12 May 2006, USA – US software maker Microsoft and the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) have signed a letter of understanding to advance the design and delivery of geospatial information applications to customers. The NGA will use the Microsoft Virtual Earth platform to provide geospatial support for humanitarian, peacekeeping and national-security efforts. The Virtual Earth platform is an integrated set of online mapping and search services that deliver imagery through APIs. Geospatial intelligence (GEOINT) is the exploitation and analysis of imagery and geospatial information to describe, assess and visually depict physical features and geographically referenced activities on the earth.
While Microsoft has been developing the Virtual Earth platform, NGA has been prototyping its own geodetically based and geospatially attributed knowledge base. By continuing to explore visualization concepts and develop user-requested imagery-related services, NGA and Microsoft will collaborate to provide enhanced geospatial services to their respective customers. The NGA recently used the Microsoft Virtual Earth platform to develop a mapping site for relief efforts surrounding Hurricane Katrina in the Gulf Coast region. Virtual Earth application programming interfaces (APIs) enable technologies to run seamlessly together, providing horizontal integration to the platform.