Remote Sensing – Trajectory Magazine We are the official publication of the United States Geospatial Intelligence Foundation (USGIF) – the nonprofit, educational organization supporting the geospatial intelligence tradecraft Tue, 20 Feb 2018 16:12:19 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Remote Sensing – Trajectory Magazine 32 32 127732085 Weekly GEOINT Community News Tue, 20 Feb 2018 16:10:08 +0000 IARPA Initiates 3D Imagery Modeling Program; DoD Seeks PNT Support; Maxar to Relocate Corporate HQ to Colorado; OGC Announces Earth Observation Hackathon; More

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IARPA Initiates 3D Imagery Modeling Program

The Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA) launched a new research effort to develop automated modeling algorithms that construct visual representations of satellite and aerial data. Called Creation of Operationally Realistic 3-D Environment (CORE3D), the multi-year effort will support the use of models for rapid response to military or humanitarian crises in remote areas. The activity has contracted with General Electric, Vision Systems, and Applied Research Associates to support the program.

DoD CIO Seeks Positioning, Navigation, and Timing Support

The Defense Department’s Chief Information Officer released a solicitation memo for a contractor to provide programs and systems engineering supporting the DoD’s positioning, navigation, and timing (PNT) enterprise. The selected contractor will also assess cyber vulnerabilities and potential areas of risk throughout the PNT sector.

Maxar to Relocate Corporate HQ to Colorado

Maxar Technologies announced plans to transfer its corporate headquarters from San Francisco to Westminster, Colo. The move is expected to generate approximately 800 jobs in the region, and serves to unify the company’s executive team and future shared services organizations.

e-GEOS Awarded Australian Maritime Safety Authority Contract

e-GEOS was awarded a contract to provide the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) with data from Italy’s COSMO-SkyMed satellites—marketed as the world’s only dual-use radar Earth observation constellation. AMSA will use data from the four operational satellites to monitor oil spills and illegal waste dumping as well as to coordinate emergency operations at sea.

OGC Announces Earth Observation Hackathon

The Open Geospatial Consortium is calling for participation in its Earth Observation Exploitation Platform Hackathon. The event seeks to determine whether results from the recent OGC Testbed-13 research initiative are fit to use as a basis for future programs. Participants will establish research design decisions, identify missing elements, and choose the best solution for the upcoming Testbed-14 program. The hackathon will run from March to May, and a webinar is scheduled Feb. 19 for those interested in participating.

TerraGo Introduces New GXP InForm Application

TerraGo launched its new GXP InForm app, an add-on module for BAE Systems’ GXP Xplorer platform. InForm, built using the TerraGo Magic platform, allows users to customize forms, maps, and workflows to support diverse operations anywhere in the world. Mobile features including basemaps and forms are accessible via the app even without a network connection.

Peer Intel

Peraton announced David Myers was appointed president of its communications sector. Myers will lead the sector’s strategic development and growth in government satellite and Earth-based communications markets.

President Trump nominated Lt. Gen. Paul Nakasone as the new head of the National Security Agency (NSA) and U.S. Cyber Command. Nakasone will succeed current NSA and Cybercom chief Adm. Michael Rogers, who plans to retire by spring.

NGA’s former associate director of capabilities Dr. Anthony Vinci was promoted to the agency’s newly created chief technology officer role. Vinci will focus on integrating cutting-edge technology such as artificial intelligence, computer vision, and augmentation with the agency’s people and processes.

Photo Credit: e-GEOS

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Weekly GEOINT Community News Mon, 05 Feb 2018 17:01:27 +0000 Airbus Offers Near Real-Time Emergency Imagery Access; Boundless Launches Geospatial Enterprise Server; IvySys Wins Threat Modeling Contract; More

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Airbus Offers Near Real-Time Emergency Imagery Access

Airbus has launched a 24/7 Emergency Image Delivery Service with near real-time access to satellite data. By transmitting data from its Pléiades and SPOT constellations to the Kongsberg Satellite Services polar ground station in Svalbard, Norway, Airbus is able to retrieve images at every orbit, enabling near-instant data delivery anywhere in the world. The service was developed to provide customers with specifically requested imagery in support of emergency and disaster response efforts.

Boundless Launches Geospatial Enterprise Server

Boundless recently premiered its new Boundless Server Enterprise, what it calls the market’s first cloud-native GIS server. The geospatial server is highly scalable and elastic enough to handle millions of requests at speed. With this release, Boundless aims to offer a powerful and cost-effective way to serve location data to applications in the cloud.

IvySys Wins Threat Modeling Contract 

IvySys was awarded a contract worth up to $4.6 million from the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory in support of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s Modeling Adversarial Activity program. The program models non-state actors’ activity to create tools that recognize and warn of efforts to acquire or deploy weapons of mass terror (WMT). At the end of the four-year program, IvySys will deliver operational software for WMT activity detection applications as well as the large-scale datasets used to train the detection software.

Geospatial World Leadership Award Winners Announced

Geospatial Media and Communications presented its 2018 Geospatial World Leadership Awards at last month’s Geospatial World Forum in Hyderabad, India. A number of USGIF members were honored: Maxar Technologies CEO Howard L. Lance won geospatial business leader of the year; AECOM was awarded geospatial solutions company of the year; HERE won geospatial technology company of the year; and the United States Geological Survey was named national geospatial agency of the year.

Peer Intel

ISPA Technology announced a series of executive promotions. Former consultant and tech executive Steve Davison was appointed as the new vice president of special programs. Davison will lead capture and management of major business opportunities across the firm. ISPA also appointed Michael Grochol, the former director of ISPA’s combatant command/intelligence community division, to a newly created chief strategy officer role.

