Correction: This story has been updated to show SparkCognition’s technology for this contract is common to SparkPredict.
WASHINGTON — The Pentagon’s Silicon Valley branch has awarded Austin, Texas-based artificial intelligence startup SparkCognition the first phase of a contract to provide analysis for U.S. Air Force budgeting procedures.
The Defense Innovation Unit Experimental, or DIUx, will utilize the 3-year-old company’s AI technology to analyze previously decisions and track their effects at micro and macro levels. Using operational data from the Air Force, an algorithm will aid in the planning, programming, budgeting and execution process, the method by which the Department of Defense allocates funding.
Technology common to SparkCognition’s product SparkPredict will compete with other companies in the first phase of the contract process. The technology will be used to ingest Air Force data and build a model to aid in decision-making. As the company’s tech moves through subsequent phases, the algorithm will ingest more and more data. The first phase is set to last 60 days.
DIUx, the brainchild of former Secretary of Defense Ash Carter, was created in March 2015. It is charged with bridging the gap between the DoD and Silicon Valley. Until recently, DIUx reported directly to the secretary. Although it has so far survived the Pentagon’s restructuring under the Trump administration, it has been significantly downgraded on the department’s new hierarchy. Though that may not be final, a new Pentagon acquisition plan said “final reporting relationships will be determined” for several groups, including DIUx.
Without name-recognition, it can be difficult for a young company such as SparkCognititon to land government contracts. SparkCognition’s director of federal business operations, Tim Stefanick, was impressed by DIUx’s process for choosing the contract winner.
“They let the technology speak versus the brand name,” he said.
Stefanick said SparkCognition’s technology could be used to anticipate the outcome if a specific airframe were removed from the service. During the budgeting process, the tool could predict the impact of this removal on finances and manpower.