This past April Spatial Networks partook in it’s third consecutive GEOINT Symposium to showcase its technology, data, and analytic services to the geospatial intelligence community. In an effort to simulate one of our data production practices using Fulcrum, I sought out to ground truth and enhance publicly shared data about the City of Tampa’s surveillance cameras by rapidly creating and deploying a customized fulcrum app. The web map application seen below is displaying real-time data using the data shares feature within Fulcrum which allows data to be published and immediately consumed from the field within minutes.

The chief difficulty when using existing data is in identifying relevant, reliable sources from the vast amount of publicly available information. However, this is not as great a challenge for those who know how to access local knowledge and how to leverage human experts who can create new tailored knowledge on the fly. Tapping into Spatial Networks’ global reach and fusing it’s technology to enhance existing data or to create new data products for GEOINT consumers resonated well with attendees to our booth throughout the week.

I was fortunate to be able to attend my second GEOINT Symposium this year in Spatial Networks' backyard of Tampa, FL. Besides getting to meet many people from around the industry who came to our booth, I also got the chance to walk around the showroom floor and see what other vendors brought to the table.

One of the common areas of interest this year was augmented reality for the war fighter. Specifically, some sort of heads-up display that relays relevant intelligence about the immediate surrounding area. Whether it was the use of the Oculus Rift, or a proprietary hardware system, there were several vendors who saw the importance of such a tool on the battlefield. What's more interesting, however, is what wasn't widely showcased as a product or service.

No matter how good the hardware or software is that the soldier is using, it will only ever be as useful as the intelligence data available to display. Many vendors offered satellite based raster data, or full-motion video solutions, but what makes augmented reality great is point based, high fidelity ground data. These could be locations of gas stations, ATMs, or any point of interest in a given area of operation.

Besides our own booth, I failed to notice a single vendor who proudly announced their capability to either collect this necessary sort of intelligence, or provide the tools and solutions necessary to "do it yourself". This is where I believe Spatial Networks can provide an incredibly valuable service where many can not. Whether its using Fulcrum to collect the data you need on your own, or having us use our vast network to collect it for you, we can provide the data that makes the investment in augmented reality worth it.

Posted
AuthorJonathan Baker
CategoriesArticle, Event

At this year's GEOINT Symposium in Tampa many companies showed their latest geospatial technology. It's exciting to see so many diverse technologies work together to improve the overall GEOINT mission. Over the course of the 3-day exhibit hall, I had a chance to meet quite a few people that stopped by our booth. One of the unique things about Spatial Networks that interested people is our ability to capture highly detailed localized content.

We're very interested in any new technologies that allow us to capture higher quality data more efficiently. This extends all the way from mobile operating systems to the server-based technologies used to produce deliverables. Because most of our work is done with commodity mobile devices, we focus primarily on Android and iOS. Advancements in these mobile operating systems enable us to deliver a highly customized data capturing experience for field users. We've found that the most effective way to increase the quality of incoming data is to adapt the interface and application to the field user, so they can use the technology in their local language. By placing an emphasis on the field user experience, we can produce higher quality data with fewer errors. Using Fulcrum, we can easily design and deploy a custom-built data capture solution to field users that includes localized application content. We can even deploy localized base map layers with road names and place names in a variety of languages. Using this technique, we can have a single schema for a collection requirement and have the freedom to do the field work in multiple languages.

Combining the flexibility of the software with ground-level local field users, we're able to capture very detailed context-sensitive data. We're also looking into ways to use emerging technologies like microsatellites to enable field users to have access to the latest imagery for the most accurate incoming data. This enables a new form of ground-truth capture in areas where it would be otherwise cost-prohibitive or logistically impossible to do. This capability has possibilities that extend beyond GEOINT, including disaster response, humanitarian relief, and private sector collection requirements.

We're always looking for innovative ways to improve data quality and workflows. I'm particularly interested in the idea of combining remote sensing and fieldwork and having both work together to support the overall mission.

