The creation and dissemination of GEOINT data, products, and services allow users to answer questions such as, “What’s happening where?” and, “What could happen when?” Observation datasets of the Earth’s physical and cultural characteristics enable the GEOINT community to orient, decide, and act faster than ever before. The rapid advancement of technology and the increasing density of interconnected devices and sensors has led to an explosion of geospatial data from sources with diverse organizational schemas and security requirements.

The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) has a vision for a data-centric architecture and a distributed work environment that operates on that data versus the way they have experienced in the past, a workflow-centric architecture on a single network. Data management is the key to making that possible.

NGA’s data management infrastructure will serve the agency’s evolving geospatial digital business model, capable of operating on a global scale, force-multiplied, and augmented through innovative data synthesis and
visualization.

During USGIF’s GEOConnect Series Virtual Main Stage on June 24, members of NGA discussed some of the agency’s specific needs in regards to data management for its evolving digital geospatial business model.

Data Integration

NGA’s data problem is managing data. According to Mark Munsell, chief technology officer at NGA, one issue is that the agency has disparate types of data. NGA is looking for tools that will aggregate data, connect to different databases and data sources, and bring those data sources together, to do analytics and find the interesting and important insights from an intelligence perspective.

“We need to be able to rapidly discover and integrate data for analytic use. So, we need technology that gives us speed and ease so we can quickly find data sources, understand its context, and then know how to use its permission,” said Joy Silverio, data steward, NGA.

Analysts need the ability to rapidly discover and integrate diverse data types and multiple types of pixel- and non-pixel-based data from multiple sources to discover and characterize relevant patterns.

The User Experience

It is clear across NGA’s technology strategy and the tech focus areas that the solutions and processes they implement must integrate with their current operational realities while building toward a system for tomorrow.

“That means we take into account the environments, systems, and networks that we have now and that we want to have in the future,” said Kelly Schulter, analyst, NGA. Operational success in the future would move NGA out of the business of finding, curating, and recreating data and toward increasing time spent analyzing and using all of the data that the agency creates and acquires, she added.

A part of this is understanding and allowing the experts to master their work. By doing this, the agency will better ensure valuable delivery to its users, customers, mission partners, decision-makers, warfighters, first responders, policymakers, and others.

“Data management is a critical aspect of doing data science. As a data scientist, this makes our life and the possibility of what we can do for our users and our customers that much better when we do data management,” said Andy Brooks, Ph.D., chief data scientist, NGA.

Data Quality and Validation

As a consumer of external data, NGA analysts need to determine the context behind all datasets, so it can be used in GEOINT data, products, and services.

“We’re all responsible for creating and identifying quality data that meets the necessary standards to support our mission,” said Schulter. “We can automate and augment these processes to speed up our work. This also helps to ensure that we’re executing our mission, which, of course, is why we’re all here.”

But NGA is also a producer of data. So, according to Silverio, they have a responsibility for providing that same context to their consumers.

“We want to ensure that all the attributes of the data, including the mandate, is actually tracked and captured consistently and more importantly, is shared across the agency, as a true agency-wide effort,” said Deepak Kundal, chief data officer, Chief Intelligence Office-Technology Directorate, NGA. “That’s how the alignment of data as a strategic asset is going to come together.”


USGIF continues its mission to bring thought leadership, cutting-edge technological presentations, key insights for decision-making, and educational and professional development opportunities to the entire geospatial intelligence, trade, and academic community. The GEOConnect Series is an accelerated outcome from USGIF’s strategic plan to go digital. The GEOConnect Series features multi-session virtual events such as live-streamed or recorded panels, podcasts, webinars, training, a virtual exhibit showcase, and more.

Learn more about The GEOConnect Series.

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Posted by Lisbeth Perez