Is ‘sentient data’ the future of battlefield comm?

Is ‘sentient data’ the future of battlefield comm?

Imagine a warfighter who can transmit data to other soldiers and electronic systems without having to think about it -- much as some muscles involuntarily perform their functions without conscious commands. 

This is not science fiction, but rather a new level of situational awareness that Army researchers and medical professionals discussed during the 2015 Mad Scientist Conference, which explored how existing technologies will be used in new ways in the future.

This “sentient data” idea involves implanting sensor systems into soldiers, that would then communicate and transmit data to sensors in other people and systems.  Researchers explained that the data would be sentient in that it would know not to transmit to adversaries, and would even resist hacking attempts. 

Soldiers would be able to carry out certain functions without making conscious decisions because the data transmitted would provide situational awareness and mission command functions, according to Thomas Greco, director of intelligence for U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command.

Described as a “man-machine partnership,” the sentient data could “enhance soldier potential for learning, much the same way a computer can teach a person how to become a grand master at chess,” the Army said.

Although the sentient data systems would essentially plug soldiers into the Internet of Things, they would know how much information soldiers need at any given time and avoid cognitive overload. 

This greater knowledge base could reduce battlefield ambiguity, Greco explained, but could “impact order and discipline in ways that are unanticipated.” 

About the Author

Mark Pomerleau is a former editorial fellow with GCN and Defense Systems.

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