AFRL tool makes suite work of intelligence analysis

AFRL ERNEST intell analysis tool

Air Force behavioral scientists work with ERNEST during a demonstration.

Air Force researchers have created a tool that could make intelligence analysts’ jobs a little easier—an integrated suite of software programs that can streamline many of their regular tasks.

ERNEST, which stands for Enhanced Reporting, Narrative Event Streaming Tool, combines a video player, speech-to-text program, slide maker, chat program and other tools into one package that can help analysts improve their overall effectiveness, according to the Air Force.

The tool is the result of thousands of hours of research that involved more than just mixing and matching technologies. Researchers from the Air Force Research Laboratory at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, collaborated with subject matter experts and analysts around the country to study how analysts work in order to design the most effective tool.

"In the development of this software we visited at least five different bases and interviewed hundreds of different analysts to get a good understanding on how they perform their job," said Dr. Daniel Zelik, a senior cognitive systems engineer with the 711th Human Performance Wing's Human Analyst Augmentation Branch. "This enabled us to have confidence that we are developing the software that it is grounded in how analysts actually do their job."  

The team also included subject matter experts from the Human Effectiveness Directorate, Sensors Directorate and Information Directorate, as well as educational and industry partners, the Air Force said.

In addition to talking with analysts, researchers also studied how they would work with ERNEST, monitoring such things as their heart and respiration rates and where their eyes moved to on a screen.

"This allowed us to perform an apple-to-apple comparison to our envisioned concept [for the software] to how the analysts would actually use it," Zelik said.

The team will conduct further tests in the weeks ahead and make changes where necessary. There is no indication yet of when it might be deployed.

Intelligence analysts, of course, are on the receiving end of an increasing volume of data, sent in from manned and unmanned vehicles, ground sensors and other sources. Any tool that can help them sort through that information more efficiently would likely be welcome.

About the Author

Kevin McCaney is a former editor of Defense Systems and GCN.

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