Photo Credit: Airbus

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The Past, Present, and Future of Geospatial Data Use Thu, 01 Feb 2018 16:31:38 +0000 Exploring the uses of geospatial data in retail, health care, financial services, and transportation/logistics

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Over the past quarter century, information in the form of digital data has become the foundation on which governments, industries, and organizations base many of their decisions. In our modern world, there exists a deluge of data that grows exponentially each day. Companies and institutions have come to the awareness that not only must they have access to the right data at the right time, but they must also have access to analysis of the raw data to make correct decisions. The proper collection, analysis, and usability of timely and relevant data can mean the difference between success and failure.

“As organizational decisions increasingly become more data driven, businesses need to assure decisions are made with the most accurate data. That explains why so many organizations have made data collection and analysis a strategic and organizational priority and recognize data as a mission-critical asset to manage.”

– Harvard Business Review

Hence the constant search for new data sources, tools, solutions, and experts. Hence the persistent quest for new ways to use data, find relationships in data, and discover patterns in data. As we reflect on the uses of geospatial data, one of the most significant growth areas in the broader world of data is the area of data visualization. Whether rendering information in two or three dimensions, geospatial data is the key to visualizing data, which is why it has become one of the most sought after forms of data. Geospatial data was traditionally confined to use by the military, intelligence agencies, maritime or aeronautical organizations, etc. Today, the use of geospatial information has expanded into almost every market and institution around the globe, with the discovery that it can provide new levels of insight and information. Geospatial data has become an integral element in how companies and organizations conduct business throughout the world. As we look at how geospatial data is being used in the past and present, it makes us question how the uses of this data will change in the future.

Geospatial Data in Retail

Unbeknownst to most consumers, data drives the world of retail. Google, Amazon, and Walmart have realized the value of geospatial data to achieve growth and digital transformation, and now others are following suit. To tailor products, services, and goods, it is important to know the socioeconomic information of your customers. Specifically, geospatial data can provide retailers data on income, housing/rent prices, surrounding business performance, population, and age. These details determine the brands and the products they carry. For example, a store like Macy’s or JCPenney in an urban location will carry different brands than it would in a suburban or rural community.

Another way retail uses geospatial data is in combination with weather pattern predictions. In areas prone to hurricanes, tornadoes, or extreme winter weather, it is necessary to change items overstocked or on hand. In times of catastrophe, such as Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria, stores like Home Depot typically carry a surplus of generators. In the restaurant industry, Waffle House prepares to provide a limited menu during times of inclement weather. During predicted storms, especially in the South, Waffle House will order the necessary food to operate on a limited menu to provide their customers with breakfast in times of need. Also, weather pattern visualizations allow grocery stores to know when they should stock up on non-perishable items. Although storms are not predictable, the times and trends year after year are, and the ability to forecast at least a few weeks ahead can increase profits and better serve customers in times of need.

In a more traditional brick-and-mortar industry, such as banking or fast food, companies like Subway and Wells Fargo can select future optimal sites and assess the past performance of existing locations. Socioeconomic data as well as information like traffic patterns, foot traffic, and the number of residences in the area can be helpful when choosing a location. Geospatial data can also provide information on competitors in the area and forecast upcoming trends or construction projects that may affect business. For example, it’s important to know if a major, long-term road construction project is planned that may impact traffic patterns and accessibility of the business location.

The use of geospatial data in retail is not a new development. People began using customer data for retail sales forecasting back in post-World War II, however, it wasn’t until the 1990s when our technology improved enough to allow companies to perform “data mining” on their customers and retail stores. Since then, data mining has gone from raw statistics to incorporating other technologies such as artificial intelligence to help log and track activities in certain locations.

The creation of GIS software in particular provided companies with a multitude of information. Through the use of thematic map coloring, companies are able to visualize geographic patterns that may not otherwise be seen in the raw data. By entering the raw data into data tables and then instructing the GIS software to generate the data into a layer on the map (such as placing pins on the map to mark where a company’s best customers lived), it creates a visual that allows retail companies to recognize certain patterns in the population. Different layers of maps can also be added or taken away to provide additional/less information with just a click of the mouse. For example, if a company was viewing a map that showed where the best customers lived but wanted to focus on the average annual income of the population living near the store, they could uncheck the layer showing where the best customers lived and select the average annual income layer instead. These abilities make GIS an invaluable asset for any retail business.

  • This article is part of USGIF’s 2018 State & Future of GEOINT Report. Download the PDF to view the report in its entirety and to read this article with citations. 

Geospatial Data in Health Care

Health geography and the application of geospatial data and techniques continues to expand its influence and use to support more accurate and timely decision-making in the healthcare market. Research continues into the application of social geography and redefining health care from a model of treatment to a model of prevention and wellness.

Geospatial data is essential for both the study of epidemiology and the geography of health care. When we “know the earth,” when we discover patterns and influencing factors, when we understand how a population is influenced by social and cultural norms, only then can we begin to understand the effects on humans and their health needs.

Many diseases are being researched today using geographic techniques. The location of water, IV drug users, environmental hazards, or the nomadic patterns of people can all provide clues and knowledge to determine where the greatest healthcare need could exist in the future. One such example follows.

Geospatial research teams are using commercial data to develop simultaneous sky and ground truth for detecting and tracking nomadic pastoralists in rural areas of Africa. Using algorithms originally developed for defense intelligence, industry has prototyped solutions that can detect and geo-locate new dwellings in the Lake Chad region. Analysis helps develop patterns of life, including health-related information, based on data availability. This information can be provided to workers on the ground in order to provide efficient vaccine and medical care to nomadic populations.

Industry is also applying advanced algorithms to epidemiology to refine the scope and improve the cost-effectiveness of imagery tasking for more sensitive and specific results. For example, geospatial technology is being used to detect and geo-locate waste tire piles in Africa, which are a significant breeding ground for disease-carrying mosquitos.

