Chairman’s EOFY Message

Following a year of “visible achievement” where we demonstrated our capabilities, the D2D CRC has quickly moved to trialling them with government agencies, resulting in close engagement with front line analysts.  Our three major technology programs, Apostle, Beat the News and Integrated Law Enforcement, have been successfully trialled by several national security agencies, with very positive feedback received to date. Such successful engagement has also opened up our work to more agencies, such as the Department of Immigration and Border Protection.

The last year also saw the completion of several projects:

  • The Immersive Intelligence PodProject conducted by University of South Australia created visualisation techniques to demonstrate the relationship between moving entities.  This capability has been patented and was licensed to Esri Australia for further development for the Department of Defence.
  • The Large-scale Image Classificationand Exploiting Contextual Cues in Large-scale Machine Learning projects conducted by University of Adelaide developed world class capability for object identification in images and video and the automation of image captioning, respectively. Both projects ranked highly in international competitions, with the object identification capability finishing 1st in the CityScapes competition, 2nd in the ImageNet Scene Parsing competition and 4th in the ImageNet Detection competition. Some of this capability will be used in new projects with Defence.  
  • The Topic Mining and Trend Monitoring Project conducted by La Trobe University created scalable topic capturing algorithms which were integrated into CaseGenix, a product developed by the CRC’s industry partner, Genix Ventures. 
  • The Law and Policy project Big Data Technology and National Security: Comparative International Perspectives on Strategy, Policy and Law in Australia, the United Kingdom and Canada conducted by UNSW Law and Deakin University delivered a series of five research reports and published their findings in international journals and as book chapters.

The CRC’s Law and Policy Team has also worked closely with end-user agencies to identify and respond to their needs for independent research:

  • A study on a governance framework for the National Criminal Intelligence System (NCIS) was delivered to the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission (ACIC).
  • A study for the ACIC on information sharing will be concluded shortly. The study considers legal and policy aspects relating to information sharing as well as data drawn from interviews and focus groups.
  • A report on Identity Assurance, ‘Pattern of Life’ and Big Data Analytics was provided to the Attorney General’s Department.

The Law and Policy Team is now developing a new project with Defence Science and Technology Group and several other agencies.

The Education and Training Program has produced a Data Science Competency Framework, an Australian first. The framework defines a series of competencies specifically focused on describing the abilities, knowledge and experience required by data scientists, data engineers and data analysts. This framework is also the basis for our Data Science Development Planning Tool, whichis an online self-assessment system that enables people to identify gaps in their competencies. In turn, the tool provides development options for data scientists, data engineers and data analysts of any level.  Both the framework and tool have been piloted by a small group of end user agencies and it will become more widely available later in the year.

More broadly in our Education and Training Program, we welcomed another 23 PhD students in 2016/17, bringing our total cohort to 46 PhD students at the end of the year.  We have also hosted eight interns and supported five Honours students through various programs and trained 325 data scientists in the D2D seminar series.

And to top off these achievements, we hosted yet another very successful annual conference which attracted over 160 people.

Our collaboration in other sectors is also progressing very well.  We established the Health Analytics Program transferring knowledge and expertise developed in Big Data R&D for national security to the health industry.   This covers four projects: linking mental health data, pandemic outbreak modelling, reducing complications in cardiac procedures and emergency waiting times application.  Our work with the Sheep CRC concluded with the launch of the ASKBILL application, a web-based system that predicts risks to livestock.  Still in agriculture, we joined the Precision to Decision Agriculture Project, which is funded by the Australian Government Department of Agriculture and Water Resources as part of its Rural R&D for Profit Program. D2D’s role has been to lead the development of an Agriculture Data System Architecture which will provide a common framework and guidance around the use of Big Data collection, storage and analysis in agriculture.

On the Board of Directors, we said farewell to Professor Hugh Durrant-Whyte who took up the position of Chief Scientific Advisor to the UK Ministry of Defence.  Following Hugh’s resignation, we welcomed Andrew Stead as a new director, bringing with him significant expertise that will help us progress our commercialisation efforts.

Our management team, led by CEO Sanjay Mazumdar, our CTO Brenton Cooper and COO Niall Fay, continues to do a sterling job and has grown with the addition of a commercialisation manager.

Given our passion for data analytics and our belief that they will play an increasingly important role in Australia’s national security decisions, we were ideally placed to contribute to the 2017 Independent Review of the Australian Intelligence Community (AIC). Our submission focused on the need among the AIC and law enforcement agencies for:

  • effective sharing and coordination of data analytics capabilities;
  • the development of common capabilities across the Community;
  • a coordinated approach to legislative and policy changes to support agencies’ functions; and
  • a coordinated approach to assess and address current and emerging technology and workforce gaps.

As we move into our fourth year, we are seeing increasingly productive collaboration with our government partners, particularly as we engage with analysts at the ‘coal face’ of national security analytics.  The in-agency trials are introducing analysts to the power of the D2D capabilities and, in turn, their expertise is helping us build world class tools to help them make decisions faster and more accurately.  In the coming year we hope to engage more deeply with analysts in agencies who are on the front line of Australia’s national security challenge.

Tim Scully