The president of Radiant Solutions on remote sensing trends, educational initiatives, and more
Tony Frazier was introduced to the GEOINT Community seven years ago when he led marketing and products for commercial satellite imagery provider GeoEye, which was acquired by DigitalGlobe in 2013. DigitalGlobe later acquired Radiant, and Frazier was appointed president of Radiant Solutions in October when MDA acquired DigitalGlobe, merging multiple geospatial brands. Prior to GeoEye, Frazier served as senior director of product management for Cisco Systems and held senior marketing and product roles at IBM, Infor Global Solutions, iPhrase Technologies, and pcOrder.com. Frazier has been a USGIF Lifetime Member since 2015.
Q: What is your advice for young, aspiring GEOINT professionals?
This is an awesome community. It’s very rare that you can work on cutting-edge technology and apply it to missions that matter—from tools we use every day like consumer maps all the way to things that support warfighters and first responders. I’m relatively new to GEOINT after spending a couple decades working in commercial tech, and the principal thing I’ve noticed is you can continue to run at the pace of Silicon Valley but do it for a much more meaningful purpose.
Q: What lessons learned can you share with regard to working with the federal government?
One of the perceptions of government is that all of their solutions are custom built. There was a call to action on display at the GEOINT 2017 Symposium by the government to tap into more sources of commercial innovation. In order for the community to get where it wants to be, we must go beyond just leveraging technology best practices and also embrace open innovation business models. For example, I’ve collaborated with USGIF on initiatives such as hackathons and educational missions like Massive Open Online Courses. If we can share data and tools more broadly, we help eliminate barriers to collaboration and accelerate the process of innovation.
For example, this past year DigitalGlobe had a really great experience with a program called SpaceNet. It was a collaboration among DigitalGlobe, CosmiQ Works, and NVIDIA to make satellite imagery and labeled training data open and available to the machine learning community with the goal of accelerating innovation in the application of computer vision to mapping imagery. In round two of that challenge, we saw the quality of these algorithms go from 30 percent accuracy to, in some cases, more than 80 percent accuracy in a matter of months. We are contributing these automated feature extraction algorithms to the open source community. Over time we feel these capabilities can help automate mapping.
Q: What trends are you seeing in the remote sensing field and how are you responding to them?
One of the areas I’m really excited about is how we can tap into technology accelerations enabled by pervasive sensors, cloud computing, open-source software, and open data to change how we do business.
With more sensors in space and on the ground, we’ll have the ability to really sense the planet. The bottleneck is going to be how we can extract information, discover patterns, and deliver insights at that scale. Applying artificial intelligence, machine learning, and big data analytics are the enablers that will help our community ride this tidal wave of data to move the needle for the mission. If you look at where DigitalGlobe is going with our MDA merger, we will be able to harness all types of sources like radar and weather data that will help us provide those insights.
Q: What excites you about the future of the GEOINT industry?
I think the quality of new talent we’re attracting is exciting. I’m a big believer in education—my mother was a proponent that education creates opportunity. Now, we’re able to expose youth to crowdsourced mapping tools like OpenStreetMap and Tomnod. That’s an interesting pattern, that the technology is becoming more accessible. It’s allowing us to attract a new group of talent. My team had 24 interns this past summer and to see some of the projects they were able to deliver in a 10-week internship program was amazing. I’m confident we’re going to be able to recruit the best and brightest and focus on where we can take industry in the future.
Q: How has USGIF Membership helped your career development?
I’ve been a USGIF Lifetime Member for two years. USGIF has been a great resource. Coming into [the GEOINT industry] close to seven years ago, I had no knowledge about this space. Early on, [USGIF] was a platform of learning through events like the GEOINT Symposium and other networking exchanges. Now, USGIF provides me a platform for taking ideas and getting those ideas to scale. Whenever there’s the notion that DigitalGlobe wants to do something in partnership with the community, we look at USGIF as a channel to make that happen.