If you have been perusing the general media recently, you may have noticed a heightened interest in and coverage of the brain. Time Magazine’s January 18th cover story was the most notable in recent weeks. And similar to the weather, while everyone seems to be talking about it, no one is doing anything about it. Well, almost no one. Jeff Hawkins, the creator of the Palm Pilot and the Treo, has founded Numenta and his creation (HTM) will have direct impact on the security industry, how security is executed and you.

Who is Jeff Hawkins? And what is HTM?

Hawkins is both a very talented engineer and a very intellectually curious person. Upon reading that Francis Crick, who co-discovered DNA, was frustrated by his inability to understand and explain how the brain does the many complex things it does and outperforms (out “reasons”) the most sophisticated computers with just three pounds of gray matter, he became intrigued about the prospects of building a machine that could work as well as the human brain.

With his goal in mind, Hawkins went to work on developing a computer that works like the brain. Enter HTM and its coming impact on the security profession. As Numenta explains HTM: You might say it “learns” what objects are in the world and how to recognize them. Time is an essential element of how HTM systems work. First, to learn the patterns in the world, the sensory data must flow over time just as we move our eyes to see and move our hands to feel. Second, because every memory module stores sequences of patterns, HTM systems can be used to make predictions of the future. They not only discover and recognize objects but also make predictions about how objects will behave going forward in time.

Learn by Observation

The key difference: Computers are programmed. HTM learns through itself by observation, like humans do.

Is this wild, futuristic science fiction? No, the beta version of the software will be released this quarter and the first applications are expected in about 18 months. And that includes security. As Donna Dubinsky, CEO of Numenta, said, “We are working with a few partners today who are experimenting with applications in the area of national security.  There are many problems where the challenge is to find patterns in the midst of large, noisy data sets.”  

And these applications are so powerful, neither Numenta nor their partners will specifically discuss them. Among the critical security challenges HTM will solve are processing, analyzing and reacting appropriately to all those digital images you are capturing and trying to manage. These are tasks that neither humans (fatigue) nor computers (reasoning) are capable of doing well. Numenta’s HTM technology applied to airport X-ray machines, video analytics, traffic patterns and other high quantity data analyzing processes will enable them to “think” without becoming fatigued.

Beyond this writing, you may not hear very much about Jeff Hawkins, HTM or Numenta in security solutions. But as it is integrated into security analytics, HTM has the potential to revolutionize security’s economics and metrics; and, as a result, will impact your strategy and execution. Keep an eye out for its arrival and be ready to lead the revolution.

More About HTM?

Read the book On Intelligence written by Jeff Hawkins or check out the article by Erick Schonfeld, “From Palm to Brain.” Business 2.0 Jan.-Feb. 2007: 91+.