Through discovery of these disease breeding grounds, healthcare teams can determine disease vectors to ultimately provide much needed vaccinations for diseases such as polio, West Nile virus, and malaria. Currently, nomadic tribes and camps are difficult to track, requiring locals and untrained health workers to deliver vaccinations in remote areas based on the seasonal migration of the tribes. Because of the difficulty in pinpointing the tribe locations and the nature of employing sometimes-corrupt locals for delivery, inoculations may end up on the black market and many people could remain unvaccinated. One in five children worldwide are not fully protected with even the most basic vaccines. As a result, an estimated 1.5 million children die each year—one every 20 seconds—from vaccine-preventable diseases. This application of technology provides better tools to track human migration, and to produce trends and reports that can make the vaccination delivery to humans in need more precise and timely. This same technology can be applied to find other structures and bio-forms that function as breeding sites—information that can be provided to survey teams for validation and action.

The use of geospatial data and analysis provides impact and benefits to the healthcare industry daily. Geospatial tools are able to visualize and inform service providers about changes in patterns, environmental impacts, identification of and changes within high-risk areas, and where the greatest need for resources providing the greatest benefit should be deployed.

Geospatial Data in Financial Services

The financial services industry, which traditionally consumes data in the form of dollars, cents, credits, and debts contained within spreadsheets, balance sheets, or financial statements, has discovered value in geospatial data. Consider the world of investment banking, an industry whose success is built by betting on ventures that offer the best return on investment and avoiding ventures that have a high risk of failure. This industry has created a science out of making the right investments based on analysis of all available data. Certainly this includes accounting data, balance sheets, and financial forecasts. However, today many financial services providers are also including geospatial data and analysis in their decision process. By using geospatial data and employing experts in geospatial analysis, companies can access new elements of knowledge, including but not limited to:

  • Visualizing real estate or land holdings tied to a particular investment.
  • Tracking changes to corporate, industry, or regional construction or development over time.
  • Visualizing geographic and demographic data of investments and the regions of the globe they occupy.
  • Analyzing services and infrastructure in a geographic area that may have a positive or negative impact on an investment.
  • Using geospatial data as one more source to avoid inaccurate or false financial information.
  • Analyzing imagery data of current or prospective investments half a world away without the need for travel.

In all of these examples, the benefit is the same. Geospatial data provides a new type of information that promotes a better final decision. Geospatial data provides new information that at a minimum promotes a more informed decision process and, in many cases, a more profitable decision. Additionally, investment risk can be reduced in ways that were unheard of a decade ago.   

Geospatial Data in Logistics/Transportation

Historically, geospatial data has been most commonly associated with transportation through the utilization of maps for navigation and transit. However, we have seen an abundance of new applications become available with digital maps that are changing the way that we understand our world. Would one ever think you could know exactly how much time it would take to get from Point A to Point B using the fastest route? Or, that we would be able to caution other drivers of a disabled car?  

But beyond the common use of applications like Google Maps and Waze, companies and industries are leveraging geospatial data for transportation that provides better solutions.

Today’s economy is focused on how to achieve results cheaper and faster while still maintaining high-quality products. Geospatial data has been a key influence in logistics and routing via roads/highways, railways, ports/maritime, and airports/aviation. Companies have been able to expand their businesses with this data by reducing the complexity of navigating large geographic areas. These operations can include:

  • Using global positioning systems (GPS) for vehicle tracking and dispatch to expedite schedules.
  • Conducting route analysis for better efficiency when transporting goods.
  • Mapping operation/warehouse locations for the proper inventory of goods for transport.

By implementing geospatial data into business decisions, companies can see favorable results. Recent studies show that by using geospatial data, companies can help improve efficiencies and customer satisfaction as well as drive business strategy:

“Research carried out by Vanson Bourne on behalf of Google, shows that mapping technology has had a dramatic impact on the transport and logistics organizations that have embraced it. 67 percent are experiencing better customer engagement, 46 percent have improved productivity and efficiency, and 46 percent have seen reduced costs as a result. Over half (54 percent) of those surveyed say that it has led them to reconsider their organization and/or product strategy.”

Internationally, geospatial data for transportation is in great demand. Data consisting of population densities, land uses, and travel behavior are valuable at the federal, state, and local levels to aid in transportation policy and planning. These data improve decisions made for highway management to ensure better use of limited funding.

During natural disasters, geospatial data plays an important role in risk management regarding transportation routes. Use of geospatial data informs strategic planners of potential routes that could be impacted due to the risks inherent to geography. These data also help identify evacuations routes. Emergency management organizations are able to identify road closures to help them navigate to people in need as quickly as possible.

Lastly, public transportation, fitness, and sport-based applications used for transportation should not be overlooked. There is an abundance of these applications available to the everyday user that helps provide information necessary to make timely decisions to improve schedules and results.

The Future of Geospatial Data

Innovation and cutting-edge research and development (R&D) in the field of geospatial data, geospatial science, and analytics continue to yield new ways to incorporate geospatial data into new arenas and offer solutions to today’s most challenging problems. Companies and academic institutions across the country are investing in developing geospatial technologies that will further extend the use of this valuable data outside traditional markets.

The fields of remote sensing and mobile drone platforms/sensors are expanding rapidly and providing consumer markets new levels of persistent and targeted geospatial data previously available only to the military and intelligence agencies. Geospatial data is a critical element to the operation of drones and small autonomous spacecraft, all of which depend on geospatial data to provide precise positioning. Numerous R&D activities are finding new ways to provide more accurate data to these platforms, thus enhancing their overall performance.

