Geo

Mobile Checkin Apps

In the first year's of Android smartphones applications such as WhereGowalla, and Foursquare were the vanguard in providing a checking service that not only provided a useful utility purpose but also made the experience fun. It didn't take long before Google made an extension out of Google Maps called Latitude which had huge advantages in live tracking contacts and pulling one's own historical data whether it be manually or through an API that once existed. Social networks such as Facebook eventually made their own check-in service, Facebook Check-in, creating a more social experience allowing a user to check themselves into a location but also checking who is with them at a location or an event similar to Foursquare. Sometimes applications like Yelp  include a checkin service but not as their primary feature.

The Where app was one of the first geospatial directories to look for nearby events and places relevant to the users interests locally when Android first came out and Google Maps mobile was less encompassing in features. The user could quickly find local yellow book listings, restaurants, and other businesses based off category or search.Where had a checkin service which helped in giving a User local ads and deals around the user along with a variety of other options. The checkin feature in the "Where" application was hidden and became lost in the depth of features their application had. Overall it was a very good application but Where was acquired by Ebay/Paypal in 2011 and eventually faded into history no longer available to download.

Status: Acquired in 2011 - App No Longer Available

Gowalla was fun application to checkin because it was about awarding users badges for checking in to certain types of places often or a variety of places. In addition users or organizations could make their own checkin challenges to submit to the public to achieve custom badges, such as checking into every country at Epcot to achieve the "Around the World" Badge. This was also a business model for them as they could get companies to create challenges for checking in to certain restaurants or businesses. At the time is was looked at as a competing service with Foursquare as they both emerged as similar start-up checkin services the same year. Sadly the fun checkin service Gowalla was bought by Facebook in December of 2011. The application was dissolved and forgotten and the acquired team team went on to work on the checkin service at Facebook.

Status: Acquired in 2011 - App No Longer Available

Google Latitude had a variety of unique capabilities. It not only showed the users's location on the map but also the users contacts once they were invited and accepted to share location data. The application also stored the history of a user's location data allowing them to pull the data historically through a web interface and even export the data as a KML viewable in Google Earth. The service allowed for a live KML service for each user depending on the shared permissions allowed a huge flexibility in how this data can be used. Google created an API for latitude which allowed for other mobile applications such as Latify to standup which creating a unique way to use the live and historical data pushing it to Fusion Tables to do even more. The checkin service worked alongside the live tracking to actively make aware the users location relative to contacts using the same application. At one point Google even created a unique statistics page connected to the historical data page which a user can view all the checkins and view a graphical visualization of where they go the most, Airport connections they've made, and a fun chart in how far they've traveled relative to the distance from the Moon. Google Latitude was a baked well put together product which eventually was stripped and integrated into Google+ for their location sharing service. Checkins became directly integrated with posting on Google+ and the API for Google Latitude disappeared completely. Users can still pull historical data from the location history page which includes data from the current Google+ integration but this doesn't include checkin data. (https://maps.google.com/locationhistory/b/0

Status: Checkin Features and Location Sharing Transferred to Google+

Facebook offers a straightforward checkin service that allows the user, similar to Google+, to checkin as a post in Facebook. The post can include a picture or a description of activity. A unique feature to checking in just like on Foursquare is that you can include who is with you, adding friends from your contact list, which checks them in as well. Other than being a social checkin service sharing the event with your contacts on Facebook checking in on Facebook as no added value besides adding to the history of your activity in your timeline. If this checkin post was made public then a developer could extract the checkins to a map using the Facebook API applying value to third parties not necessarily the user.

Status: Operational and remains consistent

Yelp's application helps users find places nearby. Yelp is known for their user driven review system and their mobile application is an extension of that. Checking-in using Yelp allows you to share your experience with your contacts on Facebook and Twitter. Another form of checking in is using Yelp's feature to reserve a table at a venue using OpenTable, a separate application but in this case its reservation services are integrated into Yelp.

Status: Operational and remains consistent

Foursquare Old Logo

Foursquare New Logo Finally we have Foursquare. With Gowalla and Where dropping out Foursquare has risen above the rest as one the premier checkin apps for mobile. When Foursquare started out, their features were similar to Gowalla in that they offered badges for completing certain types of checkin accomplishments like checking into a Bar ten times. Like Gowalla Foursquare the application experience was wrapped around the concept of checking in. However, what stood them out was their business plan involved advertising local businesses. Local businesses could promote deals based on if someone checks into their establishment and if the user is someone who has checked in the most above everyone else they are labeled "The Mayor". With that titled the user maybe entitled to additional deals premium discounts or deals at that establishment. Another feature was the competitive point system which added to the Mayorship on a more open scale but you can compete for points on whoever checks into places the most between you and your contacts. That Gamification using badges, points, discounts and deals based on checkins, and the Mayorship feature quickly made Foursquare the premium Location checkin based service. Users are also able to export their checkin data as RSS/KML/ICS. Developers have an API they can pull from as well allowing them to take advantage of the Foursquare checkin service in their own applications.

