DIA reveals new gateway for disruptive technologies

In its ongoing effort to find innovative technologies and accelerate the acquisition process, the Defense Intelligence Agency has been developing new methods to interact with industry and non-traditional partners. One of these methods—the Open Innovation Gateway—is nearing completion.

DIA demonstrated the nearly-finished OIG June 25, during the second day of the DIA Innovation Day 2014 symposium held at the agency’s headquarters.

The gateway is a Web-based emulation of DIA’s operational environment and mission systems architecture that would streamline the discovery, evaluation and transition of technologies. Mission users, such as intelligence analysts, will be able to register through the Gateway to test and use technologies provided by industry. Conversely, industry users will also be able to register and supply their technologies—if they pass DIA’s security requirements.

These security requirements and the standardized nature of the environment represent the only real barriers of entry, and a lower entry barrier means that DIA can more effectively crowdsource projects to a much broader population than can be achieved through traditional acquisition processes.

“The value of this platform is really in the number of participants that we have in the space and so it’s designed completely to be self-service,” Zacharie Hall, a computer scientist with USD(I)/ Intelligence Systems Support Office, said during the unveiling of the Gateway. “That includes the registration, the brokering of your capabilities, the communication between users and providers—all of that is decentralized and self-service.”

And because the system can be accessed via the Internet, it is easier for DIA to reach non-traditional performers across geographical barriers and directly connect them to mission users.

“It’s Internet accessible. You do not have to come to our lab, you don’t have to come to our spaces to participate in this framework. You can be a garage innovator in Austin, Texas, or a graduate student in Berkeley and participate in this model,” said Dan Doney, DIA’s chief information officer. “You do not need a security clearance in order to participate in this space,” he added. “So you will have access to your developers, your folks who work for you aren’t able to get on-site here who can contribute and can understand pieces of our mission that don’t have high sensitivity.”

Contributors will still have to be vetted by DIA, however. Once they pass, a PKI certification will be provided that will allow access into OIG. Capabilities providers will then be able to form collaborative groups and choose who can access their technology within the framework. While it would make sense to open up applications to government users, providers can technically hide their technologies from everyone, if they chose to do so.

For the demonstration, DIA selected several providers through a competitive solicitation to show Web-based capabilities in the Gateway. These included Altamira’s Lumify, General Dynamics Information Technology, General Dynamics Advanced Information Systems, Palantir, SitScape and SpaceCurve. The technologies demonstrated are all Internet-accessible and provide a variety of services such as big data analysis and open source visualization.

For instance, in the first industry experience demonstration, Altamira officials used the Gateway to pull up their program, Lumify. They then were able to launch and demonstrate their product, an open source, big data analysis and visualization program, from the browser.

While the framework will allow providers to match mission needs with technology, innovators will especially have to make sure that their products are user friendly. The system will be able to monitor, in almost real-time, who is accessing what, giving program or acquisitions managers the ability to see what technologies are trending or popular. User feedback will also be provided through the use of the wiki system designed to link mission users and providers.

For providers, this means that they will be able to judge how much interest there is in their products and potential ways to improve their technologies. Meanwhile, acquisitions managers will be able to see which technologies are best suited for end-user needs.

DIA is still working out the legal, acquisitions and contracting aspects of acquiring technology through OIG, Doney said. Technologies would still have to pass DIA accreditation tests, but could still be acquired through existing acquisitions frameworks such as NeedipeDIA.

The Gateway, in particular, is looking for disruptive technologies that could potentially revolutionize the marketplace and how intelligence is conducted. By using OIG, hands-on testing of emerging technologies by DIA mission users can validate almost absurd capabilities claims that might have been disregarded or ignored in a traditional acquisitions environment.

“We need to find new models where we can discover those things that are out there where we can have the disruptive technology prove its worth to us before we invest heavily in it,” Doney said.

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