GIS research has also become a critical element in developing artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) technologies, providing an important data element to the content libraries and algorithms of these systems. AI innovations offer groundbreaking ways to perform topological data analysis, spatial analysis, change detection, and feature selection.

Geospatial data is also one of the foundational elements of virtual reality (VR) development. There is an increase in the use of geospatial data to inform policy-making. Spatial data related to urban sociology, demography, and statistics are becoming an essential element of many local, state, and federal government decision processes. The aforementioned is merely a sampling of the future of GIS. Other R&D activities that will further broaden the use of geospatial information include but are not limited to:

  • Biosecurity and health informatics.
  • Biostatistics and health risk appraisals.
  • Geospatial patterns of health behaviors and outcomes.
  • Geospatial patterns of disease treatment and outcomes.
  • Urban health, education, crime, and economic development.
  • Computation spatial statistics and social-environmental synthesis.
  • Geospatial urban planning and development.
  • Geospatial civil engineering.
  • GIS for traffic analysis and engineering applications.
  • Environmental and food security on both a regional and global scale.
  • Transport of contaminants in soil and water.
  • Geospatial trends in air pollution.
  • Food and water security.
  • Regional climate response and agricultural forecasting.

Geospatial data use has expanded beyond traditional consumers and is adding value to the retail, transportation, healthcare, and financial markets, to name a few. This expansion indicates that adding geospatial data to any data collection or analysis effort is beneficial. Furthermore, it speaks to the ever-present need to ensure geospatial data and related tradecrafts are properly governed to provide consistency in quality, accuracy, and security.

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Weekly GEOINT Community News Mon, 22 Jan 2018 16:43:18 +0000 Several USGIF Members Make Reuters Global Tech Leaders List; USAF Launches New SBIRS Satellite; Northern Sky Research Publishes Updated UAS Report; 2017 A Success for Commercial Space Investment

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Several USGIF Members Make Reuters Global Tech Leaders List

Reuters released its Top 100 Global Tech Leaders list, identifying industry leaders positioned to drive future innovation in the technology sector. Several USGIF Member Organizations made the list, including: Accenture Federal Services, Adobe, Amazon Web Services, CA Technologies, Cisco, DXC Technology, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, HP, IBM, Leidos, ManTech International, Micron Technology, NVIDIA, Oracle, and SAP National Security Solutions.

USAF Launches New SBIRS Satellite

The U.S. Air Force launched a Space Based Infrared System (SBIRS) Geosynchronous Earth Orbit Satellite to act as part of its global missile warning constellation. The satellite is equipped with powerful scanning infrared sensors and is supported by a sophisticated SBIRS ground control system to turn captured data into actionable information. Over the weekend, the satellite, named SBIRS GEO Flight-4 and built by Lockheed Martin, began transitioning to its final orbiting location 22,000 miles above Earth, where it will deploy its antennae, light shade, and solar arrays for further testing.

Northern Sky Research Publishes Updated UAS Report

Northern Sky Research this month published the fourth edition of its Unmanned Aircraft Systems Satcom and Imaging Markets report. This study offers a comprehensive analysis of the satcom market for satellite operators and geospatial imaging companies. New in this edition is coverage of Chinese, Middle Eastern, and Russian systems, assessment of commercial UAS strategies, and forecasts for high and medium altitude long endurance systems.

2017 A Success for Commercial Space Investment 

A report from Space Angels investment firm revealed commercial space companies received $3.9 billion from private investors in 2017. More than 120 firms made investments in space, marking a record year for the industry. The private space sector’s growth can be attributed to the rising reliability and cost-efficiency of commercial rockets. The report investigates the price of expanding mid-development government and commercial fleets to 500,000 kilograms of launch capacity. Results show that by 2025 it would cost $6.6 billion for government rockets and $4.2 billion for commercial rockets.

Peer Intel

Peraton hired former DHS and DoD official Reggie Brothers as executive vice president and chief technology officer. Brothers was most recently a principal at The Chertoff Group, and will oversee tech solutions, business development, and mergers and acquisitions at Peraton.

KeyW Corp. hired former Mantech International executive Dave Wallen as senior vice president of advanced cyber. Wallen built Mantech’s cyber operations, a business unit that recorded $175 million in sales in 2017. Wallen will focus on strategic growth and cyber teams at KeyW.

Photo Credit: NASA

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The GeoCarb Mission Fri, 19 Jan 2018 19:33:58 +0000 NASA to map carbon gas output over the Americas

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A new NASA remote sensing mission aims to revolutionize our understanding of the carbon cycle by measuring and mapping carbon gas output over the Americas. 

The Geostationary Carbon Observatory—or GeoCarb—is targeted for launch in the early 2020s and will monitor vegetation health and stress as a result of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere. To lower mission costs, GeoCarb will launch on a commercial SES-Government Solutions communications satellite. Devices in geostationary orbit mimic the Earth’s rotation, meaning the satellite can hover over and repeatedly monitor a specific region.

GeoCarb’s advanced payload will build on that of NASA’s Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 (OCO-2) mission, including identical detector technology, algorithms, and calibration techniques along with oxygen spectral bands and a grating spectrometer. However, GeoCarb will add a fourth spectral band to measure carbon monoxide and, for the first time in U.S. satellite history, methane. GeoCarb will also record solar-induced fluorescence (SIF), which indicates that plants are pulling carbon from the air and photosynthesis is occurring.

According to NASA, this payload will result in roughly 10 million daily recordings of carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, methane, and SIF at a spatial resolution of three to six miles. The collected data will illuminate how carbon flows between land, oceans, and the atmosphere as well as how carbon-based gasses are distributed by wind and weather patterns. Because of its geostationary placement, GeoCarb will fill information gaps left by polar orbiting satellites, resulting in a more complete picture of the carbon cycle.