Foursquare has come along way since its launch in 2009. In the last week the company has separated their application into two separate application aimed at serving two different purposes; Foursquare and Swarm. Checkin features have now been watered down into Swarm which advertises on Google Play to be a more focused on the social aspect of checking in with your contacts as mentioned with the following features:

  • Quickly open up the app to see who is out nearby. 
  • Checking in is faster and more fun than ever.
  • Got an idea for something fun to do? Easily message all of your nearby friends.

You can still checkin with Swarm but its lost the appeal as it no longer has the popular features such as Mayorships and checkin discounts you previously had with the original Foursquare application. The Foursquare application maintains the name but has evolved into features dedicated to finding locations you are interested in based off of what they know about you. As the application learns more about what you like in different venues the searches begin to become more personalized. When you find an establishment you can view tips about the venue. If you leave tips or share your experience about the place you are at you earn "expertise". The service seems wrapped around the idea of finding local knowledgeable experts who use the application and rating them among their peers. In comparison its a different spin on Yelp reviews. 

The new redesign and separation of Foursquare into two applications has come with much criticism. Many people don't like that they now have to use two applications instead of one. Others are wondering what happened to the Badges and Mayorship features which made Foursquare a popular service to begin with. Comments in both apps indicate they don't understand the purpose of using one or the other now. With these growing pains and user frustration many users are now being driven back to Facebook or Yelp for their checkin services.

Status: Checkin services are now transferred to Swarm App. Foursquare App itself doesn't have checkin feature any longer but now provides enhanced intelligent discovery and search based on user interests.

In summary, Checkin services still have a strong presence in the mobile world and there are many small scale ones out there I have not listed in this article but the above highlights the major ones that reach the masses. However, checkin applications are becoming less of a standalone application and more of a side feature alongside a social experience or discovery of local businesses to promote deals and events. This isn't bad but at the same time current versions of the remaining checkin services that exist no longer have the gamification or competitive feel that created that fun factor giving people that additional incentive to checkin even if their wasn't a deal offered or a friend in the area. This could be because the concept of checking-in is based off relying on a manual workflow where the users press a button to check themselves in. With refined location-based technology on mobile platforms checking-in could become more automated so it may not be as important in finding ways to encourage the users to checkin compared to taking advantage of their devices location data to give them what they are really looking for; local deals and social-geo interaction. As much as Checkin applications are moving in this direction they risk changing things to fast or too drastically for the user to understand the benefit while sacrificing what users liked about the old versions of checkin applications. Latitude into Google+ is a good example and so is the recent conversion of Foursquare.

Thank you for your time in reading this post. Please comment on your opinions on checkin services. I'd love to hear which service you use the most and why. What do you think of the new Foursquare/Swarm? What do you miss about checkin services in the past?

Geotagged Photos - Who does it better?

For the sake of this post we are going to focus on the mobile aspect of the term with an emphasis on Android devices comparing applications that handle geotagging a little differently between each other. First of all, let's answer the question what is a Geotagged photo?

"A geotagged photograph is a photograph which is associated with a geographical location by geotagging. Usually this is done by assigning at least a latitude and longitude to the image, and optionally altitude, compass bearing and other fields may also be included."

("Geotagged Photograph", 2014)

Before we get into applications that can take advantage of a Geotagged photos let's start by how to take one. At the very least you need your GPS turned on and some camera applications require you to go into the options and give the application permission to tag the location to your image as you take it so you will want to check this before you get started. I'm currently using a Nexus 5 and the location option for my photos is turned on at default. This means every time I take a picture a location is attached in the metadata of the image file itself; keep note as that fact is important later. However, with my Nexus 5 and other smartphones this fact varies as if I don't have the GPS turned on it will associate a best guess of where I might be which may default to the Cell Tower location itself, best guess based off cell tower triangulation, or if I have WiFi on the location of the router. If none of the above are available no location information will be tagged to the photo.

So if our goals was to just take a Geotagged photo then we are done right? Sure, but what's the value of tagging the location to images and what do we do with the photo from here?

