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Wave of data cannot be dealt alone, says Robert Cardillo at GEOINT 2017

Bringing together around 4000 attendees and 200 exhibiting organizations, USGIF hosted it’s GEOINT Symposium 2017 for the global GEOINT Community to discuss opportunities and solve challenges. Leaders from across the government, military, academic and commercial sectors are meeting in this Symposium. The theme of this year’s Symposium is “Advancing Capabilities to Meet Emerging Threats.”

“We are standing where the SIGINT community stood when the internet became the digital fabric of the planet. And whether our new persistent view of the world comes from space, air, sea, or ground – in five years, there may be a million times more than the amount of geospatial data that we have today. Yes, a million times more.” These are the words describing the core thought of the keynote speech given by Robert Cardillo, Director, NGA.

Data deluge and the GEOINTelligent partnerships

The world has moved from data scarcity to data abundance, from hunting for one perfect image to creating coherence from a flood of images and the services that follow. He is of the opinion that this data deluge is not something to be afraid of – the data itself isn’t the threat. Managed smartly and efficiently, it’s the solution – but it’s going to require change. However, he primarily laid focus on partnership and together operating as a community. “First and foremost, we know we cannot deal with the wave of data on our own. We need partners… If we think “community first,” we’re far more likely to achieve success for ourselves and our mission partners.”

He elaborated on the partnerships, saying NGA would create a B corporation — in effect a non-profit government company. NGA would hire someone from outside the agency to run it.

Robert Cardillo, Director, NGA. Courtsey: USGIF

Cardillo said NGA is trying to make it “easier to partner” and has created “NOME, which allows all our (government) partners to crowd-source and create foundation data in areas with no existing coverage. Right now, there are more than 600 web users from 15 contributing member nations on our World Wide Web presence and more than a thousand users on our top secret domain. Later this summer, we’ll expand NOME to our secret domain; so many more military users can access it.”

Automation is the key

With partnerships, developing innovative new tools and training is also imperative. “When we talk about the future and analytic modernization we often focus on discrete data and tools – Activity Based Intelligence, Structured Observation Management, and Object-Based Production. But, it’s also about putting the right pieces in place to automate the workflow.”

NGA’s goal is to automate 75 percent of an analyst’s tasks, “so they have more time to analyze that last play and more accurately anticipate the next one. So they can look much harder at our toughest problems – the 25% that require the most attention,” Cardillo said.

Part of the closer cooperation with industry will involve a new Public-Private Partnership. Cardillo, in announcing the new effort, said “NGA would invest our data, our analysis and maybe even our data exhaust – the by-products – into promising startups, companies and ideas… The goal would be to obtain a return on that data in the form of new or transformed data, new algorithms, trained machine vision approaches or an application of linked software.”

But the biggest challenge NGA faces right now is coping with the gigantic quantity of data from full motion video. “Where we truly need augmentation most right now is Full Motion Video. Because FMV, as currently practiced, is a critical challenge to NGA and our entire profession. It’s time-consuming, manually intensive, redundantly exploited, poorly integrated and it leaves a great deal of useful data unexploited and undiscovered” explained Cardillo.

In other words, while it remains essential to national security, it’s both extremely costly and extremely inefficient. With an approach to seek a solution, Cardillo introduced a new position, Director of Artificial Intelligence, Automation and Augmentation. He announced Buzz Roberts as the new Director, whose first challenge will be to address FMV automation.