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2015 GEOINT Workshop Key to Defense Symposium

September 3, 2015  - By 0 Comments
The Space and Missile Defense Symposium takes over the Von Braun Center in Huntsville.

The Space and Missile Defense Symposium takes over the Von Braun Center in Huntsville.

The Huntsville Space and Missile Defense Symposium, held Aug. 10-13, featured an informative GEOINT Workshop.

By Art Kalinski, GISP

Two weeks ago I attended a GEOINT Workshop, which was a part of the annual Space and Missile Defense Symposium, at the Von Braun Center in Huntsville, Ala. The workshop was opened by the primary organizer, Chris Johnson. Chris has headed up many geospatial efforts in Huntsville and founded her own company, A Visual Edge, Inc., specializing in geospatial support of first responders.

Chris Johnson

Chris Johnson

She introduced Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle, who opened the workshop proudly explaining that Huntsville can boast of more than 70 geospatial firms and the highest per capita population of individuals with post-graduate degrees, mostly in science and engineering. This, of course, was due to the presence of the Redstone Arsenal and NASA Marshall Space Flight Center growing from the post-war work of Wernher Von Braun, who liked the region because it reminded him of his home in Bavaria.

Mayor Battle and Chris reported on GEO Huntsville, a regional volunteer geospatial organization of over 300 members. The key effort of the organization has been a disaster rapid response pilot program known as “Blueprint for Safety” (BfS). The work has been watched and supported by the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) through its open resources, GitHub and GeoQ. Chris explained how work continues to discover, define and test current data collection and technology to support first responders with improved situational awareness using geospatial tools and resources.


Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle discusses GEO Huntsville at the GEOINT Workshop.

The first keynote speaker was Dr. Max Baber who represented USGIF. He spoke of the explosion of technology and used a slide many of you may have seen showing a comparison of a crowd at the Vatican in 2005 and 2013. Although one was a funeral and the other a papal appearance, the slide still shows a stark contrast.

Comparison of crowds at the Vatican in 2005 and 2013.

Comparison of crowds at the Vatican in 2005 and 2013.

He provided an overview of USGIF initiatives including USGIF supported education programs, scholarships and the most recent GEOINT 2015 in DC which had an attendance of over 5,500. He went on to echo the comments of NGA Director Robert Cardillo pointing to the “death” of the traditional intel model of TPED — tasking, processing, exploitation, and dissemination. Earlier this year Cardillo said. “Let me reiterate, TPED is dead. TPED is a linear process in an asymmetrical world. If we continue to think linearly, we lose. We must think asymmetrically to understand and out-maneuver our adversaries.” This has opened the door for a new attitude at NGA for more openness and collaboration.

NGA Deputy Director Sue Gordon

NGA Deputy Director Sue Gordon

The keynote speaker, NGA Deputy Director Sue Gordon, amplified that sentiment. She spoke of the revolution of small satellites, almost continuous imagery, human geography, social media and all manner of sophisticated geospatial analysis tools. She highlighted the growing partnership of industry and government and spent some time talking about GitHub and GeoQ.

NGA has been a pioneer in using open source to share its products. In April 2014, the agency created its own GitHub site enabling access to the agency’s cutting-edge geospatial tools and small contract opportunities. NGA is the first intelligence agency to use GitHub, the world’s largest software development network. Linked to the NGA GitHub site is GeoQ (Geographic Work Queueing and Tasking System). GeoQ is an open-source geographic resource and tasking system that allows teams to collect geographic data across a large area, then manage the workflow in geographic regions as small as 1-km square. The system informs all members about work areas to avoid duplication of effort.

Two recent GitHub posts I found interesting were: aerial camera calibration models to construct 3D models from video sequences as well applications for 3D models such as change detection; and Hootenanny, an open-source project that provides geospatial big-data analysis via crowdsourcing. According to NGA, Hootenanny enables users to quickly blend map features generated from satellite imagery, UAVs and mobile devices. According to Chris Rasmussen, NGA’s public software development lead, Hootenanny will enable new levels of data sharing across the community to increase our nation’s ability to respond to emerging threats quickly.

Sue Gordon closed her comments with a recommendation for everyone to view a TED talk, “Smart Failure for a Fast-Changing World” about laminar flow by business educator Eddie Obeng.

Chris Johnson then went into greater detail regarding GEO Huntsville. She cited all the partners and resources including: NGA GitHub, GeoQ, local city data, OpenStreetMap, the National Weather Service, Civil Air Patrol, the National Guard, regional first responders and many others. Chris then shifted to a sample of TechVet, which is a local forum that provides an opportunity for inventors, innovators or industry to show new their technology and explain how it relates and integrates into GEO Huntsville and the “Blueprint for Safety.” TechVet forums are held periodically, usually showing four to five technologies during one forum.

Information is delivered in a very concise manner, and each presentation or demonstration is limited to 12 minutes. Stakeholders then provide feedback and ask questions regarding each technology. Two of the TechVet presenters included Michael Carroll of Robotic Paradigm Systems and Dr. Mike Botts of Botts Innovative Research. Michael gave an update on refinements made to their RPScan system in preparation for public release. I wrote about their preliminary indoor LiDAR system last year. The new system is smaller, lighter and will also have a 3D option.

Dr. Botts talked about his work with the OpenSensorHub, which hopes to facilitate easily, rapid and affordable connection of networked sensors into a seamless SensorWeb of realtime, location-aware, interoperable, web accessible services. I can especially relate to this since I wasted four hours of my life last month unsuccessfully trying to get a steerable security camera to work through the cloud struggling with tech support in India. Some of you may remember what a nightmare it was to try and install a simple dot-matrix printer in the old days. There were pages of instructions — CDs, drivers, etc., etc. Now most printers self-install. That’s Mike’s dream for all geospatial sensors, and I applaud his work.

There was also a session from the Civil Air Patrol talking about GeoQ and its use in Search and Rescue Exercises (SAREX).
This is just a synopsis of the full workshop, which covered a lot of material. Additionally, at the conclusion of the workshop, there was a meeting of the ASPRS UAS Special Interest Group. I wasn’t able to stay, but some of the side discussions before the meeting pointed to concerns about the future of unmanned systems and the FAA. We UAV users have our fingers crossed because one “Sully on the Hudson incident” will certainly be a game-changer.

Art Kalinski

About the Author:

A career Naval Officer, Art Kalinski established the Navy’s first geographic information system (GIS) in the mid-1980s. Completing a post-graduate degree in GIS at the University of North Carolina, he was the Atlanta Regional Commission GIS Manager from 1993 to 2007. He pioneered the use of oblique imagery for public safety and participated in numerous disaster-response actions including GIS/imagery support of the National Guard during Hurricane Katrina; the Urban Area Security Initiative; a NIMS-based field exercise in Atlanta; and a fully manned hardware-equipped joint disaster response exercise in New York City. Kalinski retired early from ARC to join Pictometry International to direct military projects using oblique imagery, which led to him joining SPGlobal Inc. He has written articles for numerous geospatial publications, and authors a monthly column for the GeoIntelligence Insider e-newsletter aimed at federal GIS users.

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