“GEOINT encompasses all aspects of imagery … and geospatial information and services. … It includes, but is not limited to … the analysis of literal imagery; geospatial data; and information technically derived from the processing, exploitation, literal, and non-literal analysis of spectral, spatial, and temporal … fused products (that is, products created out of two or more data sources). … These types of data can be collected on stationary and moving targets by electro-optical …, [synthetic aperture radar (SAR)] …, related sensor programs …, and non-technical means (to include geospatial information acquired by personnel in the field).”
Retired Air Force Lt. Gen. James R. Clapper, then director of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA), 2005
Geospatial intelligence, or the frequently used term GEOINT, refers to the discipline of exploitation and analysis of satellite imagery and other forms of earth observation data to describe, assess, and visually depict physical features and geographically referenced activities on the earth. The term GEOINT is typically used for the defense and internal security domains and offers the capability of monitoring, predicting and countering threats, while helping strategize and support various field operations.
The ongoing digital revolution and advancements in satellite and earth observation technologies, combined with UAVs and sensors have opened up a new era for defense, security and intel operations, redefining very way of flow of information in pre-, real-time and post-combat operations.
Here are the six top GEOINT trends that will dominate the industry in coming times.
AI and automation
With satellites beaming thousands of images every day, and sensors collecting millions of data points, it is just not possible for human eyes to digest and analyze all the information. There is a dire need for adopting AI and automation technologies to handle the persistent imagery environment. We should envision a future where artificial intelligence and humans work together to “generate some really interesting insights in a responsible way.
The United States National Geospatial Intelligence Agency (NGA) has set a goal to automate 75% of functions within five years, and is incorporating AAA technologies (which stands for artificial intelligence, augmentation and automation) into the way it achieves its mission.
Social media and mobile data
Smartphones in every hand, increasing use of social media, and sensors in transport vehicles have turned human beings into sensors. And this is what is driving the next wave of strategy and innovation for the GEOINT community. With the convergence of new sensors and social analytics, it is possible for defense organizations to access multi-source data for enhanced decision-making. As more terrorist/criminal organizations take to social networks like Twitter and Facebook to communicate their efforts, we have seen defense and intelligence organizations are using the right data analytic tools for mining this data to gain a better operational picture of enemy activity.
The exponential increase in data use is leading to the need for tools that make it easy to analyze geodata. To unlock the full potential of geospatial data, the GEOINT community needs to adopt Geodata Analytics-as-a-Service. This means to create analysis-as-a-service through which consumers will primarily purchase information derived from imagery and other sources and not purchase the raw data sources.
Drive for Cloud
As more location-based data is collected, it is becoming more and more difficult for individuals and organizations to keep all of their vital information, programs, and systems up and running on in-house computer servers. Cloud computing services come as a relief in such a scenario, becoming more valuable for businesses that need to be able to access large amounts of data over a secure, online network connection. Whether you are looking for scalable, automated processes to be run in a high-performance computing environment, or want simple analytics, the need for Cloud and interoperable analysis solutions seems to be growing.
Short shelf life of technologies
The digital revolution has brought about a scenario where technology is changing every day. An algorithm or a pixel that is valuable today maybe useless tomorrow because it was overtaken by something better. Short shelf life of technologies also mean defense and intel organizations wanting to keep on top of the technology curve. With little need for off-the-shelf geospatial solutions, the days of multi-billion dollar defense contract are changing, and the government is now more prone to purchase customized and cost-effective solutions.
Geospatial Information Science
Different people behave in different ways and culture and location plays an important role in it. With terrorist/criminal activities rising, it is becoming paramount for defense and intelligence communities to learn how humans impact their environments and vice versa; how often cultural norms differ in relation to various environments. This will also enable the GEOINT community to effectively use technology to capture, manage and analyze geographic information that supports leaders in making informed decisions in complex environments.