The U.S. Army is turning to a little-known tech start-up to automate the job of an equipment technician: It will employ artificial intelligence to flag failing vehicle parts before they break down in combat.
The company, Chicago-based Uptake Technologies, has finalized a $1 million contract agreement with the U.S. Army, under which the company's technology will be tested on a few dozen vehicles before they decide whether to scale it up for broader use.
Uptake's artificial intelligence will be applied to deployed Bradley M2A3 combat vehicles, an armored infantry transport vehicle manufactured by BAE Systems, a British defense contractor with a U.S. office in Arlington, Virginia.
"We're looking to see if we can leverage some of Uptake's machine learning algorithms to spot equipment failures before they happen," said Lt. Col. Chris Conley, the Army product manager for the Bradley fleet. "If this pans out and can provide some real capability, the Army could look to expand this to the entire Bradley fleet as well as other combat vehicle fleets."
Uptake's trial run was set up through a sole-source contract arrangement coordinated by the Defense Innovation Unit Experimental, known as DIUx, an agency created to forge ties between tech companies and military agencies. The contract amount of $1 million could lead to more business for Uptake if the trial goes well, a person familiar with the deal said.
Uptake has made its business analyzing the masses of complex signals that come off industrial equipment, crunching the data to keep tabs on equipment components and give factory managers better insight into the state of their equipment. In some cases, the company places tiny sensors on industrial equipment to collect data, but with the Army's vehicles the company will simply be analyzing the signals that are already produced by industrial equipment.
"Just like humans have been putting their statuses on Facebook and Twitter, these machines have been putting out their statuses for decades and nobody's been listening. Only recently do we have the technology to understand that," said Ganesh Bell, president of Uptake Technologies.