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GEOINT 2016 Summary

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GEOINT 2016 Summary

Overview

This year's GEOINT Symposium was hosted in Orlando, Florida taking place from May 15-18. Compared to last Year's attendees which had approximately 5500 registered attendees and 1600 registered federal attendees, this year conference has around 3500 registered attendees and 265 exhibitors.

To date USGIF has accredited 14 collegiate geospatial intelligence certificate programs graduating 650 students with another 300+ in scholarships as they have gone through significant strives to enhance education in the Geospatial industry. In previous years they have tested out certification programs of different types in an effort to properly define and standardize qualifications for the unique set of skills required in the industry. As of this conference USGIF will officially launch its transparent and transportable Universal GEOINT Certification Program for the GEOINT Community. Certification program testing will begin in July.

The theme of this year's conference is "The GEOINT Revolution" focusing on a the massive transition of the Geospatial industry. In many perspectives this revolution can be seen with the massive adoption of cloud based processing and machine learning as they become more common in the community. Other changes are visible as the growing involvement and adoption of more small businesses over traditional defense contractors are taking place and the rising growth of small satellites that are expected to overwhelm the skies providing unprecedented coverage of the earth in the commercial spaces. 

Credit to USGIF/Trajectory Magazine for the Video

The Keynotes and main presentations are covered by USGIF and Trajectory Magazine. Those presentations can be viewed by clicking the link below.

While at the GEOINT Symposium we focused on companies who brought unique products that stood out from our experience as analysts in the industry. These companies could be big companies who have brought out an emerging technology or a small startup who has created a new disruptive product. Below is a list of companies we wanted to highlight along with descriptions of what they brought to GEOINT this year. As you read through our write-up on each imagine how each technology and application can be potentially tied together and what that means as we look to the future of geospatial analysis.

Exhibit Floor

DataWatch

DataWatch has a product called DataWatch Monarch focusing on helping users format, structure, and organize data. Datawatch Monarch is transforms data by allowing users to drop a file or web page onto the canvas then it automatically begins to extract into a spreadsheet like format.  The application allows users to aggregate data from various sources too. When working with DataWatch Monarch users create models that can be reused quickly to perform the same tasks for a multitude of disparate sources that are unorganized. Their application is unique in our perspective because it is one of the few that focuses on the struggles of an analytic workflow before actual analysis takes place. Many analyst's time is spent conditioning, formatting, and aggregating data to be more friendly for ingest into analysis applications. DataWatch's platform helps significantly with this process. For more about DataWatch go to http://www.datawatch.com/

DataFission

DataFission is a search platform that is designed to make unstructured data searchable without using metadata. This search can be performed against large quantities of datasets qualified to be considered big data such as video, images, audio, and more. Below is our interview with DataFission talking about their service. Something of note is that they are working on integrating service access for their customers through the Amazon cloud as well. Find out more about DataFission at  http://www.datafission.com/

Tom Sawyer Software

Tom Sawyer Software demonstrated their product to us of their advanced graphic layout and analytic packages. Their software processes data and is able to create a visualization and map of entities from the context. It displays a unique evolution in graph analytics compared to other applications performing similar functions. Their software could even be applied to dynamic data feeds to understand relationships on the fly. Watch the interview below and find out more about Tom Sawyer Software at https://www.tomsawyer.com/

IkeGPS

IkeGPS produces products such as IKE and Spike which are designed to use smart laser measurement solutions to capture, record and export measurement data. The software and hardware combination is very affordable by industry standards and is available for use on mobile devices. Check out our interview with IkeGPS below and for more about IkeGPS go to their website http://ikegps.com/

Echosec

Echosec provides a location based social media search and discovery giving users a clean and efficient user experience for understanding the social activity around an area of interest and to get alerted when new activity happens. Echosec is one of our picks to watch out of GEOINT 2016 as they develop their tool out further and to see how their alerts might evolve to influence other tools and applications. 

PlanetRisk

PlanetRisk has a product called Advanced Intelligence Management System (AIMS)™ which focused on situational awareness and risk management for businesses. This level of expertise can dive deeper into topics such as travel, supply chain management, asset management, insider threat and social media monitoring to help their customers get alerted when their personnel or facilities could be threatened. Below is our video interview with PlanetRisk on their risk management platform.

PlanetRisk also announced that they now have a mobile app available for government customers hosted on the NGA App store: http://apps.nga.mil. This application provides government personnel with safety information while traveling abroad. This safety information includes Dept of State warnings and Embassy/Consulate locations. The information is streamed live to app users from PlanetRisk's Global Information Operations Center. For more about PlanetRisk check out their website at http://www.planetrisk.com

Notable Exhibit Floor Mentions

Here are a companies we thought had great products but did perform video interviews with

Diffeo was one of the vendors we talked to that stood out in the conference. They were hosting their booth in the small business pavilion which can be easily overlooked but well worth checking out considering the unique products that are coming out of small startups.