Posted
AuthorZac

In today’s world, the potential to collect geospatial data is in the pockets and purses of more people than ever before. Though a lot of existing GEOINT Tradecraft seems to be designed around bringing information to handheld devices in the form of reports and maps, effective tradecraft should be a seamless information exchange to and from the field through mobile capabilities. With the presence of so many mobile devices, there is a lot of potential for this seamless exchange to be applied in the real world.

Patrick, Bryan, and I hosted a workshop at the GEOINT 2013* Symposium where we aimed to show the audience how a mobile product for data collection, using Fulcrum as an example, can be effectively deployed for mobile tradecraft. Here are 7 must haves for efficiency in Mobile GEOINT Tradecraft.

7 Must Haves for Mobile GEOINT Tradecraft

1. Custom, offline layers- the ability to load custom basemaps and layers for use offline is essential for providing context, direction, and information to a field data collector.

2. Temporary device storage- an essential in an offline environment, the device should temporarily store all collected data for sync upon return to an office or online environment.

3. Media Capture- Photos and videos are extremely important for ground level verification. However, media capture is also useful for collecting derivative information by default, as it is nearly impossible to exclude the surroundings of a subject from the picture or video. This derivative information can greatly add value and depth to analysis.

4. Geotagged photos- Exif data is great information to have. Not only does it provide additional verification from the field, but it automatically adds another layer of information to data collection without having to take any extra steps.

Fulcrum provides an easy view of exif data within the web app

Fulcrum provides an easy view of exif data within the web app

5. Standardization- a data collection form should have some level of standardization so that data produced in the field is accurate and consistent. The implementation of choice lists and classification sets in Fulcrum saves the data collector from having to input frequently occurring text values. While this practice saves time on the ground, it also cuts back on typos or spelling mistakes made by the data collector, keeping a high level of data integrity.

6. Field logic- using field logic helps present the data collector with an easy to use data collection form. For example, with Fulcrum’s visibility and requirement rules, showing specific fields only when relevant or requiring a certain field only under specific circumstances can help to improve data integrity.

The mobile user can automatically skip over irrelevant inputs 

The mobile user can automatically skip over irrelevant inputs 

 

7. Platform parity- platform parity is especially important in a “bring your own device” scenario. When equipment can be made up of multiple operating systems, it can reduce training time since people are using a device they are already familiar with. Plus, teams can collaborate and collect data at the same time, regardless of which device they are using.

 

Posted
AuthorAndie
TagsGEOINT

I had the opportunity to participate in the exhibit hall portion of the GEOINT 2013* Symposium last month.  As a member of SNI's engineering team, and primarily working on Fulcrum, I was able to gain some insight into other aspects of Spatial Networks' business.  Walking around the exhibit hall, it was interesting to see how commercial software and hardware could stand up next to technology solutions specifically engineered for the intelligence and security communities.

I was not expecting to see companies such as Adobe, Dell, and Google represented in that environment.  For a long time, there seemed to be a one way street where private sector and commercial businesses would benefit from technological advancements made by the public sector and military.  Innovations originating from our military and national security needs, such as drones and high resolution satellite imagery, are changing the way commercial businesses operate.  At the same time, the barriers that may have kept companies from taking advantage of these technologies in the past have been lowered.  However, it now appears that the intelligence, security, and military communities are beginning to realize the benefits of taking advantage of the advancements being made by commercial hardware and software providers.  For example, Adobe is creating content security tools for enterprise business customers that can be directly applied to the needs of government agencies.  Another example is the use of Oculus Rift hardware, created for playing and controlling video games, for pre-mission visualization and planning.

Often times the requirements, specifically in terms of data security, lead to commercial technology being overlooked as viable solutions.  However, as government agencies see their budgets decrease, and the problems they need to solve not getting smaller, they will need to become more open to all available options.  This is an exciting transition, and I look forward to being a part of the role Spatial Networks plays in moving forward.  

