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Geoint – the vital intelligence

The annual conference-cum-exhibition, GeoIntelligence Asia 2011 was held in New Delhi recently

The fifth edition of the annual conferencecum- exhibition, GeoIntelligence Asia 2011 held in New Delhi, India on June 14-15, 2011, turned out to be a huge success with dignitaries from around the globe in attendance. Organised by Directorate General of Information Systems (DGIS), Indian Army and GIS Development, the theme of this year’s event was ‘GIS: Empowering the Warfighter of Tomorrow’.

Presenting the inaugural address, Chief of Army Staff Gen VK Singh said, “We are endeavouring to achieve capabilities for full spectrum dominance in any confl ict scenario. The need is to understand and appreciate the impact of geospatial technologies on information operations.” Highlighting the importance of information, he said, “Indian Army looks at information systems that can be used by all the three services.”He also emphasised on the need of having a perfect balance between traditional ways and modern means.

Stressing on the importance of structuring the available information, Gen Singh opined that unless operational intelligence, geointelligence and human intelligence are fused together in a format and symbology understood by a common warfighter, information would not be of much utility. Talking about place-based memo, Christopher Tucker, Member United States GeoIntelligence Foundation, said that we need to focus on ‘when’ to understand the problem and come up with solutions. He said, “Geoint is not a stovepipe and cylinder of excellence but a foundation on which all other info systems can leverage on.”

Fusion: Fusion strategy is crucial for geointelligence (GEOINT). Col Sunil Mishra, Director, Battlefield Management System, Directorate General of Information Systems, Indian Army, explained that geoint is amalgamation of different type of intelligence like Information Management Intelligence (IMINT), Community Intelligence (COMINT), Human intelligence (HUMIT).

Patrick Warfl e, Director of Military Support, NGA, US, observed that users have become contributors and elaborated the new and emerging platform of geoint like social networking websites, crowd sourcing and human as sensors which provide crucial information. Talking about a new emerging practice of human terrain analysis, he said that it helps develop an analytic tradecraft that complements the agency’s existing GEOINT capability. He added that to comply with its mission NGA offers online and on-demand access of geospatial data.

Dr R Ramchandran, Centre Director, National Technical Research Organisation, India, observed that fusion strategy is crucial to answer all these questions. Col Sunil Mishra, Director, Battlefield Management System, DGIS, Indian Army, observed that geoint enables users to go beyond traditional thinking. For instance, search for Osama bin Laden was not only confined to the Kabul border but also reached quite far from the border to Abbottabad.

Col John Kedar, Chief of Staff, Headquarters Engineer-in-Chief (Army), UK MoD observed, “We talk about every soldier being a sensor. But the question is how do we bring sensor and soldier together?” Talking about future character of confl ict, Col Kedar said, “The need is to shift emphasis from platform and C2 nodes towards better understanding.” He added, “We need to understand the people we are dealing with, there is a need to have information on human geography.”

John Day, Director – Defence Esri, US, said futuristic GIS is creating the illusion of simplicity. GIS is going beyond a single analytical workstation to provide an ecosystem to support measurement, storage, analysis, visualisation, planning, decision making and so on. Measurement is now about real-time measurement and more sensor networks.

Common Symbology: Symbology is one of the most debatable issues in this age where every force aspires to achieve net-centricity. It thus was one of the most debated topics of discussion at the conference.

Speaking about the importance of symbology, David Jarrett, Business Development Director, International, General Dynamics, United Kingdom, said, “It is a graphical representation of military units,” adding, “It is important because it supports operations and decision-making.” Talking about standards, he said, “Military symbology standard needs to be managed,” adding, “A standard could be based on existing technologies, and can always be tailored according to national needs.”

Stressing on the need to have a common warfighting symbology under one MoD standard, Col Alan Mosher (US Army – retd), Director – Strategy, DRS Tactical Systems, US, said, “Joint warfighting has strengthened the requirement for a joint standard symbology that enables the rapid exchange of information by the C2 systems,” he said. He then talked about land based symbology and C2 symbology. While talking about symbols, he raised a very important point, “We have symbols in different colours but what if the person viewing those symbols is colour blind? He will not be able to interpret the information correctly.” He also talked about a situation wherein colours become invisible to a soldier when he wears night vision goggles. “Graphics should support battlefield planning and management,” he said.

Meanwhile, Lt Col Rohit Gupta, GSO 1, ACCCS, DGIS, Indian Army, surprised everyone when he suggested that symbology should be independent of GIS. “I think symbology generation tool should be independent of GIS or its area of operation. There isn’t much related to GIS except location,” he said.

Asymmetric Warfare: “The crux of asymmetric warfare is mobility and surprise element. The objective of enemy is to force us to spread our resources so that we become vulnerable to their attacks,” said Sanjay Sahay, IPS, Inspector General of Police, Police Computer Wing Bangalore, India. He observed, “Intelligence can go wrong but geospatial intelligence cannot go wrong.” Stressing on the importance of terrain mapping, he explained how imagery can aid in ensuring security. “Security of critical infrastructure and mass transportation systems are very important in solving major problem of ours. If we get an imagery of 20cm or less of resolution, we can solve almost 90 per cent law and order problems in the world.”