Diffeo is focused on extracting and connecting textual content to entities automatically. What is fascinating about the tools if that it works alongside the user while they are working in applications such as Outlook and can potentially be applied to various data streams by using their APIs such as news and reporting channels to give users insight while they are reviewing text. The Diffeo staff coined their application as a semi-autonomous research assistant giving recommendations working alongside users while taking advantage of machine learning algorithms to adapt the more the service is used.

A few announcements was that they were admitted to Microsoft's BizSpark startup community and that their service can work directly with Microsoft's OneNote to help dynamically train Diffeo as the users use OneNote. Additionally Diffeo is capable of performing research on the Deep and Dark web. For more information about Diffeo check out their website at  https://diffeo.com/

Ursa Space Systems

Ursa is a US based company that provides day, night, and all-weather satellite imagery and extracts information from those images to create dynamic streams of analytic data. That information could be as simple as car counting to reflect the daily operations of an individual facility or ship monitoring by visually locating and identifying ships observed on imagery through image processing techniques. There are many other applications as well but the main highlight about Ursa is that they are performing feature extraction for the purpose of producing the next step in applied data analytics without direct influence by an analyst workforce behind the curtain. The company has long term plans to setup a synthetic aperture radar (SAR) constellation of satellites. Find out more about Ursa at http://ursaspace.com/

USGIF Golden Ticket Winners

USGIF selected up to 25 individuals to be fully sponsored and invited out to the GEOINT Symposium. The invite includes complimentary GEOINT Foreword and GEOINT Symposium registration as well as activities such as a mentoring luncheon, special exhibit hall briefings, and an invitation to the exclusive USGIF Chairman's Reception. We had the opportunity to interview three of the Golden Ticket winners to gain insight on their thoughts regarding GEOINT Symposium and the industry as a whole. Check out the interviews below.

 

Summary

The GEOINT Symposium remains just as vital to the industry as ever before and even more so to help government representatives understand the current capabilities presented by companies while gaining insight into the potential future of geospatial analysis from the showcase of emerging technologies as highlighted by the theme this year, Geospatial Revolution.

It is clear that applications are evolving to not only assist analysts in their workflows but are being developed to automate and understand analytic topics and methodologies to the point that traditional workflows will be re-imagined in the coming years. Technologies such as cloud computing and storage have laid the foundation for enhancements in machine learning. We will very likely see applications similar to Google Now, Apple's Siri, Microsoft's Cortana, Amazon's Echo, and IBM's Watson within the intelligence community designed to not just recommend to the analyst suggestions but intelligently anticipate what the analyst wants to see by understanding their behavior. Technologies like the ones seen from DataWatch Monarch, Diffeo, and Tom Sawyer's Software hint at the communities shift towards these developments. This will not only cut down on the workflow but increase the quality of analysis by revealing new relationships in data too complex for any single individual to find in a timely basis or relying traditional workflows.

As we see with companies such as DataFission and Ursa the traditional analyst task of identifying objects and facilities can be potentially be replaced by new processing techniques of Imagery itself. These applications have not yet revealed that they can perform the job of understanding why specific activity is happening or applying context to detected change in an area but they have revealed that technology is available now to at least identify facilities, activity, and change from automated methods while paving for applied models of behavior to act on that activity towards the next steps in the analytic chain. Potential of these paths will be revealed even more as the number in sensors in orbit are significantly increased in the next five years.

As support for more small companies to be involved and leveraged in the community it will be interesting to see how many startups and small companies come to the table beyond what we see today. The processes for getting small businesses to be more involved in government contracts has been complicated in the past but it has been improving. With that said the playing field is already changing as the entry into the market becomes more complex as the need for solutions transforms into an intricate demand of technologies that go above and beyond simple applications or analytic toolboxes. 

We at Project Geospatial will continue to monitor events beyond the conference and track this revolution with a continued effort in helping you understand how these changes will affect you and how you can leverage these new technologies to make a difference in your business or analytic workflow. We didn't have time to cover everyone at the conference but we hope the applications and stories we did cover help paint a future of what's to come in the Geospatial industry.

 

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GIS on Mobile?

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GIS on Mobile?

Image from NationMap.Gov

GIS on mobile can mean a lot of different things. I like to think it depends on what the user's requirements are as there is no one source solution to GIS as a whole. I was inspired to write an article on the topic after an inquiry put out by one of our Google+ contacts asking what Android had to offer for apps relating to GIS recognizing that iOS has many. I think there are many applications that can fit the billet that are not even categorized in the GIS realm even though they should be. Just asking for something GIS related in general is a broad request therefore let's start with what our contact is actually asking for.

"Primarily something to take into the field for data collection. Something that will allow easy uploading of basemaps ahead of time, collecting point & line features using GPS. Definitely has to be able to work in an offline mode."  

