by Keren Setton
JERUSALEM, July 13 (Xinhua) -- "We are on the cusp of great things," Nurit Cohen Inger, new chief data officer for the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), said in an exclusive interview with Xinhua.
Inger is tasked with forming a strategic plan for how big data will be utilized in the IDF and how to incorporate as much Artificial Intelligence (AI) as possible, not only in the battlefield, but also in the army's daily routine.
"The IDF needs to become data-driven," she said. "We are bringing the digital age to the army. In order to be data-based for the military, we need to create apps, connect to the Internet and find complex multi-layered solutions."
With sensors, cameras and other means supplying enormous amounts of data, the army wants to learn to take advantage of the wealth of information, she added.
"The strategy is about bringing operational benefits based on information," Inger told Xinhua. "We want to give the IDF operational and cyber superiority through the information which will allow it to be better, more efficient and more effective."
Inger said data analysts, engineers and scientists need to be trained for new roles that did not exist in the military until two years ago.
With army service obligatory for most Israelis who reach the age of 18, there are thousands of fresh minds available every year. They will now be selected carefully with the help of AI, and then get rigorous training to become data soldiers.
Service for males is about three years and two years for women. Candidates who serve in one of the army's technological units tend to give more of their time to the army, in return for the massive training they receive.
Data analysts and scientists will serve for up to six years. Some will remain for longer and become senior officers, while others will leave and use their knowledge in the civilian arena. This is considered one of the leading factors in Israel's hi-tech success.
Soldiers trained to be programmers will engage in an intensive six-month professional course and complete their Bachelor's degree during the service. Some will also start their Master's degree while still in uniform.
While the army is constantly learning from the academia and from the civilian world, the IDF also masters technological independence to a certain degree.
"We are able to produce very high-quality products on our own, without industries, without professors accompanying us," said Inger.
There are systems which the army has acquired from civilian firms and tweaked for its usage, such as facial recognition technology.
Inger confirmed that there is cooperation with foreign armies, but she was not at liberty to divulge further details.
"The IDF is an army that learns and there are many layers of knowledge being exchanged," Inger said.
In recent weeks, arson kites sent from the Gaza Strip have sparked large fires in southern Israel. A solution to the low-tech weapon has yet to be found.
"It is our job to be agile. The enemy will surprise us and AI serves us by finding these anomalies. Just as we get used to one reality, it changes. AI never gets used to reality. It constantly learns and helps us find the delta," Inger said.