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‘Big Data’ initiative to optimise geospatial intelligence

USA: US President Barack Obama’s administration announced a ‘Big Data’ research and development initiative in response to the large amount of data collected by geospatial intelligence and other systems. Under this initiative, six US government agencies announced more than USD 200 million in new commitments aimed at greatly improving the tools and techniques needed to access, organise, and glean discoveries from huge volumes of digital data.

The ‘big data’ initiative includes commitments from several federal agencies to develop new technologies to manipulate and manage big quantities of data and use those technologies in science, national security, and education. The federal agencies working on the initiative will be the National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Department of Defense (DoD), the Department of Energy, and the US Geological Survey.

As part of the announcement, DoD indicated that it is investing approximately USD 250 million annually (with USD 60 million available for new research projects) across the military departments in a series of programmes that will harness and utilise massive data in new ways and bring together sensing, perception and decision support to make truly autonomous systems that can manoeuvre and make decisions on their own. It will also seek to improve situational awareness to help warfighters and analysts and provide increased support to operations. The department is seeking a 100-fold increase in the ability of analysts to extract information from texts in any language, and a similar increase in the number of objects, activities, and events that an analyst can observe.

In addition, USGS announced the latest awardees for grants it issues through its John Wesley Powell Center for Analysis and Synthesis. The centre catalyzes innovative thinking in Earth system science by providing scientists a place and time for in-depth analysis, state-of-the-art computing capabilities, and collaborative tools invaluable for making sense of huge data sets. These big data projects will improve understanding of issues such as species response to climate change, earthquake recurrence rates, and the next generation of ecological indicators.

According to the White House press release, the NSF will implement a long-term big data strategy which includes encouraging research by funding a USD 10 million data project at the University of California, Berkeley, to support a geosciences data effort called Earth Cube. The EarthCube programme allows geoscientists to access, analyse and share information about our planet.

NASA’s Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS) will also gain from the programme. GEOSS is a collaborative, international effort to share and integrate Earth observation data. NASA has joined forces with the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), other agencies and nations to integrate satellite and ground- based monitoring and modelling systems to evaluate environmental conditions and predict outcomes of events such as forest fires, population growth and other developments that are natural and man- made.  In the near-term, with academia, researchers will integrate a complex variety of air quality information to better understand and address the impact of air quality on the environment and human health.

Source: White House & KMI Media Group