Information & Communication
- Multi-spectral data processing
- Distributed array processing
Data fusion involves forming useful relationships between data from different sources to provide salient information which is more readily assimilated.
On one hand the information age imposes a certain degree of information overload, and on the other hand it can provide the filters, "digesters," and human interfaces, both to highlight key relationships and to suppress extraneous data. These have direct application to economic optimization by decision-makers and their staffs, and by organizations which provide input to decision-makers. Alternatively they provide the tools for modeling and synthesizing new products, such as pharmaceuticals, exotic materials, lower cost common materials. Therefore, data fusion is an important part of harnessing information technology, and to obtaining better information for other endeavors.
There is also important applicability of data fusion to national security and warfighting. Highlighting key relationships, and simultaneously suppressing extraneous data can have direct application to tactical and strategic decisions made by commanders. They would have presented to them a digitized battlefield, plus its companion decision support system. This real-time data concerning locations of friendly and enemy forces, casualties, resource expenditures (such as ammunition, fuel, food, water, etc.) can be presented in a manner which is customized for the particular style of each commander who receives it. Other key applications are in reducing casualties and in force multiplication. Automatic Target Recognizers, Pilot's Associate, and other automated aids help to both reduce the vulnerability, and increase the lethality of our numerically limited forces.
The United States is probably at the forefront of this immature field. Japan is next, with Europe close behind. Because of its history of leadership in super-computing, remote sensing, and movie making, the U.S. has the most experience in operating on complex data to put it into a useful form, be it displaying turbulent flow, multispectral satellite imagery, or complex, imaginary worlds on the silver screen. The new NASA EOSDIS (Earth Observation Satellite Distributed Implementation System) will be the biggest user of data fusion in the world. However, discriminating salient information from a morass of multi-dimensional data, and then operating on it to produce cognitively transparent relationships is a challenge. The understanding of how to do this will likely evolve in response to a parallel evolution in algorithm development, new interfaces such as virtual realities, as well as an improved understanding of the cognitive process, itself.