Why it matters

Big Data is a consequence of the growth of digital data on the Internet and the number of objects connected to the Internet (see previous article on Internet of Things).  

But when is data big? In essence, it is when traditional computing capabilities (storage, analysis, transfer networks and visualisation) can no longer cope with the quantity, speed, complexity or quality of the data which overwhelms us humans beings. Examples include: email, social data, XML data, videos, audio files, photos, GPS, satellite images, sensor data, spreadsheets, web log data, mobile data, RFID tags and PDF docs. This has called for investment in innovative hardware and software architectures (such as open-standard Hadoop Distributed File System and associated application MapReduce). Big Data is being seized upon by the private sector to improve decision-making and predict future events. For example, using Big Data, telecommunications and transport companies can now better predict customer usage, supermarkets can predict what products will sell and car insurance companies understand how well their customers actually drive. 
This is important because the ability to harness the ever-expanding amounts of data is transforming our capacity to understand the world and everything within it.
The advances in analysing Big Data allow us to, for example, decode human DNA in minutes, find cures for cancer, accurately predict human behaviour, foil terrorist attacks, pinpoint marketing efforts and prevent diseases. Big Data is used to better understand customers and their behaviours and preferences getting a more complete picture in order to create predictive models. So what does this mean for defence capabilities?

What the EDA does

The EDA study ‘Big Data in Defence Modelling & Simulation environments’ (BIDADEMS) sought to explore the Big Data domain to understand how its tools and techniques could best be applied to Modelling & Simulation (M&S) activities in the Defence environment.

The aim was to understand the impact on M&S across the full breadth of its use in the life cycle of future military systems. The output of the study is an Assessment Matrix mapping Big Data tools to M&S areas to facilitate future defence collaborative projects in developing the next generation of military simulation systems in a way that optimises the use of Big Data tools and processes. Those areas are: 

  • Programme Preparation: development of future operating concepts and capability management activities:

  • Operational Analysis: analytical techniques used to inform defence decision making:

  • System Development: acquisition, development and fielding of new or enhanced military capabilities:  

  • Training: development of in-service doctrine, analysis to identify training gaps, retention issues, alternative training methods, and Live, Virtual or Constructive military training: 

  • Support to Operations: decision making support to the planning and conduct of operational activities.

The way ahead

Further analysis is needed to see how commercial Big Data applications can serve the security and defence sector and examine the potential benefits. 

Careful concurrent R&T and capability management will be required if Big Data benefits are to be realised. Defence has to face the challenge and invest in Big Data technologies and associated infrastructures that will be adapted and oriented to the characteristics of the defence priorities. EDA collaborative projects will serve this purpose as the requests of support to decision making for Operational Analysis or Support to Operations, Defence Systems development and Training are increasing for the success of Joint Force Operations and the European Military Bodies.

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