DHS launches visual computing center

The Homeland Security Department today took the wraps off the National Visual Analytics Center, a $2.5 million project at the Energy Department's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory for visual computing research.

'Being able to collect, combine and analyze vast amounts of information plays an ever-increasing role in preventing terrorist attacks in the United States, and visual analysis of this information is a crucial tool,' DHS Science and Technology Directorate under secretary Charles McQueary said in a statement.

The department said NVAC would gather an interdisciplinary team to plan research on the analysis of 'enormous, dynamic and complex information streams that consist of unstructured text documents, measurements, images and video data.'

Visual analytics technology plays an important role in teasing out relationships among stored data objects such as people, events, vehicles, ships, weapons, locations, meetings, bank accounts, organizations and buildings for intelligence purposes.

Jim Thomas, PNNL's chief scientist for information technologies, will be NVAC's director.

'Visual analytics combines the art of human intuition and the science of mathematical deduction to perceive patterns and derive knowledge and insight from them,' he said. 'With our success in developing and delivering new technologies, we are paving the way for fundamentally new tools to deal with the huge digital libraries of the future, whether for terrorist threat detection or new interactions with potentially life-saving drugs.'

The systems can help discover the absence of information, often a key clue, DHS said.

NVAC will conduct research and development, evaluate and implement technology, integrate and coordinate research across agencies and educational programs, the department said. The department's plans call for the center to establish four or five regional visual analytics centers next year.

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