Forward thinking

The goal of most new developments in knowledge management is to endow

such systems with what the industry refers to as predictive analysis capabilities

— using a mix of historical and real-time information to predict what may

happen in the future, such as new terrorist attacks.

Current software does a good job of analyzing large bodies of text-based

files and finding patterns and links that can be brought to the attention

of people using the system — a reactive type of analysis.

But it doesn't do as well when it comes to comparing the results produced

by pattern-recognition engines with information that flows into the system

in real time. Predictive analysis, which many knowledge management and information

retrieval vendors are now working on, is expected to provide that capability.

Here's how it might work for homeland security. The first step, according

to Sean Sullivan, manager of the special programs group at Autonomy Inc.,

might be to identify a particular behavior or characteristic of a person

or group as threatening, based on observations of past events.

"You might understand the meaning of the threat through their behavior

— they're talking about something in code, yet the code is consistent from

a mathematical standpoint as a pattern," Sullivan said.

The next step is matching new observations to that previously discovered

pattern. "Now there's a new behavior being exhibited, perhaps using different

words, but that would be similar to [an existing] pattern. That would be

a way to alert folks to say these people are having a phone conversation

that matches this type of profile or this type of content data."

Of all the challenges that need to be overcome to make these systems

possible, one of the most vexing has little to do with technology. It's

getting the right government agencies to cooperate. "To think about homeland

security and tying this all together, I can't imagine the scope of this,"

said Jim Ivers, director of sales for business intelligence at Information

Builders Inc. "The politics certainly becomes an issue."

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