The GEOINT Data They Are A-Changin’

Today’s big data deluge makes it a difficult to not just collect data, but also to make sense of it effectively.


If you did a find-and-replace of the word “times” with “data” in the lyrics of Bob Dylan’s 1963 classic song The Times They Are A-Changin’, you would find the revised phrase rings true when it comes to data management in the today’s GEOINT Community.

Much like how the times were dramatically changing in the early 1960s, the rapid pace of change in the GEOINT data arena mirrors this phenomenon. Today’s big data deluge makes it a difficult to not just collect data, but also to make sense of it to effectively communicate intelligence to the warfighter.

At the GEOINT 2017 Symposium, National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) Director Robert Cardillo noted that the overall volume of data would increase one million times in five years. He also stated that the NGA would need eight million imagery analysts to manually exploit all of the imagery industry expects to generate in the next decade.

While this increasing flood of data brings great opportunity, it often leaves organizations struggling to implement strategies to effectively use the data they collect. The challenge lies in using visual analytics and technology to communicate information effortlessly and in real time.

Today’s defense and intelligence organizations must understand what data they have, how to access it, what it can be used for, how to transform it, and how to deliver it in new ways—no longer as data, but as answers to mission-critical problems. When so much data is stored, time becomes the most important dimension.

Until now, many systems have been built and designed to process data and produce an accurate picture of what was, but they are not able to look at what’s changing or how it is changing. Geospatial applications that take time into account not only tell us What Was and What Is, but can also provide insights into What Could Be, What Should Be, and What Will Be.

Director Cardillo’s vision is to have 75 percent NGA analysis to be fully automated, giving analysts “more time to analyze that last play and more accurately anticipate the next one.” To help bring this vision to life, NGA is developing new public-private partnerships (PPPs) with the commercial sector to allow the agency to develop more agile and efficient ways to make use of those resources.

Thankfully, there is a shift coming in which innovations in advanced visualization can offer a complete time perspective shift in data analysis, further helping the NGA meet these goals. The critical element is supporting live connections to sensor feeds in a 3D environment. As a result, defense and intelligence organizations can leverage a 5D digital reality in which real-time, rapid fusion of multi-source content and the ability to perform analytics on-the-fly is now possible.

The foundation of this new approach is connecting to the data in its native format instead of a workflow to extract, transform, and load the data and create a tile store. This comes down to technologies that connect to real-time sensors, visualize and analyze the sensor data from moving objects, and immediately calculate and deliver information.

In addition, by integrating this new approach into cloud-based solutions, defense and intelligence organizations can leverage maps that effectively communicate information. These solutions transform maps from a static picture of how the battlefield was into an information service that offers a host of interactive tools to allow the warfighter to make better decisions.

This is achieved by fusing content, analytics, and workflows into an intuitive user dashboard to produce powerful battlefield visualizations for communicating timely and accurate information to decision-makers.

In the defense and intelligence arena, dynamic information is no longer just a vision, but a challenging expectation given the rapidly expanding deluge of GEOINT data. Fortunately, the way data can be managed and analyzed “is a changin.’”

About the Author: Marc Melviez joined Hexagon Geospatial as chief strategy officer in 2017. Previously, Marc was the Group CEO for Luciad.

Posted in: Contributed   Tagged in: Data, Defense & Military, Intelligence

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