Ten years of artificial intelligence developed in Ticino Canton to support national defense
21 June 2016
This year the Dalle Molle Institute for Artificial Intelligence (IDSIA, USI-SUPSI) celebrates the 10th anniversary of the partnership with Armasuisse, Science and Technology, the federal office in charge of the development of military decision-support systems for the armed forces. “We are grateful to the IDSIA research group for their excellent contribution and we are very happy to continue this collaboration to face the new challenges posed by the future” says Philippe Luginbühl, Risk Assessment Project Manager of Armasuisse. The Armasuisse Science and Technology Unit is in charge of the technological services used by the army; particular importance is given to the development of tools for risk analysis and security evaluation.

For almost thirty years now, IDSIA has been doing research in the field of artificial intelligence, also with a strong innovation impact at the cantonal level. More specifically, the team involved in the partnership with Armasuisse is the research group led by Prof. Marco Zaffalon (in particular, the researchers Antonucci, Huber and Vermes). This team is among the most influential research groups worldwide in the field of imprecise (or robust) probabilistic methods. These methods are used to realistically model expert knowledge (intelligent systems for decision support) as well as to extract knowledge from data in an automatic and reliable way (data mining/big data). Acknowledging the important work carried out by this team of researchers, Tom Dietterich, the President of the American Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence (AAAI), the most prestigious association of this kind, recently cited Prof. Zaffalon and Dr. Antonucci's work as an example of the future developments of intelligent systems.

The partnership between Armasuisse and IDSIA began in 2006 with the goal of automatising the task of detecting the intentions of an aircraft entering a restricted-flight area (e.g., an area surrounding a nuclear power plant, or the area of the World Economic Forum in Davos). On a large benchmark of intrusion scenarios, the system developed by IDSIA achieved the same recognition accuracy of a team of military experts. On this basis, Armasuisse decided to continue and expand the collaboration with the IDSIA research team, aiming to develop a general-purpose software tool to easily create "artificial experts" in various militar domains. Such a software tool, now called CREDO, can support military experts in a simple yet effective way during complex decision processes. CREDO has been used in 2013, during the seventh Multinational Experiment of NATO/PfP (Partnership for Peace) to evaluate the political acceptability of specific military strategies related to space defence (military satellites). The effectiveness of the software developed by IDSIA has been validated in a contest between a team of renowned NATO international experts and the artificial expert designed with CREDO. Again, the software tool achieved a performance similar to NATO experts in a large number of benchmark scenarios.

The partnership with Armasuisse is continuing and evolving in the direction of increasingly bigger and global models. It is in this evolving context that new collaborations have recently arisen: with the Armed Forces Command Support Organisation, in charge of the national defense from cyber-attacs and electronic warfare; and with the Armed Forces Staff, in charge of the implementation of political resolutions and operative guidelines at strategic and military level. These new projects represent important challenges for the researchers in order to satisfy the strict security requirements enforced at the federal level.