Leveraging Open-Source Tools To Strengthen Innovation

New task force to help GEOINT Community share technology and ideas


Innovation is an integral part of USGIF and one of its three mission pillars: build the community, advance the tradecraft, and accelerate innovation. But innovation is not only important to USGIF, it is vital to the GEOINT Community—it’s what makes the community push the envelope to create better information and insight for decision-makers.

USGIF’s Innovation Task Force formed in mid-2014 to help bolster innovation across the GEOINT Community. As its name suggests, the group aims to strengthen the Foundation’s mission through various activities and events designed to share innovative ideas and speed up technology adoption. As a USGIF task force, the members aim to execute specific goals within a one-year time period.

“Innovation has always been at the heart of the GEOINT Community, and is integral to one of the three pillars of the USGIF mission,” said USGIF CEO Keith Masback. “Because innovation is complex, it’s important to have a task force solely dedicated to exploring future concepts and creating a pathway for emerging commercial technologies to enter the government acquisition stream. I anticipate this task force will make great strides on behalf of the entire community.”

Innovation Task Force co-chairs Abe Usher, chief technology officer of HumanGeo, and AJ Clark, president of Thermopylae Sciences and Technology, said there is more room to develop innovative opportunities in the GEOINT Community.

Usher said the task force is brainstorming nontraditional methods for hurdling challenges that often prevent innovation from moving forward. One such method is to encourage the use of sharing and showcase open-source technology. Clark said GitHub, a website where programmers can share and store code, is one resource the task force believes could help support collaboration and innovation among GEOINTers.

“We want to promote awareness of those [open-source] technologies and expose new generations of developers to the GEOINT Community by building on [the technology] and seeing the functionality and analysis available,” Clark said.

Jessica King, HumanGeo vice president of intelligence operations and a member of the Innovation Task Force, said today’s ever-changing competitive landscape cultivates innovation at a new level.

“It’s time to narrow that focus to create a task force centered on new, emerging trends that can be applicable to the value of the GEOINT mission of—just as National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency Director Robert Cardillo’s intent states—‘conveying consequence,’” King said.

The task force aims to host quarterly events featuring promising capabilities, open-source software, and open data. Potential event ideas include an interactive challenge for geospatial developers and engineers as well as demonstrations hosted by USGIF members ranging in topics from cloud computing to UAVs.

Through its initiatives, the Innovation Task Force hopes to provide reference data sets and deliver updates to engineers, analysts, and researchers to help them describe their technical capabilities to the broader GEOINT Community. Additionally, the task force plans to provide in-person quarterly briefings on the state of commercial, academic, and government innovation in geospatial technology to senior leaders within the Intelligence Community.

“If innovation is everyone’s shared role and responsibility, nothing will actually take place,” Usher said. “By standing up a task force with assigned responsibilities, we enhance the likelihood that things will get done.”

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