In addition to informing climate science, this mission could also give a boost to the energy industry. Scientific American reports methane leaks cost the U.S. natural gas industry up to $10 billion each year. The article suggests GeoCarb’s collection of essential industry information (and its cost-efficient hosted payload method) is an effective way to please those in Congress who want to cut spending and maximize profits from the energy sector as well as those who want increased research toward improving environmental sustainability. If GeoCarb is successful, the hosted payload could serve as a model for future NASA partnerships with commercial satellite vendors and for international space programs to expand this research to other parts of the world.

Photo Credit: NASA/Lockheed Martin/University of Oklahoma

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The Tipping Point for 3D Fri, 12 Jan 2018 14:59:36 +0000 The ability to fully harness 3D data is rooted in acquisition and scalability

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The application of location intelligence and the incorporation of 2D maps and positioning have become ubiquitous since the advent of smartphones. Now, we are entering a new era in which we can harness the power of 3D data to improve consumer experiences, as well as applications for enterprise, public safety, homeland security, and urban planning. 3D will play a more significant role in these experiences as we overcome the technical barriers that have made it previously difficult and cost-prohibitive to acquire, visualize, simulate, and apply to real-world applications.

Outdoor Data: Our World Is 3D

In a geo-enabled community in which we strive for more precise answers to complex spatial intelligence questions, traditional 2D correlation is a limiting factor. When you think about 3D data and maps, modeling buildings in an urban environment seems obvious. However, 3D is incredibly important when trying to understand the exact height of sea level or the uniformity of roads and runways. For example, one can imagine the vast differences in 2D versus 3D data and its application during the 2017 hurricane season. By including the Z-dimension in analysis, we can achieve true, precise geospatial context for all datasets and enable the next generation of data analytics and applications.

Access to 3D data for most geospatial analysts has been limited. Legacy 3D data from Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) and synthetic aperture radar sensors has traditionally required specialized exploitation software, and point-by-point stereo-extraction techniques for generating 3D data are time-consuming, often making legacy 3D data cost-prohibitive. Both products cost hundreds to thousands of dollars per square kilometer and involve weeks of production time. Fortunately, new solutions provide a scalable and affordable 3D environment that can be accessed online as a web service or offline for disconnected users. Users can stream, visualize, and exploit 3D information from any desktop and many mobile devices. Models of Earth’s terrain—digital elevation models (DEMs)—are increasingly used to improve the accuracy of satellite imagery. Although viewed on a 2D monitor, DEMs deliver the magic through a true 3D likeness for bare-earth terrain, objects like buildings and trees, contours, or floor models, and unlimited contextual information can be applied to each measurement. This provides a true 3D capability, replacing current “2.5D” applications that aim to create 3D models out of 2D information, at a cost point closer to $10 to $20 per square kilometer and only hours of production time.

Indoor Data: Scalable 3D Acquisition

As 3D becomes more common in outdoor applications, its use for indoor location is being explored. Unsurprisingly, similar challenges need to be overcome. Until now, real-time indoor location intelligence has been difficult to achieve. This is largely due to the absence of, or difficulty in obtaining, real-time maps and positioning data to form the foundation for the insights businesses can derive about their spaces.

Image courtesy of InnerSpace.

To create a 3D model of a room, businesses stitch together blueprints, photos, laser scans, measurements, and hand-drawn diagrams. Once the maps and models are in hand, operators must create location and positioning infrastructures that accurately track people and things within the space. Operators need to position these sensors—typically beacons—precisely according to the building map, but the beacons have no knowledge of the map and cannot self-regulate to reflect any changes to the environment. If the beacon is moved, its accuracy is degraded and its correlation to the map breaks down. Overall, this process is lengthy, cost-prohibitive, and fraught with error.

Using current methodology, professional services teams work with a wide variety of tools—LiDAR trolleys, beacons, 3D cameras, and existing architectural drawings—to compose an accurate representation of a space. Additionally, the resulting system becomes difficult to maintain. Physical spaces are dynamic, and changes quickly render maps obsolete. Changes to technology used to create the models or track assets require ongoing management, and the process rapidly becomes overly complex. This complexity is stalling innovation across myriad industries, including training and simulation, public safety and security, and many consumer applications. While organizations and consumers can easily find data for outside locations using GPS, no equivalent data source exists for indoor location data.

Emerging location intelligence platforms leverage interconnected sensors that take advantage of the decreasing cost of off-the-shelf LiDAR components and the ubiquity of smartphones, wearables, and wireless infrastructure (WiFi, Bluetooth, ultra-wideband) to track people and assets. LiDAR remains an ideal technology for these sensors because its high fidelity is maintained regardless of lighting conditions and, unlike video, maintains citizen privacy. The result is a platform that is autonomous and scalable, and operates in real time to deliver 3D models and 2D maps while incorporating location and positioning within a single solution. These sensors are small and can be deployed on top of a building’s existing infrastructure—not dissimilar to a WiFi router.

The advantage of this approach is that the platform is able to capture the data needed to create 3D models of the indoor space while also understanding the sensors’ own positions relative to each other. Each sensor captures point clouds of the same space from different perspectives to create a composite point cloud that is automatically converted into a single structured model. This solves the two critical roadblocks that industry has faced when trying to acquire indoor data: Maps no longer need to be created/updated by professional services teams, and the maps and positioning data are always integrated and updated in real time.

The sensors track electromagnetic signals from people and assets within the space. This approach respects citizen privacy by capturing a unique identifier rather than personal information. Algorithms eliminate redundant data (such as signals from computers or WiFi routers) when identifying humans within a space and model the traffic patterns and behaviors over time. The data includes the person’s or asset’s longitude and latitude coordinates, along with altitude—which, as more people live and work in high-rise buildings, is becoming increasingly necessary for emerging enhanced 911 requirements in the United States. The scalability and real-time nature of a platform-based approach results in a stream of data that can be used to drive a variety of applications, including wayfinding, evacuation planning, training and simulation scenarios, airport security, and more.

