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Geointelligence for Security

Prof. Arup Dasgupta
Honorary Managing Editor
[email protected]
TThe word security conjures up an image of a heavily armed and intimidating uniformed person in front of a heavily barred gate. In reality, security is multi-faceted and is of prime importance for the sustenance of humanity on planet earth. From tackling terrorism to information security, geospatial information provides important intelligence in today’s networked world. This issue deals with many aspects of security in the geospatial realm including homeland security, integrated intelligence and geo-forensics. Security measures need to be unobtrusive as the security breaches are unobtrusive and insidious. How many times have you rued the simple act of attaching your pen drive to an unknown computer? In most cases it comes back to you with a load of viruses. Security can be breached just as easily.

The key is to anticipate and model breaches and be prepared. Geospatial technology enables a battery of systems to be employed for this purpose. The spatial dimension is not static, particularly when looking at an event like sports where there is constant movement of people from venue to venue. This calls for spatially enabled devices which can do proximal sensing and provide real-time alerts. In the army the soldier becomes the sensor. By converging the geospatial location technology and the ‘sensor’ in a sensor web we can get real-time information on situations as they develop.

The biggest challenge is to be able to anticipate breaches. To do this we need to think like an intruder and model their approach to mayhem. Game theoretical approaches and game playing with spatial content are some of the exciting areas that have opened up with the availability of fast computers and photo-realistic graphics. Spatial modelling of past events to understand the present and anticipate the future is what geoforensics is all about. If our identities can be made geospatially aware then the foe can easily be detected. Radar uses a technology called IFF, Identify Friend or Foe. The same technique can be used by making our identities geospatially enabled to trap a cyber criminal who may be using a stolen identity.

What excites me is the fact that geospatial technologies are entering new areas and this can only be good news for industry and geospatial professionals. It also means that geospatial technology is losing its exclusive tag and is becoming another tool in the security analysts kit. What worries me is that in the name of security many of the applications and algorithms developed may get shrouded in secrecy. This will be counterproductive. New applications, new algorithms and new technologies need to be shared because only then will there be further development of new applications. Let us not forget that remote sensing grew out of wartime photoreconnaisance. The defense forces use the same basic engines for playing war games that you may be using to play Sim City or Warcraft.