Attaching location to information has numerous uses but for the common user adding this information is another useful way of helping you search for these images or organize them later. For instance many organize photos by date, event, or people around when the photo is taken. Location gives user the option to find photos based on a map, which in many cases, this is much more efficient in exploring the past rather than finding one particular photo through albums of thousands of photographs. By adding a temporal feature to the map a user can then explore photos taken through time even as events or overlaid at the same spot. This takes us into applications that can help you take advantage of the location data on your photos as each may offer you a different experience depending on what you would like to do.

With Instagram there are two ways to add a photo. One is to upload a photo directly from your phone and the other is to use the application itself to take a photo. Both options will eventually ask me if I want to add a location to my Instagram post and I believe this is more for privacy than anything else. Now this is what is unique about Instagram. Although it will read the location info on your photo to get an idea of where you took it Instagram is actually using that data to be attached to alongside your photo putting the geo data in the Post metadata not the online version of your image meaning once you upload your photo to Instagram the geo data is stripped.

Facebook, Foursquare, and Twitter are the same in regards to how they use Geo metadata. Initially they may take advantage of the information embedded in the image to add to the Post metadata but once uploaded to those applications the images are remade and the geo-data itself is stripped. For Facebook you can edit and change the location of an the image which has the benefit to adding location to images to which didn't originally have this information however the app doesn't actually embed that within the image itself just alongside it.

Why does this matter? One simple word, "Reusable". Well let's say you are using one of these applications as a primary storage for all of your images. You may want to download and reuse the images in something else or perhaps you may someday want to transfer your images to a new storage location. The fact that applications such as Facebook strip the original metadata hurts you as you are then missing information about those photos that make it special.

Should I still use Facebook and Foursquare for photos? For storing photos, No. Use of these applications is practically unavoidable though as everyone uses them for other purposes such as communication and sharing experiences with friends and family. There's nothing wrong with sharing photos to these apps but I would recommend storing your original geotagged photos elsewhere. Another reason is in addition to some of your metadata being stripped the images themselves are reconverted into a lower quality image for online efficiency for those applications. Users sometimes have the option to retain and store the full resolution image but that's a feature that may not be turned on default, just something to be aware of if you care about your photos beyond just sharing them.

Geotagged Data in image Google+ and Flikr are among the best mainstream photo storing applications. Both maintain the original metadata to include geographic location even after editing in those applications. Google+ is known more as a social tool but when you make a post and attach one your photos it retains the Geo-data and allows the user to attach a location to the post separately. This means when you view a post on Google+ from someone who posts from their mobile device you can potentially see where they made the post and when you click the image you can still see all the original image metadata. When you download your images from either Flikr and Google+ you retain everything. Google+ and Flikr just like Facebook also allow you to add location to photos that didn't originally have that info, but once again, the unique difference is these applications actually add the geodata to the image metadata itself which makes these two optimal online storage locations for your photos. These applications provide data transparency allowing you to view the metadata of the images, resusable, and flexibility to let you use them however you want. Flikr even has a feature where you can view all of the publicly viewable Geotagged photos in a map, https://www.flickr.com/map

Panoramio

Panoramio

Another great application worth an honorable mention is Panoramio. There used to be a mobile plugin downladoable from the Google Play store to allow you to upload geotagged images straight to Panoramio but these days its only accessible via desktop. Panoramio only takes Geotagged photos however it does let you edit the photos location after upload. In addition everyone's photos on Panoramio are publicly viewable and searchable on the map as seen to the left. I don't use Panoramio to store my images but instead to share my best geotagged photos.

Why should knowing how geotagging works important to developers?

Knowing how applications use geotagged information is vital to accuracy of the data itself and defining what the data says about the users or their content. Is the geographic location related to the post? Is it related to where the user posted about the event, where the user took the photo itself, both? If I'm looking for geospatial data on my users where do I find it? Am I looking at the images or should I look at something else. Google+ for example may contain multiple layers information that can be use in defining activity on a map. For example when creating an event that event may have a location attached, each post may have a location, and each image. Think of it has defining regional location all the way down to specific location telling a story as time goes on. As a developer this may help you define what activity you want to associate with users depending on where they are so identifying accuracy of geodata is important.

Please let us know in the comments what you think.

There are many more applications out there that take advantage of geotagged photos, this is just a few to help us define the topic. What is your favorite image storage application and why? Do you care about image location?

Referenced Sources

1. Geotagged Photograph. (2014). Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geotagged_photograph

Geospatial Data Sources

US Tornadoes 1950-2012

Finding open Geospatial data sources can be a challenge sometimes but there are plenty out there to take advantage of. Where do you find this data? What formats are they in? Are they commercially available or are they provided by the government? In this article we've come up with a list to get you started with a good foundation. Be mindful this is no where near everything but we hope what is below can lead in setting a good foundation.

