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Saturday, February 27th, 2021

Artifical intelligence aids opioid challenges

© DIA
Brian Drake gives an update of the SABLE SPEAR initiative at the DIA DoDIIS Worldwide Conference

Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) officials said the agency is using artificial intelligence (AI) to address the opioid epidemic, one of the nation’s leading health challenges.

The recent DIA DoDIIS Worldwide Conference in Florida served as the backdrop for Brian Drake, the DIA’s Science and Technology director of artificial intelligence, to outline how the agency is using AI to combat the opioid crisis using SABLE SPEAR.

SABLE SPEAR is a mass data analytics tool using machine learning to ingest large datasets of publicly available information to locate indicators of illegal or suspicious activity.

The technology is designed to collect information on foreign sources and persons associated with the synthetic opioid market.

“We have to consider whether or not the problem can be best solved with this program or one similar,” Drake said. “Lead with your mission question first, then ask, what’s the problem set. If all you have is a hammer, then every problem looks like a nail.”

SABLE SPEAR can process millions of webpages, images, and other open-source material and make connections and correlations previously unnoticeable considerably faster than a human.

Drake said synthetic opioid drugs, like fentanyl, can be produced anywhere in the world, which makes it a more significant challenge to target production facilities, people associated with production and transit methods.

He acknowledged although drug traffickers try to hide from law enforcement, they want to be found by current and future customers. Since SABLE SPEAR’s inception, there has been a 900 percent increase in the identification of illicit activities.