Centralization is key to better geospatial imagery and analysis

Two vendors discuss how they are improving collection and dissemination of GEOINT data for the NGA

The National Geospatial Intelligence Agency (NGA) is looking at new technologies that make data collection faster, store more data and perform deeper analytics from anywhere. Defense Systems interviewed Marcy Steinke, senior vice president of government relations at DigitalGlobe, and Rich Campbell, chief technologist at EMC Federal, to learn how their companies are helping the NGA improve collection and dissemination of GEOINT. Defense Systems also asked them about the effect of the recent merger between GeoEye and DigitalGlobe on those efforts.

DS: How is the NGA working to improve the collection and dissemination of geospatial intelligence, and what role has your company played in those activities?

Campbell: EMC assists with these core functions by leveraging several platforms, such as Isilon and Greenplum. EMC Isilon is fast Network Attached Storage that allows scale-out on a single platform. EMC Greenplum provides data analytics and massively parallel processing environments, and a database that enables just-in-time and historical analysis in seconds.

The ability to collect and disseminate data down-linked from multiple sensors in a single, consistent platform in multiple locations is useful for groups involved in ISR operations. These are unique EMC capabilities. Historically, the NGA needed multiple vendors and multiple products. Now, using a single platform is simpler, and saves money.

EMC also provides next-generation capabilities so the NGA can do more with less. We are working to produce more granular data analytic tools that will provide even more information than has been available in the past.

Steinke: Through the EnhancedView program, DigitalGlobe works with the NGA to improve the collection and dissemination of geospatial intelligence by offering government agencies, including the defense and intelligence communities, access to commercial high-resolution satellite imagery. DigitalGlobe provides the U.S. government with detailed imagery, data and analysis that is shareable with warfighters, coalition partners, first responders and relief workers, who collectively represent the very core of our nation’s security interests at home and abroad. The program was built to be highly cost-effective, giving government users predictable, stable and increasingly sophisticated capabilities for far less money than it would cost to acquire, operate, maintain and replenish the assets themselves.

With the rise in smart phones, tablets and “on-demand” information technologies, it is increasingly important to provide end-users – who are often first responders, relief workers, or warfighters – with quick and simple access to geospatial imagery and information, anytime and anywhere. This widespread and immediate need to access imagery and information, without clogging up communication infrastructure with large data sets of images, creates massive — and expensive — needs for storage, power, cooling and data center real estate.

DigitalGlobe’s efforts to enhance its cloud services offerings focus on evolving this imagery model to move to centralized hosting, with local caching for speed to meet customer needs and deliver cost savings. By enabling centralized servers to do most of the heavy data work, our services become more accessible to a wide array of end-users. These advances facilitate increases in both speed and quality of work without overburdening infrastructure or budgets.

The need for rapid and accurate analysis of imagery is becoming as important as the imagery itself. Recognizing this growing need, DigitalGlobe built an in-house analysis center dedicated to helping customers solve real-world challenges by providing custom research, consulting and reporting.

As our nation is pulling back on its physical presence at international hot spots, a virtual presence through satellites becomes more critical to keeping our nation safe, and it ensures that we are not caught off guard by unfolding events. We see our technology continuing to play a significant role in the nation’s security strategy to retain and enhance capabilities in line with national strategic directives.

DS: How will the GeoEye/DigitalGlobe merger affect those activities?

Campbell: The GeoEye/Digital Globe merger will enable the NGA to get more consistent, reliable data from a single source at lower cost, which is what they intended. When two companies with boots on the ground merge, the data becomes more consistent. The intelligence communities all believe similarly.

Steinke: DigitalGlobe and GeoEye combining complementary businesses will enable the combined company to benefit from increased scale, breadth and additional capabilities to compete more effectively in the global marketplace while better meeting the needs of our customers.  

We will be able to provide a wider array of information and imagery products to help solve our customers’ most complex problems, enabling them to save time, money and lives. Over time, the combined company plans to maintain an optimized three-satellite constellation that will meet the needs of the U.S. government, international governments and commercial customers.

The combination will also enable the U.S. government to meet the requirements of the EnhancedView program at a substantial savings to the taxpayer, delivering innovation, greater performance and higher value per taxpayer dollar.

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