US Government Open Data

    Among the most reliable and publicly available data comes from Government. 
  • Data.Gov -  As we talk about Government data we should first mention Data.Gov. Although many departments of the government still act as standalone data source producers, Data.Gov is an initiative by the federal government to have one place where anyone can go to retrieve government open data. Since it first came online a few years ago, it has grown from a loose archive of static data files to a central nexus where multiple departments are finally connecting their open data in one spot. Departments such as the National Archives are now contributing this site.  Developers can even access some data sources from the site using APIs. Data.Gov has a long way to go before it's links all the other Government departments into the initiative so you will still need to be aware of some of the other data source websites scattered.
  • Geo Gov Data - Now completely merged with Data.Gov this was a filter for all geo friendly government datasets. 
  • US CensusDemographic Data - Every 10 years the US gathers data on a national level from every citizen and business in the United States for the purpose of tax accountability but the data itself has demographic value on a large scale. The Census Bureau even has APIs for developers to bring in the data into their own applications. Visualizing Census data is nothing new but merging the data with other sources has the potential to create powerful in-depth analytic maps and statistics that drill down to the zip code. This data has tremendous value especially looking at the data in historic trends and demographic expansion related to business geographically.
  • Census TIGER Products -  Topologically Integrated Geographic Encoding and Referencing (TIGER) Products is an extension of Census data in GIS ready formats such KML, SHP, and GDP
  • Federal Communication Commission (FCC) - Doesn't expose too much data easily discoverable on their website but what it does have is files in reference to geographic market areas of radio/cellular licenses. The FCC's website has hints at having contributed to the data.gov initiative and more data might be found there
  • USA.Gov -Points to a variety of government websites containing downloadable data essentially acting as a connector.
  • USDA Forest Service/US Live and Historic Fires Detection - The USDA MODIS data is updates multiple times a day and provides information related to the latest fires around the nation. You can find archived fire data and live fire data in many formats with the most readily usable in KML network links.
  • USGSEarthquake and Volcanic data - The USGS has one of the most open and flexible government datasets available to the public primarily related to seismic activity around the globe. Developers can find shape files, KMLs, and active data feeds to use within their applications. 
  • Shuttle Radar Topography Mission (SRTM) - The Shuttle Radar Topography Mission contains worldwide data set of topography giving a free and accurate model of the Earth available on demand. 
  • US Hydrography coming from USGS contains data set related to water levels around the United States. Stations around the country monitor bodies of water, streams, and rivers to indicate a variety of things such as floods and droughts. The data is updated periodically and in static formats such as GDB and shapefiles.  
  • National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) Products and Services is responsible for offering a wide range of finished products for the public such as aeronautical charts, Maritime safety data and Topographical maps. NGA is also not a contributor on GitHub which can be found here: https://github.com/ngageoint
  • Digital Mapping Charting and Geodesy Analysis Program (DMAP) Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) Mapping Branch offers a public tile server available through OGC standard web services such WMS, WMTS, KML, and WFS. The tile server contains nautical charts, Maritime Products (MODU, Broadcast Warnings, and ASAM), and aeronautical charts.
  • NASA Visible Earth is a catalog of images of earth which are more end products but can be useful in some scenarios. The data sets are easily searchable and at the very least offer unique snapshots of the planet.
  • NOAAOffice of Coast Survey GIS Data contains not only nautical charts but GIS data feeds such as WMS Services for maritime watches and warnings, limits and boundaries, and historical maritime map references.
  • Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS) contains numerous datasets, models, decision support tools, and programs that EPA manages, oversees, supports, or uses. Programs, tools and data cover the following categories: Air, Water, Land Preservation & Restoration, Healthy, Communities & Ecosystems, Compliance & Stewardship. 
  • US Fish and Wildlife Services Geospatial Services contain data related to the following: Coastal Barrier Resources (CBRS), Critical Habitat, USFWS, Ecosystem Regions, Landscape Conservation Cooperatives (LCCs), Migratory Bird Conservation, North American Bird Conservation Joint Ventures, National Wetlands Inventory (NWI), National Wildlife Refuge System (NWRS), Boundary data, NWRS Transportation Assets, Office Locations, and Regional Boundaries. 
  • National Park Service GIS Data doesn't host any specific datasets accept for perhaps downloadable maps of the National Parks around the nation but they do make available a wide list of links and resources that are related to the National Parks which much of it is managed by the USGS. Regardless, this linked assets provides a good starting point for anyone searching for NPS data.
  • National Counter-terrorism Center (NCTC) - does not openly contain GIS data but reports about threats and activities are a good indication of events worldwide. NCTC does contain data available on request but not necessarily publicly available.
  • Washington DC GIS Catalog contains one of the most publicly available and extensive GIS databases for a city and a model we hope many cities replicate. Everything from crime data to property data is available in a variety of GIS friendly formats.
  • Pro-Logic GAPS Feeds (USSTRATCOM) - Not necessarily updated this site at the very least gives users an idea of what can be done with Google KML files related to government. Some of these files contain a good foundation of data sets as related to Homeland security and US based infrastructure. 