Integrating Indoor and Outdoor 3D

Accurate correlation in four dimensions will drive the framework for future information transfer and corroboration. Fixed objects at a point in time must be properly located for all of their properties to be associated. This work is more challenging than it might appear. Many objects look very similar, and various sensors have differing levels of resolution and accuracy—bleed-over of attribution and misattribution of properties is possible. The better the 3D base layer, or foundation, the more likely all scene elements will be properly defined. Once objects move within the scene, the correlation of observables, initial position, and the changes to it often allow inference of intent or purpose.

Connecting data from outside to inside to deliver a seamless experience has yet to be solved, although there is progress. By capturing indoor 3D quickly and in real time, the opportunity to integrate it with outdoor 3D models is now possible. We expect the integration of 3D and its related positioning data will soon be ubiquitous regardless of where a person is located. In areas where data providers can work together, the same approach used by Google to track traffic could allow for the establishment of routes from outdoor to indoor and vice versa to evolve rapidly. Companies creating the 3D data are defining the standards, and, as more data becomes available, accessing information can be as easy as “get.location” for software developers creating outdoor navigation apps. A centralized database with established formats, standards, and access protocols is recommended to ensure that analysts and developers work with the same datasets and that decisions and insights are derived from the same foundation, no matter where stakeholders are located.

3D Accessibility for Success

As it becomes easier to quickly and cost-effectively create and integrate indoor and outdoor 3D data, managing how that information is stored and accessed will be the next opportunity for the geospatial community. In order for 3D to be truly valuable, it must be easily—if not immediately—accessible for today’s devices. Ensuring 3D can be captured in real time will drive the need to deliver it quickly and across a wider variety of applications. A smart compression and standardization strategy is critical to the portability of the information. As the use of 3D by consumers increases, there will be more natural demand for ready access from user devices, which will help streamline and optimize applications (as it has for 2D mapping over the last decade).

Applying 3D to the real world, in real time, provides:

  • Improved situational awareness to users from their own devices.
  • Seamless wayfinding from outdoors to indoors.
  • Exceptionally detailed and portable data for military/emergency planners and operators.
  • Readily available data and web access for first responders and non-governmental organizations.
  • Global GPS-denied navigation capability for mission critical systems (e.g., commercial flight avionics).
  • A globally accurate positioning grid immediately available for analysis.

Moving Forward

3D is ready to play a bigger role in how we experience the world. The manipulation of location in 3D should be as natural as controlling a video game console. As long as the GEOINT Community keeps in mind what has been learned from both 2D mobile mappers and gaming aficionados, the move into the Z-dimension should prove as easy as it is worthwhile. Moving forward, 3D data developers and users have an important role to play—to provide feedback on what “feels” natural, and what doesn’t. After all, that’s what reinserting the third dimension is all about.

Headline image: The Great Pyramid of Giza, from 3D compositing of DigitalGlobe imagery. Courtesy of Vricon.

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Forecasting Disease from Space Fri, 05 Jan 2018 15:43:16 +0000 Scientists use satellite data and predictive analytics to mitigate regional disease outbreaks

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In May 2017, hydrologist Antarpreet Jutla and a team of civil scientists used predictive algorithms to forecast an outbreak of cholera in Yemen. Cholera, a waterborne bacterial disease, primarily blooms during hot and dry seasons in coastal, developing countries lacking sophisticated sanitation and water infrastructure. To identify areas where these conditions are prevalent, Jutla’s team used satellite imagery to monitor temperature patterns, water storage, population migration, regional topography, and precipitation throughout Yemen. That data was fed into a processing algorithm that predicted areas most likely to experience an outbreak in the near future—particularly cities in West Yemen along the Red Sea.

Less than a month later, the model’s predictions rang true. Because the algorithms were built and tested using data from other regions, such as the Bengal Delta in South Asia, the team did not anticipate such accurate results in Yemen and chose not to preemptively warn local officials of the model’s predictions. In June, highly populated cities along the country’s West coast (including Al Hudaydah, Hajjah, and Taiz) saw tens of thousands of inhabitants suffer moderate to severe cholera symptoms.

The epidemic confirmed the model’s effectiveness beyond the team’s expectations. The refinement of such a system to a near-certain level of accuracy would offer huge advantages to hospitals and medical professionals, such as the ability to prepare treatment facilities and appropriately allocate supplies and vaccinations.

A similar disease forecasting effort in fall 2017 predicted malaria outbreaks in the Peruvian Amazon. NASA has partnered with university researchers who leverage NASA’s satellite fleet to identify areas where popular breeding grounds for the anopheles darlingi mosquito (the species most responsible for spreading malaria) overlap with concentrated human populations, leading to high infection rates. Using the Land Data Assimilation System (LDAS), NASA can pinpoint warm temperatures and calm waters like ponds or groundwater flooding—ideal conditions for darlingi to lay eggs. Regional models analyze this data and jump forward 12 weeks to predict where malaria is most likely to erupt. Health ministries are then encouraged to administer preventative treatment, bed nets, and other resources to specific health posts throughout Peru.

Disease forecasting remains an imperfect science, but as it is refined to a point of repeated, reliable accuracy, it will play a more significant role in containing and responding to dangerous disease outbreaks. 