Describing asymmetric warfare as a ‘wicked problem’, Mark Ashwell, Vice President, DigitalGlobe, Unites States, stressed on the need to understand the nature of the problem, “People resolve to this warfare as they do not have an alternate resolution. Wicked problems need different approach. For example, in a crisis situation, there is a need for commanders who can take swift decisions,” he said, adding, “People do not readily share information but in dealing with wicked problem, you need to share information. This is where this technology can aid you.” Speaking about the complexity and the operational challenges that are involved in counterinsurgency operations, Col Richard Sundharam, General Manager – Defence NIIT-GIS Ltd, India, said, “Geospatial technology can help us in integrating and analysing a situation, creating common picture for decision makers and executioners and aiding in carrying out a coordinated action.”

Predictive Analysis: Predictive analysis is emerging as an effective means for meeting most of the security challenges. GeoEye Analytics division provided 99 per cent accurate predictions of criminal activities to the New York Police, claimed Andy Stephenson, Senior Director Asia Pacific, GeoEye, US.

M. Rajathurai, Technical Director, Bentley Systems India, said the company aims to improve the traditional systems of the military operations that are widely on a 2D paradigm to a more virtual reality through the 3D GIS capability. He added that Bentley’s solutions can combine geospatial/non-geospatial data to produce thematic maps and reports.

Situational awareness: Situational awareness (SA) is essential for successful military operations in all type of warfares including asymmetric warfare. One of the ways identified for enhancing SA is the use of large scale digital maps, especially keeping in mind the requirements of warfighters in battleground, said Manosi Lahiri, Managing Director, ML InfoMap. She further said that such maps are needed because in today’s warfare, modern equipment works on digital maps and thus there is a need for GPS and GIS ready digital maps that can be shared by devices and software. The same map provides situational awareness both to C2 centre and on the battlefield. Some of the key benefits of large scale digital maps are – high resolution satellite images show current scenario, scales can be changed without loss of data, and very importantly, geo-tagging of photos, videos etc is possible.

While GPS has been playing an increasingly important role in situational awareness, GPS-free position determination is equally significant. The point was raised by CS Venkataraman, Principle – Technology, Tata Power SED. He described algorithms on location information that operate at three levels – perception, comprehension and projection, so that one can be ahead of the adversary. The algorithms are based on Direction of Arrival and Time of Arrival. The process also utilises GIS data.

Emerging trends: Observing that terrain plays a vital role in mission planning and that providing significantly increased capabilities to military command is the need of the day, Col GS Mehta, Chief General Manager, RSI Softech presented a demonstration of Terra Builder offered by the company, that does not require army personnel to be technically qualified to explore benefits.

VK Panchal, Scientist G, Defence Terrain Research Laboratory, discussed an off-beat concept of nature-inspired anticipatory computing for intelligent battlefield planning. According to Panchal, natural computation extracts ideas from nature and implements in computational model. Computing paradigms draws inspiration from nature and the scientific questions are being answered through philosophical debates.

RS Rathi, Divisional Director, GIS & Defence, Rolta India, presented information on enterprise GIS solutions offered by the company for intelligence preparation of battlefield. He shared that enterprise GIS-based terrain and tactical database helps in preparation of the operational environment (battlefield) for effective command and control by: defining the environment; describing infl uences of the environment, assessing threats and hazards and developing analytic conclusions.

Hyperspectral imagery: Maj. Gen TM Mhaisale, Cdr HQ Technical Group EME, Indian Army, explained how hyperspectral imagery covers the entire electromagnetic spectrum. According to him, the best characteristic of the imagery is its ability to detect objects’ chemical properties. It enables creation of 3D images and can detect low contrast targets. He also talked about ‘Virtual Fence’ which is a combination of multiple sensors and provides comprehensive coverage of land, shoreline and airspace.

Target Recognition: There are four phases of target identification: detection, recognition, identification and detailed analysis. Group Capt K P Gowd, Director, Indian Air Force, proposed a constellation of LEO geo-stationary satellites, an aero space-based platform for target recognition in near real-time.

According to Capt Gowd, the proposed constellation will have a mixture of optical, SAR and IR payload to achieve 24X7 surveillance capability in all weather conditions. These satellites will have onboard capability to identify and recognise the target as soon it is imaged and detected. This will be attained by configuring the satellite to have an onboard/ground based data processing capability.

Lt Col Offir Dor (retd), Elbit Systems, Israel, demonstrated how geointelligence solutions would be effective when live video is embedded with geospatial data. He stressed that the future combat identification technology will be based on advance C4ISR system which will be the integration of advance mapping and video.

Policy: Discussing India’s national mapping policies, stalwarts proposed that there should be an agency in India to bring together all spatial data like census maps, wetland maps, geological maps etc. Dr Prithvish Nag, Director, National Atlas and Thematic Mapping Organisation (NATMO), India, supported this proposal and added that it is important to deal with emerging threats like terrorism. Meanwhile, Day observed that governments around the world are beginning to open up. Open data policies are providing underpinnings for this information to come together. They are creating a kind of collective geographic understanding and opening the world to everyone.

Geoint 2011 not only emphasised the need of a single module from where information can be filtered to different departments as per their requirements, it also explored how latest technologies can be effective in different situations like target recognition, situational awareness, predictive analysis, etc.