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By Yvonne Headington

Geospatial systems specialist Esri UK has joined up with other leading contractors to demonstrate the value of joined-up intelligence for operational decision-making. The interoperability exercise, illustrating how information from a range of sources can be brought together into a single, shared intelligence picture, was unveiled at the Defence Geospatial Intelligence exhibition and conference (DGI 2011) on 25th January in London.

Today’s challenge is how to bring together, manage and exploit the huge amount of data amassed from various sources, such as: human intelligence, satellite and aerial imagery, signals and sensor data. The various organisations involved in collecting and analysing data have tended to work in isolation. A common ‘geospatial platform’ enables users to access the same information and to share the results of their analysis.

“The good news is” said Nick Rigby, Non-Executive Director of Esri UK, “whatever the source, all this information has a place and time so can be geographically referenced”.

Based on a Counter-Improvised Explosive Device (C-IED) story line, the industry team (Esri (UK), BAE GXP, ITT Eni, i2, Cobham MMI, Systematic and IHS Jane’s) showed how such a common picture can be achieved using a Geospatial Information System (GIS) such as Esri’s ArcGIS. The exercise demonstrated how multiple intelligence feeds could be brought together, analysed by different parties, and the results overlaid onto maps and imagery for further dissemination.

This approach to data management is currently being introduced by the UK MoD in Afghanistan in the form of DATAMAN, a deployable geoserver developed and built by the Joint Aeronautical & Geospatial Organisation (JAGO). DATAMAN has been used to support the Coalition Warrior Interoperability Demonstration (CWID) for several years but it has taken time for this capability to be embraced for Operations.

Under Phase 1 of the DATAMAN deployment, two servers were positioned at Lashkar Gar and Camp Bastion in February 2010. Each server, employing commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) hardware, cost around £100,000. (Most of the expenditure is for Esri licensing costs.) While DATAMAN manages the storage and presentation of intelligence, the data providers are responsible for updating information. Disseminated material covers a variety of disciplines, for instance C-IED and ISTAR (Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance). Phase 2 envisages the emplacement of five lighter servers at forward operating bases in mid-2011. The system will employ automated replication of data to ensure that the smaller servers are continually updated.

Delivering the conference keynote presentation, the Chief of Joint Operations Air Marshal Sir Stuart Peach emphasised the importance of geopspatial intelligence to network enabled capabilities. As a previous Chief of Defence Intelligence, CJO spoke with considerable authority on the need for timely and exploitable information. CJO’s main message focused on the need for fusing, disseminating and sharing data (with a ‘need to know’ balance). Above all solutions must be kept simple since there is a tendency in the GEOINT community “to seek the complicated solution”. While overlays have “come of age” CJO warned that this can be overdone. “I have seen some very cluttered digital products out on Operations” he said.

According to CJO, the future will see more fusion, collaboration and integration – provided there is clearer direction. However more attention needs to be given to what questions are being asked of ‘intelligence’ as well as to those selected to undertake senior intelligence appointments. Clearer direction generates a better product.

Companies exhibiting at DGI 2011 included well-known names within the Defence community (Astrium, BAE Systems, Cassidian, ITT, Northrop Grumman, SAAB

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