WASHINGTON — A Connecticut-based video analytics and cloud computing firm is pitching the U.S. Army on artificial intelligence technology that can tag cars, people and weapons in drone footage, saving troops from drowning in data.
IronYun used an appearance at the Association of the U.S. Army’s annual meeting to market a capability that uses multiple algorithms simultaneously running for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance — potentially saving thousands of man-hours of screen watching.
The idea of automatically searching through the reams of data brought in by military surveillance assets — often referred to as a “tsunami” by Pentagon experts — is increasingly realistic thanks to emerging AI capabilities.
AI is an emerging priority for the Defense Department, which has several significant AI initiatives underway. Google has contracted with the Pentagon for similar AI-drone services, under the banner of the controversial Project Maven.
On Monday, President and CEO Paul Sun demonstrated at the company’s booth how, by using a series of drop-down menus, a user could search footage for a group of three or more people — or, hypothetically, a person with a blue backpack getting into a yellow car.
On display was a breadbox-sized appliance, called CityEyes, which can simultaneously handle 32 camera feeds, though according to Sun, the system works across multiple platforms, with both analog and digital cameras. A separate server IronYun offers can handle hundreds of channels.
“We provide a software, just like we Google for text search,” Sun said. “It has face recognition, you can do a face search. … It’s not just face, you can search for any sort of vehicle, from bicycle to motorcycle to trucks. You can do counting and you can identify vehicle colors.”
The system can also in near-real time alert a user when it sees that same yellow car, or any other object it is tasked to find, according to Sun.
The sophisticated facial recognition software can distinguish between different ages and races, and as many as 30 facial features, like whether a person is bald, bearded or wearing glasses.
For the Army, the system could be trained to recognize its military assets — or that of an enemy for intelligence purposes. “You can use a drone that can tell you there are 20 bad guys here and a cannon, or whatever,” Sun said.
Already the system has been deployed on drones in factory parking lots in Asi, to guard against theft. “Instead of having security guards constantly patrol, they have experimented with using UAVs to assist,” Sun said.
The software has been deployed in 15 different countries, in airports, cities and private companies. Government agency customers include the Drug Enforcement Agency and FBI, according to Sun.
Asked about privacy concerns, Sun went to the example of a drug store client that uses the system; the system would recognize the face of a repeat, small-time shoplifter, but not the person’s name.
“If I’m a troublemaker, I walk into the store, the store doesn’t want to know what the name is, but it’s a repeat offender the store manager knows,” Sun said. “The minute they walk in, the store manager gets a hit and they tailgate the guy to say: ‘You’re not our favorite customer.’ ”
Sun sees the system as useful for recognizing a gun at a school to prevent school shootings. Or more mundane, to find a lost child in an airport.
“You could really save a mom a lot of grief,” he said.
Joe Gould is senior Pentagon reporter for Defense News, covering the intersection of national security policy, politics and the defense industry.