As most people know, more data doesn’t equal more insight. Every day, there are more and more sources of data flowing into military and intelligence networks that must be organized and analyzed quickly and efficiently for it to improve Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR).

Numerous experts weighed in with comments on this challenge in a recent article from Federal Times. The power of Big Data can be brought to bear to find the hidden nuggets buried deep inside structured and unstructured data, whether legacy or real-time.

“Big data analytics provide fast recognition of patterns, trends and anomalies,” said David Drake, technical director of the Communications and Information Directorate at the National Air and Space Intelligence Center. “This [technology] is well-suited to augment or even relieve human analytic burden when the area of interest is established and requires continual monitoring.”

Big Data can often see trends that humans would miss, said Jon “Doc” Kimminau, Air Force analysis mission technical adviser for the deputy chief of staff for ISR. “Big data analytics provide significant benefits in discovery — the identification of patterns, trends and anomalies —which otherwise might be hidden in the noise of everyday events,” he said. “These patterns and trends can richly inform analysis of the current situation. To the extent that the understanding of the past — previously not recognized — informs appreciation of current events, it supports and assists situational awareness.”

Of course, the power of Big Data can’t change an elemental necessity of analysis – deciding what data sources to accept in the first place. Captain Christopher Page, deputy director of Assured Command and Control in the Office of the Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Information Dominance, said that the Navy works very hard in deciding which data sources about foreign naval forces and other entities are suitable for introduction into its analysis workflows. “The good thing is that we’ll be able to spend more of our time on making those critical decisions and less of our time and money on reformatting and other archaic data integration processes,” Page told Federal Times.

“Humans will always be critical no matter how powerful Big Data analytic tools become, according to Lisa Shaler-Clark, deputy director, Futures, for the Army Intelligence and Security Command (INSCOM). “Their knowledge and experience guide the exploration of data to meet specific military needs,” she said. “Since the world keeps changing and bringing new challenges, the experienced human analysts bring their dynamic flexibility to build shared understanding.”

Our country’s military superiority in large measure depends on the superior situational awareness delivered by smarter technology in general, and increasingly Big Data analysis in particular. It’s the ultimate force multiplier when properly utilized, and the military will continue to refine how it’s brought to bear for the benefit of the warfighter.