Photo Credit: World Health Organization (WHO)

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Weekly GEOINT Community News Tue, 02 Jan 2018 15:59:59 +0000 DigitalGlobe Releases “2017 From Space” Image Collection; HERE Announces HERE Tracking; UrtheCast and SIIS Partner; NGA Awards MOJAVE Security Contracts

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DigitalGlobe Releases “2017 From Space” Image Collection

DigitalGlobe released a collection of satellite imagery depicting the year’s most significant global events. DigitalGlobe’s constellation collected more than one billion square kilometers of high-resolution data in 2017, ranging from crop failure and famines in Yemen and Africa to missile activity in Pyongsong to the solar eclipse. That imagery enabled well-informed decision-making by governments and commercial businesses.

HERE Announces HERE Tracking

HERE Technologies announced the launch of HERE Tracking, a cloud platform for real-time tracking of goods, devices, and people. The service is built on the HERE Open Location Platform and includes industry-grade maps with geo-coding capabilities, accurate offline positioning technology, and tracking, geo-fencing, and analytics APIs. The improved visibility provided by HERE Tracking will help maximize logistics efficiencies, saving time and money for shipping companies and cities. HERE is already working with Airoha, the IoT unit of MediaTek, and Concox Information & Technology to enable HERE Tracking for Concox products powered by select Airoha chipsets.

UrtheCast and SIIS Partner on Product Distribution

UrtheCast and its subsidiary Deimos Imaging have signed an agreement with data and marketing provider SI Imaging Services for the mutual distribution of their product portfolios. Combining space assets, including Deimos-owned satellites and the KOMPSAT series, will result in a constant Earth monitoring service and a broad offering of X-band synthetic aperture radar and optical imagery. Both firms’ customers will benefit from a larger and more detailed catalog of decision-making data.

NGA Awards Five MOJAVE Security Contracts

The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency awarded five ID/IQ contracts for MOJAVE Functional Area 2 (FA2): Security Support Services. The five-year, $400 million contracts were awarded to OGSystems, Leidos, Booz Allen Hamilton, Eagle Ray, and Pluribus International Corporation. These recipients will assist NGA’s security operations to include polygraph use, security specialist support, clinical psychology, counterintelligence, and insider threat analysis.

Photo Credit: DigitalGlobe

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Weekly GEOINT Community News Mon, 18 Dec 2017 14:38:46 +0000 DigitalGlobe Releases California Wildfire Imagery; SpaceX Completes First Mission With Reusable Rocket; USGS and NASA Select New Landsat Science Team; More

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DigitalGlobe Releases California Wildfire Imagery

To support wildfire relief efforts in California, DigitalGlobe has released satellite imagery of Ventura and surrounding communities via its Open Data Program. This data includes fire perimeters established by first responders and allows users to inspect fire zones and assess damage at particular addresses. The imagery includes JPEGs taken with a Shortwave Infrared Sensor, which cuts through smoke to show where fires are active on the ground. DigitalGlobe has also partnered with Mapbox to update Mapbox’s fire tracking map with the newest available imagery.

SpaceX Completes First Mission With Reusable Rocket

SpaceX launched its first reusable rocket Friday for its 13th NASA supply run to the International Space Station (ISS). The launch was supplemented with a Falcon 9 first stage booster and a reused Dragon cargo capsule from an April 15 mission to the ISS. The rocket arrived at the station Sunday, delivering a 4,800-pound payload supporting onboard research.

Earth-i Chooses Spacemetric for Satellite Image Processing

British satellite firm Earth-i announced it will use Swedish photogrammetry software Spacemetric to process still imagery and video from a new prototype satellite scheduled for launch in January 2018. Spacemetric will geometrically pinpoint each pixel in every image frame and will correct for distortions due to Earth’s terrain or satellite movement. Once operational, the satellite prototype will help bring high-definition color video and agile revisit rates to Earth-i’s growing constellation.

USGS and NASA Select New Landsat Science Team

USGS and NASA revealed their selections for the new Landsat Science Team, which conducts Landsat-based research related to data acquisition, formats, datasets, and more in partnership with the Intelligence Community. Members will spend their five-year terms preparing for and managing the launch of Landsat 9 in 2020 and developing applications for new Landsat data.

Airbus Cybersecurity Releases Predictions for 2018

Airbus’ external cybersecurity business unit released its top tech predictions for 2018 based on this year’s operations trends. Among them are: weak social media security policies will hurt enterprises; attacks on wireless networks will rise; and encryption will continue to be a challenge for local law enforcement. According to Airbus, if companies do not treat data privacy as a necessity cyber threats will dominate in 2018.

Vencore Awarded Multiple Contracts

Vencore announced it was awarded multiple systems engineering and integration contracts for a number of U.S. government customers across the defense and intelligence communities. The contracts are collectively valued at more than $375 million for seven years of work.

Photo Credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

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The DigitalGlobe Foundation Celebrates 10 Years Fri, 15 Dec 2017 17:50:43 +0000 A look at some of the globally meaningful work the foundation has made possible

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The DigitalGlobe Foundation (DGF), an educational nonprofit established by commercial satellite imagery provider DigitalGlobe, celebrates its tenth anniversary this year. To promote globally significant research and prepare the next generation of geospatial professionals, DGF awards grants to students and scientists in the form of free access to the company’s imagery, training, and other space-based technology.

DGF founder Mark Brender saw the need in 2007 to ramp up workforce development in preparation for the industry’s imminent growth.

“We needed a way to open our aperture, to bring new ideas and people into geospatial sciences and the commercial remote sensing imagery ecosystem,” Brender said. “The best way to do that was to establish a foundation that can put high-resolution imagery into the hands of students so they can experiment with it, understand it, and eventually become geospatial users.”

To date, DGF has awarded more than 3,000 imagery grants valued at more than $14 million to students and researchers around the world. Such fieldwork has explored changes in topography over time, human and wildlife population sustainability, and historic site identification.

