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Large companies use predictive analytics to improve their ability to deal with the unexpected. Now the Pentagon will predict supply and demand trends through artificial intelligence. The new tool was already used to aggregate and track data on ventilators, masks, and other medical supplies. 

The Joint Artificial Intelligence Center, or JAIC, has built a prototype AI tool that uses  a wide variety of data streams to predict COVID-19 hotspots and related logistics and supply-chain problems. 

The Salus tool can work on a scale as wide as the entire nation but can also drill down on specific zip codes and, in some cases, individual stores, according to defenseone.com.

Its initial deployment interacts with the information systems of Northern Command and the U.S. National Guard, which are supporting FEMA’s coronavirus response. These systems already have geolocation data that allow them to do mapping, resource allocation, etc.

“What it was lacking was the predictive capability and data overlay,” said Nand Mulchandani, chief technical officer at the JAIC. 

“The next question really was resource allocation like food,” he said. The process starts with finding pertinent data, or forming relationships with organizations that control it. A lot of the information is publicly available, like census and neighborhood data. Other data comes from corporate entities but is still available under the right partnership. Most important for tracking food-supply issues, Mulchandani said, is sell-through data, information about what products move off store shelves and when.

He said Salus comports with U.S. privacy laws; his team is looking for trends in buying, not any individual’s purchases. 

If this prototype proves valuable, it might see use outside NORTHCOM. “The hope If we do this right, this becomes the supply and logistics platform for all the services. You just plug in different datasets,” said Mulchandani.

It may also become a part of the Joint All-Domain Command and Control, or JADC2, a massive effort to digitally interlink weapons, vehicles and personnel.