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Since 9/11, intelligence agencies need to be able to extract pertinent clues from vast amounts of routine information in order to track terrorists.

Tomek Strzalkowski, of UAlbany’s Department of Computer Science, has created a kind of computerized "Sherlock Holmes" designed to quickly track such important and relevant information. Tomek Strzalkowski

The system is called High-Quality Interactive Question Answering, and is funded by the Advanced Research and Development Activity (ARDA) under the AQUAINT program, which develops advanced tools for intelligence analysts. Analysts need to be able to quickly sort through foreign affairs information that may come from numerous sources, in many different languages and to zero in on pertinent facts in order to brief government and military officials on the latest developments.

"The challenge here is to digest this much more quickly than any human can," says Strzalkowski. "Essentially it means being a detective and this is where computers can help – they remember things forever and make the connections. The computer cannot decide what is bad news, but it can alert you to information that may be problematic." The computer data gives the analyst the whole picture and doesn’t overlook information because of personal bias.

Another system, already built, that also retrieves information is called the Cross-Document Summarizer (called XDoX). It takes a 24-hour stream of broadcast, wire and text news from around the world and condenses it into a summarized version. "Ask it to summarize and provide a digest, and it will follow through," said Strzalkowski. "This is an extremely important time-saving device. It can tell you either there is nothing new here today, or that there is something happening."

As head of the Institute for Informatics, Logics, and Security Studies, Strzalkowski works with colleagues from around the world on these and other projects. The Institute’s research is funded by a variety of sponsors, including the ARDA; the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA); the European Commission; the National Science Foundation (NSF); U.S. Department of Education; and the Office of Naval Research. With additional grants from the NSF and the U.S. Department of Education, the institute is also developing an information security laboratory, which will be used for research and teaching by students, faculty, and New York State agencies.

For more information contact Tomek Strzalkowski.Tell Us Your Story

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