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Shaping Future Combat Operations

Rob Mott
Rob Mott
Vice President, Geospatial Solutions, IGS

Geospatial intelligence capabilities have accelerated over the last 10 years, in particular. In your opinion, what have been some of the major innovations?

The rise of commercial off-the-shelf software applications that adhere to open standards for geospatial data storage and sharing have provided major benefits to the defence and intelligence communities. For example, our ERDAS and GeoMedia technologies are built on Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC) standards. These standards allow users to access a wide range of data and geospatial processes from industry, government and academia. The flexibility to mix and match data and capabilities from different sources has been a game changer for the intelligence community. Plus, this diversity of technology inherently accelerates further innovation.

Industry standards drive collaboration between the intelligence community and its vendors. What is the state of this collaboration today?

There is a tremendous partnership underway. In order to understand the needs of geoint professionals, vendors require deep technical expertise in many aspects of the domain. For example, Intergraph has worked with government customers for more than four decades to solve difficult problems and ultimately evolve the overall tradecraft and technologies. We maintain an enduring partnership with the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) and other Department of Defense and intelligence community members of the US, which enables us to stay abreast of emerging trends and requirements. Through activities such as joint cooperative research and development agreements, we forge mutually beneficial bonds that allow us to gain unique insight into customer needs and direction. This information directly influences future commercial product design so that those products directly meet the emerging needs of agencies and end users.

Activity-based Intelligence (ABI) is one such emerging trend that will shape future combat operations. What is your view on ABI?

It is a very important development. ABI’s goal is to help analysts better understand changes in the environment from multiple activities occurring over a designated time period. Rather than simply studying a target to assess details of an object or location, ABI reviews transactions and patterns of movement and facilitates an understanding of trends as indicators of future activities. Letitia Long, Director of the NGA, calls this an effort to move into ‘an anticipatory mode’.

Multiple intelligence (Multi-INT) fusion is an important component of ABI. The ability to bring imagery intelligence, signals intelligence, human intelligence, measurements and signatures and other sources into an integrated analytical environment provides a powerful platform for an analyst to detect trends he or she might not otherwise see. The best solution is for analysts to work in an environment that integrates all these different sources simultaneously. Satellite imagery is an integral piece and may serve as the canvas on which other dynamic data feeds are displayed. Together, these feeds combine to create one powerful and detailed depiction of the real world. However, ABI is much more than Multi-INT analysis. A second key ABI focus is the ability to understand events and transactions, both of which have a time element associated with them. This aspect may include collecting dynamic information, such as unmanned aircraft system video feeds. It may also look at changes in time with respect to a number of individual data collections, which is a series of still images taken over a period of time played back in a cohesive fashion.

Understanding the relationships among different sets of intelligence captured from different sources based on common time stamps is crucial for ABI analysis. Timestamped metadata associated with sensor collections is key for establishing relationships among those collections and for interpreting additional details about unfolding events.

Geoint technologies are essential for ABI. Do you agree?

Yes, they are critical to both analysis and understanding. For instance, products such as ERDAS IMAGINE, which is a state-of-the-art image analysis software, are adept at handling a wide range of sensor formats simultaneously, such as electro-optical, radar, LiDAR, multispectral and hyperspectral. This provides an analyst with a unique view of an area of interest and offers insight into patterns of behaviour.

As another example, tools such as our Motion Video Analyst provides the powerful ability to overlay multiple real-time video feeds on top of satellite images and maps, providing superior situational awareness. This feature improves the ability of analysts to be oriented with the environment and activities on the ground they are witnessing through the UAV feed.

Online and cloud-based solutions are also on the rise. How do these services complete or replace existing capabilities?

Putting up-to-date maps and charts in the hands of warfighters is absolutely critical. Harnessing the power of cloud-based services provides a flexible and reliable method for doing so. For example, working in partnership with our customers, we have developed a Cartographic Web Services (CWS) solution, which provides innovative on-demand map production capabilities. CWS allows users in the field with hand-held devices, such as tablets or smartphones, to request an instantaneous generation of a map product that covers their area of interest. This Web-based service establishes a direct connection to authoritative data sources, executes sophisticated cartographic processes, such as conflation, symbol conflict resolution and automatic alignment of buildings to roads, and then generates and delivers an efficient GEOPDF to the hand-held device.

Intergraph Government Solutions (IGS) helps the US government create intelligent maps, analyse geointelligence, and transform complex data from disparate sources into real-time actionable information. However, understanding the relationships among different sets of intelligence captured from different sources based on common time stamps is a real challenge, feels Rob Mott, Vice President, Geospatial Solutions, IGS