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A Look at the Diplomatic Facility Support Package

August 8, 2012  - By 0 Comments

By Art Kalinksi

CACI builds a refined geospatial mobile application for emergency response.

As many of you have seen and experienced, a growing number of mobile applications use smartphones or tablet computers. I had occasion to see a demonstration of a specialized application, produced by CACI in collaboration with DigitalGlobe, designed primarily to support the management of diplomatic facilities during normal and emergency operations. The system is aptly called the Diplomatic Facility Support Package or DipFac for short. According to CACI engineers the system, which bridges both PCs and handheld mobile devices, was designed with a holistic approach from its inception.

DipFac is designed to prepare for, and manage, planned and unplanned situations as they affect our foreign diplomatic facilities and personnel. It helps embassy leaders manage events affecting facilities and, if needed, to develop contingency plans for the safe movement of diplomatic personnel. The rapid dissemination of geospatial information and real-time data provide a superb common operational picture while providing decision makers the support necessary for effective evacuation and recovery.

The system manages devices and data similar to an iTunes store, but as a completely secure service operating in its own environment. Below are screen shots showing the easy navigation of the system in field operations.

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The mobile device accesses content via secure communications. The content is impressive in its scope and includes maps, imagery, biometrics, documents, social media, and all of it in an interactive collaborative environment. Using OGC standards, multiple layers of geospatial data and annotations can be integrated and displayed to form a common operational picture.

The data sets include the use of Open Street Map, a Wiki crowd-sourced digital street database built through the efforts of countless local contributors. Although it has no single “authoritative” source, users have found that this collaborative street base is impressive in its detail and currency. I haven’t previously used Open Street Map, but reviewing some areas I visited around the world it looked like a very good alternative and supplement to Google Maps.

Imagery is provided by DigitalGlobe and includes not only current imagery but historic imagery, where available. This is valuable for temporal analysis to identify changes that could possibly be significant. DigitalGlobe also provides numerous vector data layers such as streams, rivers, and political boundaries.

The collaboration environment is quite robust. There is a Twitter-like question-and-answer section along with the ability to annotate maps with Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC) standard symbols and the ability to draw lines and polygons to identify routes and areas of interest. There is even a biometric identification capability so accurate personnel identification can be done in the field along with document exploitation (DOCEX), media/computer exploitation (MEDEX), cell-phone exploitation (CELLEX), scene photography, and other capabilities. Users can take pictures, link them to a geographic location, and share those with others. The same is true with scanned documents that can also be run through a built-in translator. Although the translator is not perfect, it could be good enough to quickly understand the gist of a document viewed in the field. Headquarters or other users can also import and share CAD drawings, PDFs, and other digital documents and link them to facilities or geographic locations on the map. Site Exploitation (SITEX) functions include collection and sharing of site-specific information including evidence collection, room or building diagrams, dimensions, video of the site, pictures, people on site, and activities.

The entire system is similar to Palanterra, the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency (NGA) web-based GIS. Palanterra is a spatially and analytically enabled web-based GEOINT system designed to assemble, analyze, and display physical features and geographically located activities. It is also designed to integrate disparate data sources into a common operational picture, but unlike Palanterra, DipFac has a very light learning curve and can be used by operators in the field with very little geospatial training.

DIPFAC3

Above is a screenshot showing building footprints on the imagery and standard OGC-compliant annotations. The view on mobile devices is very similar. Other simulated examples permit users to annotate and share areas of interest such as a bomb blast locations and safe evacuation routes.

Based on my experience during emergency response exercises, one potential limitation of this and other web-based systems could be connectivity degradation, since the system relies on continuous updates. When I participated in a New York City Oil Spill exercise using Pictometry Online imagery, the growing number of emergency responders assembled as the event progressed, ultimately slowed all Internet activity to a crawl. I believe that being able to cache static data, such as imagery, during the early stages of an event is important to reduce total data traffic, permitting important flow of “live” data and communications. In conversations with CACI engineers, they agreed to consider adding that capability.

Although the turn-key DipFac system was designed for diplomatic facilities, one can easily see how the secure system could be very useful to any emergency responders or the military. I look forward to seeing how it performs in a real-world situation compared to other similar mobile applications. I recommended that they submit a request to demonstrate it at the next USSOCOM TNT.

The system is intuitive, easy to learn, and easy to use. With hundreds of at-risk U.S. facilities around the world, this could be a subtle game changer that may be very cost effective and save lives.

This article is tagged with and posted in GeoIntelligence Insider, Opinions
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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