A lot happened at GEOINT 2013*. This year it took place in Tampa, Florida. It wasn't as extravagant as past GEOINT Symposiums but the show didn't disappoint in terms of news. As with every symposium we started off with the Keynotes speakers who talked about the current events in the community.
Director of National Intelligence James Clapper gave a keynote highlighting the major concerns in intelligence today to include mentioning the actions of Edward Snowden in which he had this to say:
“The idea that young people see Edward Snowden as a hero really bothers me,” explained Clapper. “I understand young people see Snowden as a courageous whistle blower standing up to authority. However, [true] whistle blowing takes an incredible amount of courage and integrity.”
DNI Clapper compared the actions of Snowden in contrast to U.S. Army Reservist Sgt. Joe Darby who exposed the actions of guards abusing prisoners where Sgt Darby worked. Sgt Darby notified the appropriate authorities which DNI Clapper praised as the right course of action and a course he thinks Snowden should have taken rather than exposing the Intelligence trade-craft to the world.
In the Q&A, DNI Clapper hinted his time in office will likely end soon but he plans to stay on until the end of the current presidential administration.
NGA Director Letitia Long also had many highlights to her speech. She recognized that actions of the community for evolving Intelligence methods and infrastructure aligning with the IC Information Technology Enterprise (IC ITE) Strategy in which DNI Clapper had praised the community for embraciung. She also talked about how the future of Intelligence will involve the total immersion of analysts within the data itself. Making connections between multiple sources with the aid of technology that can further assist that analyst by short cutting their workflows. She went on to talk about The Map of the World, a new platform for community wide integration.
In addition, Director Long praised their efforts in releasing GeoQ code to GitHub by which NGA is the first Intelligence Agency to do such a thing. This is important step towards enhancing inter-agency collaboration of code sharing and curating open source efforts from start-ups and developers on the side of the general public. You can view NGA's code from GitHub here: https://github.com/ngageoint
One of the most important notes from her speech is she verified efforts that official approval will happen soon for lowering the commercial imagery restrictions from .50 meter resolution to .25 meter resolution allowing commercial companies such as DigitalGlobe to sell even more detailed satellite imagery to the other companies and the general public. This is an important change as it should be noted that aerial imagery providers have no current restrictions on their image resolution.
We also had the chance to check out what Director Long had to say in the post keynote press brief. There were many questions that were brought up by fellow Journalists. We thought it best to see what she had to say about how NGA was going to encourage more small businesses and non-traditional defense contractors like Google and Thermopylae to help positively disrupt the innovation in Intelligence Community. We also asked her to elaborate on her thoughts about NGA's decision to release code to GitHub. Check it out in the video below.
(Credit given to BreakingDefense.com for obtaining this document)
Another notable keynote was from Robert Scoble and Shel Israel who are known throughout the social media world. Robert Scoble and Shel Israel gave a great presentation on commercial technology and their perspectives on how technology may look in the near future. They expressed what they have seen with different emerging sensor types and how commerce is driving innovation to collect more information about users for the goal increasing revenue by satisfying customer needs. Robert expressed how there is a divide in privacy and technology. Either you are all in or you aren't. He and Shel explained that yielding your personal data from using technologies can offer you more benefits by enabling further efficiency in our lives. With that said this topic lead to what I think was one of the most important moments in the presentation. At the end as Shel Israel expressed that just as the commercial companies rely on loyalty leading to trust of their customers to maintain and grow revenue so should the US Government be focused on building the loyalty and trust of the American people. The more the consumer or the American people trust an entity the more likely they are to freely give up their data. Below is their Keynote speech if anyone would like to view.
There were not many companies that stood out on the exhibit floor but a few are worth mentioning. The most fascinating product in this years symposium would have to come from NerVve who recently received investment from IN-Q-TEL, a non-profit company setup to support the investment ventures from the CIA.
NerVve has developed the next generation in video analytic tools. I received a demo first hand of their application which allows a user to input a search name along with a couple image examples of an object the user would like to search for and quickly find its query through hours of video. For example let's say the user wants to search through hours of video for a blue bus that could be important to the mission but they don't know where in the video the bus is or any previous video of the bus. The user could grab two to three non-related blue bus images off Google Search and uploaded those into the NerVve's application. The tool would then search through hours of video in seconds creating a list of most likely objects matching the blue bus search criteria. With the most likely results listed the user can then rank the results pushing a plus or minus sign helping the search engine refine the results even more. The search engine is very accurate and the user can even save that search algorithm to look for the same vehicle in future video records. Every time the user helps rank the results they improve the systems likelihood it will match what they are looking for. This application can not only work for Video but can also work for Imagery analysis as well and can very well be a game changer towards auto-identifying objects of interest much faster than the analysts themselves. I have no doubt that it won't be long before NerVve will become a major disruptor in analytics within the Intelligence Community.