Students at USGIF-accredited GEOINT programs are often the recipients of such grants. 

Our partnership with DGF provides unique opportunities for USGIF’s 14 accredited college and university programs,” said USGIF CEO Keith Masback, who is also a member of DGF’s board of directors. “With this access they are able to expand their ability to conduct research and advance the GEOINT tradecraft.” 

In addition to research support, DGF also offers scholarships to select partner schools, including $5,000 annual awards to students at George Mason University and the University of Colorado.

To encourage more global-scale problem-solving from promising geospatial scientists, DGF is gradually expanding its scope beyond awarding imagery grants for specific research projects. Since March, DGF President Kumar Navulur has led the foundation toward investments in three main areas:

  • Leveraging machine learning and spectral analysis to extract insights from data.
  • Promoting the study of foundational sciences where the current global capacity is sub-par, specifically photogrammetry and physics.
  • Creating a cooperative network of research-focused universities.

According to Navulur, DGF has also expanded its reach from just a few universities outside the U.S. to a wider distribution of 50 universities in 20 countries. Additionally, DGF has established a relationship with the African Association of Remote Sensing of the Environment, which consists of about 50 more universities.

The foundation hopes increased support will push young geospatial professionals to seek tangible solutions to major environmental problems.

“I would love for universities to look at how to use imagery to document the quantifiable progress of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals,” Navulur said.

In years to come, DGF partners and grant recipients will benefit from new access to cloud-penetrable radar data from Maxar Technologies, DigitalGlobe’s new parent organization. Additionally, case-specific imagery grants will be supplemented with access to the company’s global base map, DigitalGlobe Cloud Services.

“We are ensuring students have the skills to develop location-based technologies like the Internet of Things and remote sensing,” Navulur said. “Not only will they get jobs, they’ll make a difference in the world.”

Following are case studies featuring seven DGF grant recipients who are already making a difference:

Egyptian Looting

DGF granted three high-resolution images to University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Dr. Sarah Parcak to help measure archaeological looting in Egypt. Illegal digging reports were growing in the Saqqara and Dashur regions south of Cairo. Up-to-date data was not immediately available, so official theft measurements for the area were highly inaccurate until Parcak received access to GeoEye imagery via DGF.

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DigitalGlobe Foundation – Sarah Parcak / Girls Inc. from Trajectory On Location on Vimeo.

Surveying Nomadic Health

In one of its first grants, DGF released imagery to Stanford researcher Hannah Binzen Wild for her analysis of health in nomadic pastoral populations in Ethiopia. Wild used the data to locate mobile settlements quickly enough to develop and deliver hundreds of surveys to people living in the remote Nyangatom region of Ethiopia’s Lower Omo Valley. She’s now back at Stanford, working in collaboration with the Stanford Geospatial Center to refine the use of imagery for analysis by developing algorithms to determine average settlement size and other population characteristics. The team hopes these methods and pilot data can serve as a foundation to improve health care access for nomadic populations in other contexts.

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Tracking Gold

Michael Armand Canilao, an archaeologist and University of Illinois in Chicago graduate student, received an imagery grant from DGF supporting his research on ancient gold trading routes in the Philippines. DGF released four sharpened WorldView-2 multispectral images each displaying 1,000 square-foot tiles in northwest Luzon. The imagery enabled a closer look at the trails and, according to Canilao, made clear “how small-scale gold miners were able to negotiate, and, in some cases dictate, the terms of their participation in Early Historical Period maritime gold trade.”

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Mapping the Magan Peninsula

New York University doctoral candidate Eli Dollarhide sought to uncover the true historic landscape of Magan, an ancient peninsula in Oman with an uncertain political past. DGF granted Dollarhide access to Worldview-2 and -3 imagery of the land between Bronze Age settlements Bat and Amlah. This imagery helped Dollarhide’s team determine where to spend their limited time in the field and enabled the discovery of prehistoric tombs, petroglyphs, and roughly 450 other previously undocumented archaeological sites.

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Satellites Over Seals

University of Minnesota researcher Michella LaRue and her team used imagery provided by DGF to determine factors affecting the population variation and distribution of Weddell Seals along the Antarctic coast. Both commercial fishing and the melting of ice caused by climate change have affected the ice-dependent species. The project aims to determine what environmental conditions the seals require to survive. “We literally couldn’t do this research without [this imagery],” LaRue said. She manually scoured the imagery to count seals, and compared her findings to modern, ground-validated counts as well as counts from the 1960s.

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Erosion in the Yukon

It is theorized that slight increases in temperature caused the recent disappearance of the glacial Slims River in the Yukon. Dan Shugar, a researcher and professor at the University of Washington, Tacoma, was awarded WorldView-1, WorldView-2, and GeoEye-1 imagery by DGF to create 3D maps of the region. This enabled him to observe erosion processes in the Slims and Kaskawulsh rivers. Some imagery is being converted into a series of multi-temporal digital elevation models (DEMs) to visualize the hydrological system underground in search of changes that would affect glacial drainage. Shugar called these DEMs “a game changer.” DGF is continuing to work with Shugar on new tasking for stereo and multi-spectral images to detect changes in Kluane National Park.

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Valley of the Khans

DGF helped researchers from the University of California San Diego, the Mongolian Academy of Science, and the National Geographic Society in their quest to locate the final resting place of Genghis Khan. In one of its first grants, DGF provided Albert Yu-Min Lin and his team with imagery of multiple areas over Mongolia. The researchers are leveraging the power of the crowd and enlisting the general public to help study the satellite imagery and identify features of interest. The aim is to find Khan’s tomb using non-invasive tools and enable protective conservation methods at the historic site.

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Images courtesy of DigitalGlobe and the individual DGF grant recipients.

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