Electronic Design

Vigilant Computer Agents Protect The Homeland

Each day, Oak Ridge National Laboratory dispatches thousands of agents on a search for threats to national security. While these agents maintain 24/7 vigilance, they aren't elite government operatives. They're software programs that scan the Internet, satellite images, and hundreds of newspapers and databases worldwide for potential dangers. Also, they can reproduce and spin off specialized agents to focus on data that requires further examination.

"The challenge is to take an incredible amount of information and very quickly determine what represents a true threat to our safety," says Thomas Potok, who leads a research team in the lab's Computational Sciences & Engineering Division. "It's like having a stack of 100,000 pages and having to find the 20 pages that contain information critical to national security."

Beyond surfing the Web, the software could analyze data from security cameras. On the battlefield, agents could gather information from multiple sources, analyze it instantly, prioritize it, and send it to a command center. Overall, this classification helps human beings focus on meaningful information instead of spending time sorting through piles of initial data.

For details, go to www.ornl.gov.

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