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NIWC Atlantic Prototype Rolls Open Source Data, Sentiment into One Dashboard

10 June 2021

From Steve Ghiringhelli

CHARLESTON, S.C. - NIWC Atlantic recently unveiled a new dashboard technology called Integrated Visualizations for Operations Running in an Information Environment (IVORIE) that provides Marines increased battlespace awareness by collecting and making sense of endless streams of open source information.

Called Integrated Visualizations for Operations Running in an Information Environment (IVORIE), the unique capability carefully pulls from disparate open sources and integrates thousands of pieces of news, social media and other online data into one geospatially configured interface.

The end state is a computer monitor with a vivid and detailed display that projects a clearer picture on the information front for commanders and decision-makers.

NIWC Atlantic demonstrated IVORIE for Marines and others at Camp Lejeune during Naval Integration in Contested Environments (NICE) Advanced Naval Technology Exercise (ANTX), which ended in mid-April.

“A critical element of military information power is taking into account the mountains and mountains of open source data,” said Peter C. Reddy, NIWC Atlantic executive director, who saw the technology demonstrated at ANTX on April 12. “IVORIE is an important step toward seamlessly integrating open source and social media information with the traditional data streams Marines already capture and process.”

IVORIE was created to help move Marines away from disjointed and time-consuming processes that do not lend well to collaboration. It automatically aggregates and analyzes data from hundreds of sources based on various topics, discussion boards and other inputs. Software using artificial intelligence and machine learning can then track things like languages, demographics, top posts and authors, as well as trending hashtags, URLs and geo-references.

During one demonstration at ANTX, the IVORIE dashboard provided a notional command with a list of the most prolific social media users active in one geographic location. Of the myriad posts collected during the hypothetical scenario, some unique authors were generating tens of thousands of posts, typically meaning a bot was at work, said Michael Grass, IVORIE project lead at NIWC Atlantic.

Botnet detection is one of the key algorithms conceived and designed for IVORIE by members of NIWC Atlantic’s science and technology (S&T) department where Grass works. Using a supervised machine-learning classifier, it identifies inauthentic activity by looping through data and finding “inorganic clusters of information” where social media accounts are liking, retweeting, sharing or “at-mentioning” themselves and their affiliations.

The automated technology also locates “bridge nodes,” where one bot takes misinformation and disinformation from one group and shares it to another.

“Instantaneous, at-a-glance views of many layers of assimilated information and automated analysis can provide Marines crucial insights into the information environment,” said Jeffrey Sims, one of several team leads in the intelligence division of NIWC Atlantic’s expeditionary warfare department, whose main customer is the Marine Corps. “That can help warfighters carry out more effective command and control functions and win the information war into the future.”

Another key component of IVORIE has been the development of an algorithm that analyzes social media “sentiment” across three major dimensions: pleasantness (unhappy/happy), activation (calm/excited) and dominance (feelings of external/internal control).

“Sentiment analysis is a really good way to understand how people feel about a particular topic you are tracking,” Grass said. “In social anthropology, the precursor to social unrest or a kinetic event typically involves people who are angry, hyper alert and feel a loss of control.”

Sifting through sentiment in the frenzied ether of online data, IVORIE calculates not only which open source personas and communities are real but also which ones are most influential.

“That is tremendously helpful to those in command information and public affairs,” Grass said. “It helps them understand the ‘who’s who in the zoo’ kinds of specifics they need to do their jobs.”

Grass, who works in the forecasting section of the S&T department, said some of the original work on IVORIE’s models and algorithms were developed by the department’s research and applied sciences. The small NIWC Atlantic team that worked on IVORIE has more recently added new professionals and interns from the data science and analytics competency.

NIWC Atlantic also collaborated with industry partners and brought in NIWC Pacific for help on things like human systems integration. The final IVORIE product merges open source collection with trend analysis.

Based on further testing and evaluation over the next year, the IVORIE team hopes to transition its prototype into an operational capability.

About NIWC Atlantic
As a part of Naval Information Warfare Systems Command, NIWC Atlantic provides systems engineering and acquisition to deliver information warfare capabilities to the naval, joint and national warfighter through the acquisition, development, integration, production, test, deployment, and sustainment of interoperable command, control, communications, computer, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance, cyber and information technology capabilities.

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