Public/Commercial Data

  • Social Explorer - "Social Explorer provides quick and easy access to current and historical census data and demographic information. The easy-to-use web interface lets users create maps and reports to illustrate, analyze, and understand demography and social change. In addition to its comprehensive data resources, Social Explorer offers features and tools to meet the needs of demography experts and novices alike." - from their webpage 
  • National Historical Geographic Information System (NHGIS)  - "funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) the National Historical Geographic Information System (NHGIS) provides, free of charge, aggregate census data and GIS-compatible boundary files for the United States between 1790 and 2012." - from their website
  • University of Texas Maps - Using the University of Texas as an example many colleges provide open data for the public to take advantage of. Whether the data is available for each map varies. One example is the current Ebola Alerts Map.
  • Free Map Tools - GIS analyst at home but don't have all the money spend on tools and applications then you may want to check out Free Map Tools. From their website they describe themselves as "An online resource that enables visitors to easily and quickly use maps in order to measure, search and overlay mark-up elements on maps for a wide range of useful applications."
  • Old Maps - is a website to help users search for historical maps. The site then redirects the user to where they can purchase prints or download the data depending on the map. It should be noted that the David Rumsey Map collection is a major source of historical maps but you can also find those on other websites that provide those maps for free.
  • Free GIS Datasets - This page contains a categorized list of links to over 300 sites providing freely available geographic datasets

Google Earth Based Data - Working with KML/KMZ

Google Earth as Displayed in Google Maps

Google Earth has been a major influence over the last decade in bringing Geospatial awareness to the common explorer. With that said KML and KMZ data are very useful and flexible formats for dynamic and static datasets not just for Google Earth but for online map applications as well. Here is a small list of some sources of those unique file types.

  • Google Earth Gallery contains an archive of Google Earth ready maps and data provided by Google and contributed by many viewable through Google Map Engine along with a download to Google Earth. 
  • KML Factbook - This site is contains world wide demographic data and acts as an extension of the CIA worldfactbook to download the data in KML format.
  • Google Earth Hacks - contains a library of unique Google Earth resources, files, and side applications to aide in what any user might need to do using Google Earth. 
  • Google Earth Blog - Links to Google Earth resources courtesy of an awesome blog worth subscribing to just as much as ours is. ;)

Fusion Tables

I can't end this article without mentioning the value of FusionTables which is a great resource for any GIS user. It's a free resource by Google in Google Drive that allows the user to upload GIS datasets in KML or Shapefiles (Some conversion maybe necessary, or even a spreadsheet of data into their online data table which allows the data to be quickly visualized in map format, aggregated with other FusionTables or accessed through data points such as KML or FusionTable APIs. This tool essentially allows the user to turn static date into dynamic data. Here are a few examples of Public Fusion Tables datasets.

There is an abundance of free GIS datasets out there and we are by no ways listing all that is available. An honorable mention should be social media APIs available to allow for the extraction of social chatter from applications such as Twitter, Google+, Facebook and more. We may get into that with a future article. Our goal is to at least increase awareness of what is out there for GIS specific purposes for starters. Do you know any government or commercial data out there please post in the comments. This list is very US heavy but we'd like to add more information on worldwide free GIS information available so please help us create awareness on what's out there.

GEOINT 2013* Summary

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.

Keynotes

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. 

(Video Link: http://geointv.com/archive/geoint-2013-keynote-james-r-clapper/)

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.

(Video Link: http://geointv.com/archive/geoint-2013-keynote-letitia-a-long/)

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.

Click here to link to Director Long's Speaking notes

(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.

(Video Link: http://geointv.com/archive/geoint-2013-keynote-robert-scoble_shel-israel/)

Exhibit Floor

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:

Collegiate Geospatial Intelligence Certificate Accreditation Guidelines 2013 

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.

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