent’: IARPA director

IARPA Director Dr. Catherine Marsh speaking at DoDIIS 2021
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The Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA) is looking to IoT devices as a growing source of data collection for US Intelligence to learn the intent of its adversaries, according the spy agency director.

Speaking on the last day of the Department of Defense Intelligence Information System (DoDIIS) Worldwide Conference in Phoenix, Arizona on Wednesday, IARPA director Dr. Catherine Marsh gave an overview of why the spy agency existed and how it was expanding its data collection and analysis programs.

She explained that moving beyond collecting data from remote cameras, Internet of Things (IoT) devices have now become a growing source of data for the Intelligence Community to collect, analyze, and learn about the intent of its adversaries.

Catherine Marsh, IARPA
Catherine Marsh

“Internet of Thing devices are a growing source of data that can be collected to learn intent” — Catherine Marsh, IARPA

Marsh explained that IARPA research was organized into two offices: analysis and collection.

“The goal of the analysis research is to maximize insights from the massive disparate, unreliable and dynamic data that are (or could be) available to analysts in a timely manner,” she said.

“This enduring issue is not getting any easier as the volume, speed, diversity, and veracity of the data information collected is continually increasing and changing.

“Moreover, analysts must link the data to the possible outcomes.

“IARPA is applying leading-edge AI and machine learning techniques to make this growing challenge tractable,” the IARPA director added.

“Reliable intelligence requires analytical techniques that can handle massive amounts of data and deliver relevant, accurate information to decisionmakers, with enough warning that actions could be taken to protect the security of our nation and its people” — Catherine Marsh, IARPA

IARPA Analysis and Collection Research Programs

“Developing these new sensors and detectors, as well as thinking about clever ways to collect multi-modal data to reveal what our adversaries are attempting to hide from us is at the very core of what our collection programs are aimed at doing” — Catherine Marsh, IARPA

Marsh went on to explain, “The goal of the collections research is to dramatically improve the value of collected data from all the sources by developing new sensors and transmission technologies, new collection techniques that more precisely target the information decisionmakers need, and the means for collecting information from inaccessible or denied areas,” Marsh Added.

“These new sources for collection are not without challenges themselves.

“For example, remote sensors and cameras have become ubiquitous across the world, and they’re a source of data that intelligence agencies did not have for them a generation ago.

“Smart collection techniques are needed to collect the right data from these sources and preprocess it in the field to provide useful information rapidly to analysts.

“Similarly, Internet of Thing devices are a growing source of data that can be collected to learn intent.

“Developing these new sensors and detectors, as well as thinking about clever ways to collect multi-modal data to reveal what our adversaries are attempting to hide from us is at the very core of what our collection programs are aimed at doing,” she added.

“The goal of the collections research is to dramatically improve the value of collected data from all the sources by developing new sensors and transmission technologies” — Catherine Marsh, IARPA

If US intelligence is collecting data from its adversaries IoT devices, then would it not stand to reason that adversaries are collecting IoT data on America and its allies as well?

According to Marsh, “The definition of intelligence is ‘providing advanced warning of possible events to come.

“Reliable intelligence requires analytical techniques that can handle massive amounts of data and deliver relevant, accurate information to decisionmakers, with enough warning that actions could be taken to protect the security of our nation and its people,” she added.

Organized by the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), the DoDIIS conference took place in Phoenix, Arizona from December 5-8 under the theme: “Foresight 20/20: Building a New Digital Ecosystem.”

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Tim Hinchliffe
Tim Hinchliffe is the editor of The Sociable. His passions include writing about how technology impacts society and the parallels between Artificial Intelligence and Mythology. Previously, he was a reporter for the Ghanaian Chronicle in West Africa and an editor at Colombia Reports in South America. tim@sociable.co