Q&A with Erik Arvesen, vice president and general manager, Geospatial Solutions
What products and services does Harris offer the GEOINT Community?
Harris works with myriad customers and mission sets ranging from defense commands and civil government to utility companies and commercial business. Each of those has very different challenges. After assessing the specific needs of a customer, we apply our diverse tools and services. We offer everything from real-time onboard data processing for airborne sensors to ground processing systems. We have advanced off-the-shelf software like ENVI, which extracts actionable information from remote sensing data through change detection. We use Geiger-mode LiDAR sensors for applications from the U.S. Geological Survey to utility companies looking at transmission lines. We also have different machine learning and video analysis capabilities.
How would you describe your company culture?
The passion our teams and individuals have for our customers’ missions is intoxicating and resonates throughout our facilities in Colorado, Los Angeles, Florida, St. Louis, Rochester, N.Y., and the D.C. area. Additionally, the company’s heritage is based on cutting-edge technology. The ENVI software team and the company’s Visual Information Systems, for example, have technology-centric mindsets. All this goes back to understanding the customer’s specific challenges and how we can use innovative technology to solve their problems.
How has Harris evolved to keep pace with the explosion of geospatial technology in the last decade?
Having competence and comfort in solving complex problems using multiple data sources is a big part of our core capability and has been for a long time. The explosion of geospatial data tees up the marketplace and the commercial landscape into our sweet spot. We deal well with highly complex situations. The more complicated the problem is, the more intriguing it is for our teams. To deal with that complexity, we employ deep learning tools to specific imagery sets, going well beyond simple object detection.
What sets Harris apart from its competition?
It’s a combination of experience and investment in the future. We have more than 30 years of experience developing geospatial solutions using cutting-edge technology, so organizations seek our in-depth knowledge. Many of our analytic solutions are applicable from one customer mission to another. I’m a firm believer in this mindset of looking through the end customer’s lens first and backing into a solution that best fits their needs. Additionally, we’re investing quite a bit of internal research and development dollars in deep learning, artificial intelligence, and hardware for LiDAR.
What emerging GEOINT trends are Harris most excited about and how are you leveraging them to support your mission?
We’re seeing an emphasis on the use of commercial and open-source GEOINT data, products, and services. I’ve spoken with several strategy leaders at the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA)—they definitely want and need to move toward commercial open source. That resonates with our strategy.
Similarly, there’s an emphasis on small sat capabilities. This new paradigm of imaging the entire Earth every day means oceans of data are flooding in. In turn, that data intake requires more automation and machine learning. Having those capabilities allows us to continue managing the data coming in from our partners, like Planet and DigitalGlobe.
Also, new cloud platforms like Earth on AWS and DigitalGlobe’s GBDX are exciting for our engineers. It’s all phenomenal technology, but the real fun for Harris is understanding the customer’s needs and figuring out how to employ the tools we’ve spent a lot of time and money on to solve the challenges at hand.