Posted
AuthorJeremy Pastika

Last month, I attended the USGIF Africa Working Group event at the GEOINT 2013* event in Tampa, Florida.  A panel of distinguished experts from a variety of domains addressed a packed room to discuss “Taking GEOINT Beyond the Intelligence Community: Illicit Wildlife Trade and Terrorist Financing in East Africa”.  On the panel were Hector Cuevas of PIXIA, MG(R) John Custer of EMC, Pat Awori, Trustee at Kenya Wildlife Service and Peter LaFontaine of the International Fund for Animal Welfare.  The panel was organized by Faye Cuevas, PIXIA and moderated by Elizabeth Lyon, USACE.

panelists fielding questions from moderator Elizabeth Lyon - photograph by author

panelists fielding questions from moderator Elizabeth Lyon - photograph by author

Each panelist spent a few minutes sharing their respective experiences in Africa and highlighted some of the issues related to poaching and other illicit wildlife trafficking issue.  Specifically as it relates to terrorism financing and how the application of geospatial technology and intelligence can be applied to mitigate, if not counteract this ongoing, illegal activity.  What became very clear to me during the panel / social discussions that unfolded were the following:

  • illicit trade in wildlife, particularly big-game and endangered species was still very much a profitable enterprise
  • new actors were getting involved in the supply chain
  • these new actors were seeking to siphon funds from illicit trafficking of wildlife (typically body parts), to various local, regional and international terrorism related activities to fund weapons acquisition, training, recruiting and other infrastructure necessary to carry out terrorist goals and objectives
  • a significant amount of money has been spent in the past few years on Airborne ISR (A-ISR) capabilities with a nominal impact on the real problem
  • the demand signal is overwhelmingly international and involves arms dealers, consumer demand, security and anti-poaching organizations, local businesses, banking institutions and organizations ranging from the LRA, Al Qaeda to Al Shabaab as well as local warlords and oddly enough, conservation groups.  
  • as mentioned by several members of the panel during the presentations, a White House Task Force for Combating Wildlife Trafficking has been established to devote considerable energy and resources to this issue.  The Task Force has significant potential to make major impacts on the global illicit trade in ivory and other endangered species trade.  However, there is no single entity in the USG that is “owning” this entire problem or applying a more strategic vision necessary to remedy the problem as a whole (that is, both the illicit wildlife trafficking and links to terrorism financing or other illegal activities that are part of the wider economic subculture).  

It would appear we have, as a community and as an act of Congress, spent north of $30,000,000 on technology in the form of Airborne Intelligence-Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) and associated infrastructure and services, according to the 2014 NDAA.  This technology was made part of the lexicon during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan over the past decade.  All those videos (referred to in the lingo as FMV for full-motion-video) have advanced the state of the art enormously, but at an equally stunning cost.  We’ve unfortunately fallen into the trap of thinking “if some is good, more must be better” in terms of airborne ISR, and that at some amount of spending and coverage, we can solve all of our knowledge gaps, remotely, by joystick.  This was apparently not lost on certain members of Congress, as noted in the 2014 NDAA, "The committee notes that this capability is of limited utility in regions where there is dense canopy, and believes that the Department is paying more than it should for this capability."  

This is a fool’s errand in fact.  Airborne sensors are certainly a powerful capability in the USG’s extensive portfolio, but it cannot answer the question many people want to know after staring at hours of FMV - “whats on the ground and why?”.  The disproportionate funding for airborne ISR leaves little room for complimentary capabilities to help answer the most critical of questions that really can impact decision-making well "left of the boom”.  

When it came time for some audience Q&A, I didn’t really have a question, but I offered a comment.  I said, “Not all ISR is Airborne” and while I had a few quiet “atta boy” comments, smiles and nods from some in the room and even on the panel, there was far more snickering from some in the room, behind me, and as I turned to leave a while later, it became clear why.  Many of the dominant Airborne ISR companies (those that provide the UAVs, software, hardware, exploitation and infrastructure for storage of massive archives of imagery) were standing to the back and it was quite clear they didn’t appreciate my comment.  With that rather parochial attitude rampant in our community (GEOINT), it’s no wonder we can burn through $30 Million in one year, on one issue in Africa and not result in material progress on that problem.