New textbook explains activity-based intelligence
For years, the term activity-based intelligence (ABI), while often used in the Intelligence Community, has lacked definition. In an effort to better explain ABI and make it a more mainstream topic, Patrick Biltgen, technical director of analytics at Vencore, and Stephen Ryan, chief architect of Northrop Grumman’s mission systems sector, published a new textbook that dives into ABI’s core values and answers common questions.
Released in January, Activity-based Intelligence: Principles and Applications is the first public textbook that explains key ABI principles and applications of this emerging tradecraft. Biltgen said the book is intended for a broad audience of readers to include students, entry-level analysts, engineers, senior government leaders, and industry technologists.
“Much of intelligence is reporting on targets we already know and asking focused questions to get answers,” Biltgen said. “With ABI you don’t know the question—you have to discover it. The book is about bringing the community up to speed on the technologies and techniques that are important in a world of big data.”
USGIF has helped foster the Intelligence Community’s growing understanding of ABI. Many public references to ABI listed in the textbook are from either USGIF’s ABI Working Group forums or past GEOINT Symposia. The book also cites trajectory’s 2012 cover story “A Better Toolbox,” which helped bring ABI into the GEOINT Community spotlight. The first public mentioning of ABI, according to the authors, was at the GEOINT 2010 Symposium.
Not only does the 434-page book define ABI and its history, it also discusses how ABI is essential to anticipatory intelligence, policing, multi-INT, visual analytics, and other disciplines. The book defines ABI using real-life examples such as the 2002 D.C. beltway sniper attacks and the 2014 Malaysian Airlines flight 370 disappearance. The authors believe these open-source examples enhance the transparency of this emerging tradecraft and showcase the power of GEOINT to tackle a diverse array of problems.
Biltgen said he could foresee a second edition of the textbook given the incredible amount of ABI breakthroughs continuing to develop.
“I can see Stephen and I partnering with universities to teach short courses in ABI,” Biltgen said. “Everyone in the community is interested in how ABI techniques can be applied to new mission areas. We see this book as the beginning of a long conversation on how to leverage new technology and tradecraft for strategic advantage.”
The textbook is available for purchase on Amazon.
The paper is the result of a review of the current state of systems and missions by several USGIF working groups, in an unprecedented cross-working group collaboration.
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