The mission: develop a program. The deadline: 24 hours. Sound impossible? Not for the soldiers participating in the biggest C5I (Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Cyber, and Intelligence) Directorate programming competition: the Hackathon.
“The civilian world is constantly developing technologically and we want to coordinate the IDF (Zahal)’s technological development with it, knowing the next battle will be in the cyber world,” says Lt. Col Nurit, head of the Technology Branch of the LOTEM IT Division, which deals with IT innovations in the IDF (Zahal), big data, and analytics. This year, the Hackathon focused on Chatbot technology, a program that can conduct a conversation by studying human behavior and responses. Dressed in civilian clothes to get into that programming mood and barely leaving their workstations, these soldiers came up with some amazing and creative ideas. Here are some of the best:
An AI first response
An emergency can happen anywhere, anytime, and to anyone. But under stress, it can be difficult to remember who to contact. Enter the Blue Light chatbot: you just write it a message, and it automatically classifies the situation and notifies the suitable authorities – the IDF (Zahal), police, firefighters or even the city council. If the bot doesn’t quite understand the situation or the location, it’ll ask more questions, just like in a real conversation.
Mr. Know It All
This bot’s purpose is to help soldiers and civilians with any army-related question they may have. Like any good student, it’s learning a step at a time. “We’re exposing the program to a lot of information, and then asking it questions about it,” Says Cpt. Nir, one of this project’s team leaders. “At first, the answer sounds weird and the words are kind of messed up, but as we keep explaining and teaching the program, it becomes more intelligent and capable of having a conversation, just like how a child learns.” The goal is to give answers to very specific and personal questions, so the more people use the chatbot, the more it’ll learn, giving more intelligent and helpful answers.
If these ideas weren’t innovative enough, a week later, the C5I officers course held their own Hackathon. This time, the cadets had more leeway for building creative and timely projects. For example:
Fake profile detector
About a month ago, Hamas tried a new tactic – Hamas operatives opened fake Facebook profiles to follow IDF (Zahal) soldiers and hack their phones. One Hackathon team decided to solve this problem at the source. They’re programming an app that can detect fake profiles by searching the web for their profile pictures and checking their friends list. If the picture is stolen, for instance, and if the suspicious profile’s friends aren’t connected in any way (are they from the same city or school? Do they share hobbies, or are they completely random?), the app can tell you it’s fake.