One of the other companies to note is KeyW who recently took on a contract to maintain and develop JEMA. According to KeyW website, JEMA is described as the following:
"Joint Enterprise Modeling and Analytics (JEMA) - KEYW’s Modeling and Analytics technology, commonly known as JEMA , is widely accepted across the Intelligence Community (IC) as a transformational technology enabling analysts to create their own applications and web services directly from their desktop. JEMA is a visual analytic model authoring technology, which provides drag-and-drop authoring of multi-INT, multi-discipline analytics in an online collaborative space. Analysts/users build and share custom built services to automate, federate, and improve data gathering and filtering, profoundly shifting the focus of their time from search to analysis."
I personally worked with the previous contractors maintaining JEMA while in the military a few years ago and know the potential of this analytic modeling application. If KeyW can simplify the software enough so that military analysts will be inclined to use it they have the potential to revolutionize the analytic workflow as it can be ultimately looked at as a keystone to automated intelligence. It should be noted that KeyW is not the only company to develop analytic modeling applications showcased at the conference. JEMA has been a round for a few years now but it won't be long before analytic modeling will become a lot more competitive.
Another big public announcement that came from the vendors was from Airbus who announced the release of WorldDEM which boasts to be the new standard in world elevation models which can apply to many areas within the Intelligence Community. The accuracy of the new DEM model is far superior to the outdated SRTM standard used by many with the "Worlddem" (2014) website advertising a 2m (relative) / 4m (absolute) vertical accuracy in a 12m x 12m raster.
* Airbus WorldDEM. (2014). Retrieved from http://www.astrium-geo.com/worlddem/
Small Satellite Panel
One of the back-end topics at this years conference was the emergence of Small satellite companies. The USGIF Small Satellite Working Group had a panel at the GEOINT-Forward sessions a day before the formal symposium events. The panel was led by Rob Zitz who has an extensive Intelligence background that is spread across multiple agencies. The panel was made up of several small sate industry representatives who talked about what they are doing and where they are heading. The complete discussion from the panel is provided in the video below and offers a good perspective in the emerging small satellite industry.
Education and Training
The past couple GEOINT Symposiums have not only consisted of great Keynote speakers talking about the current status of the community and an awesome showcase of vendors showing off new product updates; they have also been consistent in offering great training opportunities for attendees of all skill levels. This year training sessions included the following topics:
- GEOINT as it applies to Mobile devices
- Socialytics: Discovering Powerful New Intelligence Insights Through Advanced Open Source Intelligence Operations
- Introduction to Hyperspectral Target Detection & Material Identification
- Commercial SAR Training
- Interpreter Utilization & Cross Cultural Negotiations
- Intro to GMTI Analysis
- The Geographic Approach and Spatial Literacy Workshop
- Counter-Elicitation/Predictive Threat Analysis; and Insider Threat Detection
- LiDAR Point Clouds & Modeler 101: Basic Point Cloud Exploitation
- Weather Data
- Facial Behavioral Analysis
- Modeling & Simulation Demos
USGIF GEOINT 2013. (2014). Retrieved from http://geoint2013.com/agenda/EduTraining
In addition to the above topics USGIF alongside NGA offered a peak into the new GEOINT certification program. Attendees even had the chance to take a test for the first level of certification to give feedback on the initial blueprint of the program. To many who had feedback the program has its work cut out in the coming months but recognizes the importance of this Certification program in standardizing training not only across multiple organizations within the government but also across the commercial GEOINT industry as well. You can get an idea of the USGIF's perspective of Accreditation guidelines in the following document:
In summary the GEOINT symposium is an overwhelming experience for anyone passionate about the industry. With that said its likely we left some stuff out. We hope you enjoyed our version of the conference summary at the very least and if you have questions feel free to comment below and we will make an effort to get back to you.
As Project Geospatial (Project Geo) this marks our first post in formal blog format. Traditionally we have used Google+ as our blog but we are now doing both for a variety of reasons to include writing in-depth reviews in a format that Google+ is not always suited for. Rest assured we still are big fans of Google+ and still plan to maintain a strong presence there. All of our blog posts will be pushed to our Project Geo page too. We thank you for your support and as usual if you would like to participate in our efforts shoot us a message or a comment as we would love to do a hangout with you to talk more.