So if we interpret his request correctly he is looking for a mobile app that can do the following:

  • Has the ability to work offline
  • Can record GPS points or Tracks
  • Can download or preload Maps
  • Allows user to upload map files for basemap such as USGS Topo maps
  • Can export data in a variety of GIS formats

The request has a very specific purpose as the individual would like to use a mobile application as an operator not necessarily as a desk GIS. The request doesn't involve any specific analysis then it could be more under the topic of a GPS application than GIS. None the less I began my search on Android where my first thought didn't bring me to a single mapping application that can satisfy all of the requirements but multiple apps that with one or two features here and there. I've used Google My Tracks with great success in recording GPS locations live and it gives you the option to sync/export the data to FusionTables, Spreadsheets, or some other type of storage device. However as stated My Tracks doesn't meet all the requirements. We still need an application that can not only record GPS, do it offline, but can allow the user to use or upload their own basemap data such as USGS Topo maps. 

With that said my next thought was Google Maps/Google Earth Mobile. Google Maps does have the ability to let you download Map data but only Google Maps data. Google Earth, you may think what can that do? Well Google Earth mobile has had some significant updates over the course of the last year. If one uploaded their USGS Topo maps to Google Maps Engine you can login to that using Google Earth Mobile. What about offline? Well if you had KML file versions of those Topo maps and moved them onto your device ahead of time you can use them with Google Earth mobile too. I've gotten this to work with other KML files. Okay...sounds like Google Earth is the solution right? Nope, Google Earth does mark you GPS location but it doesn't record it so we would have to use a second app like Google MyTracks alongside Google Earth if we were to go this route. 

My offhand knowledge has been exhausted at this point so what do we do? Go to the play store and do some hard searches. The application that seems to have the most potential meeting the requirements is Backcountry Navigator TOPO GPS. It costs $9.99 for the one time download but also offers a pricey subscription for Topo Maps. In addition it has a subscription option for making High Res Imagery requests from the DigitalGlobe archive. It very specifically states it is great for offline use while recording your GPS location as you go and import GPS waypoints from file formats GPX and KML. The reviews and ratings have this application at a 4.5 out of 5. With that said I concede that Backcountry Navigator TOPO GPS is the GIS application for this specific requirements requested. Will this satisfy our Google+ colleague? Time will tell as we have requested feedback as he tries the application out for his needs. Is this a GIS app or GPS app? I think it can be considered both depending on what the user intends to use the data for but specifically this is more on the side of GPS Mapping app.

Well that brings us back to the question what is a GIS application?

According to ESRI's website A geographic information system (GIS) lets us visualize, question, analyze, interpret, and understand data to reveal relationships, patterns, and trends. It just so happens ESRI has an ArcGIS app on the Google Play store that does just that.  Unfortunately the reviews indicate that the application doesn't do well in without a good connection, let a alone no connection at all.

Other companies such as BAE Systems are using Mobile devices as a ground reporting tool in which data can eventually feed into more advanced GIS applications or databases. Perhaps this is all that is required to qualify as a GIS app. They currently have two apps on the Google Play store right now, GXP Xplorer Mobile and GXP Xplorer Snapshot which compliment each other. Xplorer Snapshot allows users to submit to the Xplorer Server with photos from their mobile device tagging their location. Xplorer Mobile allows the users to search from a vast archive of submitted data to include making queries to news feeds based off a desired location. The user can use the data from search results to create their own reports. BAE Systems showcased another Xplorer Addon application similar to snapshot designed for Google Glass at this year's GEOINT Symposium but is not ready for public release.

As a simple reporting tool many people underestimate their mobile devices in general. By combining the features of the device itself mixed with multiple applications you may have all the tools you need for a GIS Application for visualizing, researching data, recognizing patterns, and even creating a report. I already mentioned the power of using Google My Tracks alongside Google Earth. A few years ago I performed an experiment with a similar application to My Tracks called Latify in which I broadcasted my recorded location in KML as I took a road trip around the nation. The data was dyanamically displayed live on a website where in addition every time I submitted a Geotagged photo it would also broadcast those photos through KML to my website too.

There are many ways to mix and match mobile apps to meet your needs. Traditionally Blogger is known as a Blog management app but it can be just as powerful as a Geospatial Reporting tool. For example with Blogger, you can attach your location to every post, upload images to the post, write a report, and finally submit it to an online audience. What's even more unique is if you attach your location to a blog post you can extract that from the GeoRSS feed and even distribute and convert into KML to share out which means your blog can be a dynamic geospatial reporting tool. To put icing on the cake Google+ is now completely integrated into blogger to allow for a wider collaboration effort from social media or even a private audience if you decide to integrate the blog into a private Google+ page. However, if you have connection with your mobile device using this logic any social media website can become your own personal geospatial reporting tool as long as 1. You Geotag your posts and 2. You Geotag your photos. In the case of social media you may also have to make your posts public just to extract the data from the APIs.

I hope you enjoyed my thoughts about mobile Geospatial applications. There are ton of apps out there and when we get around to it we will list as many as we can but for now we want to know what you think. Do you have a GIS Application you enjoy using on Android or any mobile device? What features does it have that you like? What can it do better? Perhaps you have your own mix of apps that work well for specific Geospatial purpose. Let us know in the comments.

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GEOINT 2013* Summary

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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.

Project Geospatial Google+ Page

Project Geospatial YouTube Channel

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