Defence pays $4M to tap into IBM Watson

Defence pays $4M to tap into IBM Watson

Comes after Defence trialled Watson for psyops project

© Commonwealth of Australia, Department of Defence

© Commonwealth of Australia, Department of Defence

Credit: Dreamstime

Australia’s Department of Defence has granted IBM Australia a $4 million, three-year contract for the provision of its Watson cognitive computing infrastructure.

“Defence has acquired a cognitive computing platform,” a spokesperson for the Department told ARN. “The platform will provide a cognitive, artificial intelligence and machine learning capability for use by Defence.

“Under this contract, IBM has been engaged to provide the delivery of a Watson appliance and services including the implementation and IRAP [InfoSec Registered Assessors Program] certification of the environment,” the spokesperson said.

While the Department of Defence spokesperson stopped short of detailing the specific purpose of the cognitive computing provision, the deal -- which was awarded via a limited tender process -- comes roughly 18 months after the Department trialled the technology for a psychological operations (psyops) project.

As reported by ARN’s sister publication, Computerworld, in May last year, the Department of Defence’s chief technology officer, Mohan Aiyaswami, revealed at a Cebit eGovernment conference in Sydney that the Department had carried out trials using IBM’s cognitive computing platform.

Specifically, Aiyaswami said that the platform had been used for a proof-of-concept project involving the support of psyops, which are operations undertaken to convey selected information and indicators to foreign audiences to influence their behaviour and motives, among other things.

As reported by Computerworld, the trials saw the Watson platform used to help analyse intelligence and select target audiences that could be considered effective in realising the goals of a psyops mission.

“Watson has been very helpful in doing this analysis for us,” Aiyaswami said.

According to Aiyaswami, cognitive computing plays an important part of the ongoing information transformation being undertaken by the country’s armed forces.

In November last year, the Department of Defence updated its ongoing IT transformation activities, with the release of its Defence Information and Communications Technology Strategic Direction 2016-2020, which outlined plans to spend $20 billion on IT over a 10-year period.

The strategic plan outlined how the Department intends to undertake its technology overhaul up until at least 2020.

The paper also outlined the Department's ongoing Single Information Environment push, which sees the consolidation of data centres, infrastructure remediation, and high speed networking.

The Department of Defence is generally considered to be the biggest spender on IT and technology of any single Federal Government entity.

The Department’s Chief Information Officer Group (CIOG), which is charged with managing and maintaining defence’s fixed and mobile IT networks, is currently heading up the long-term technology transformation, which has seen it hand out lucrative contracts to the likes of Leidos Australia and Oracle, among many others.

Last year the software vendor was awarded a $113.6 million, one-year contract, beginning 9 December, for the provision of software licences and support.

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Tags department of defenceWatsoncognitive computing

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