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By Yvonne Headington

The Second of Two Features from the DGI Conference

Co-operation was one of the main themes to emerge from this year’s Defence Geospatial Intelligence (DGI) conference and exhibition, held in London from 23 to 26 January 2012. Addressing what industry can do for the military customer, speakers emphasised the need for collaboration between suppliers as well between suppliers and customers.

Collaboration is Key

Brigadier Jim Hockenhull, Head of Military Planning at the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD), said that he needed industry to “collaborate both with me and also with each other”. The Brigadier said that he wanted to move away from having to resolve compatibility issues with equipment that doesn’t work together. “I don’t want the jigsaw that either I need to sort out how procedurally I’m going to make work” said Brigadier Hockenhull “or that I need to come back to you in order for you to help me fix the jigsaw that I’ve bought”.

The Brigadier did not necessarily pin the blame on suppliers since the customer is not always able to frame a coherent requirement. “Often that’s because we don’t understand what the real opportunities are……collaboration is key but it goes in a whole range of different directions”. This may sound slightly alarming but it is not too difficult to appreciate how the left hand of a large and complex organisation like Defence might not necessarily know what the right hand has acquired – let alone realise the full potential of these capabilities.

Industry Working Together

By way of illustrating the mix and match possibilities of products currently in the marketplace, DGI’s principal sponsor Esri hosted an anti-Piracy demonstration in collaboration with exactEarth, Exelis VIS and i2. Open-source intelligence was provided by IHS Fairplay.

Esri, a British-based company established in 1989, claims to be the world’s leading supplier of commercial off-the-shelf Geospatial Information Systems (GIS). For instance, the company provides the UK MoD’s DataMan (Data Management) GIS capability, which deployed last year in Afghanistan. ExactEarth, a data services company, delivers location-based maritime vessel information. The company’s exactAIS® data has been used in anti-piracy operations in the Indian Ocean, helping to identify ship behavior anomalies as well as to detect vessels entering dangerous pirated areas. The Exelis VIS contribution to the demonstration was the use of ENVI advanced image processing software, in order to identify different sizes of boat from satellite or airborne imagery (useful for both situational awareness and for locating missing boats).
IHS Fairplay provided human terrain intelligence, ship movement and recognition data. The company maintains AISLive, a global Automatic Identification System (AIS) network which provides online access to real-time ship movements. The system can identify the latest position of every AIS-equipped ship within areas of shore-based coverage.
As explained by Darren Scarlett, Esri’s Sector Marketing Manager (Defence, National Security and Public Safety) the demonstration displayed systems already in use by Government and Defence. “Defence and Government have got a lot of this stuff” he said “and they are using big chunks of it”. However the systems are not being co-ordinated. The demonstration showed how data could be tasked, collected and collated, processed, exploited and disseminated between different parties to create improved situational awareness and to enhance decision-making. Data sources currently used by naval task forces, such as Automatic Identification System (AIS) feeds, imagery and meteorological and oceanographic (METOC) data, can be overlaid to create a common operational picture. Esri’s ArcGIS software, an open standards-based commercial off the shelf platform, can integrate a range of data in different formats including aerial reconnaissance, signals intelligence and soc

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