Geospatial Intelligence

NGA goes open source with a public geospatial tool kit

Financial pressures have pushed the intelligence community (IC) to relinquish control of some of its data to cloud based services provided by the private sector. And along with trying to tie its 17 agencies together on a single platform, the IC has been forced to adapt to emerging technology trends as well as growing realities.      

As such, the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency announced this week it will partner with DigitalGlobe to simplify storage and processing of large-scale raster data used for geospatial imaging and tracking. DigitalGlobe’s arsenal of geospatial satellites captures nearly 2 million miles of imaging per day. The resulting deluge of data has created a need for better tools for analysis and processing in a timely manner. The new project, called MapReduce Geo, or MrGeo, is intended to reduce search, download and processing time for analysts. 

NGA will release the raster data produced by MrGeo on its public access GitHub website to be used as an open source reference tool.

By releasing its data to the public, NGA hopes to reassure members of the public they are committed to “streamlining co-creation efforts in software.” MrGeo’s GitHub access also bolsters NGA’s hopes of establishing a standard for storing and analyzing vast amounts of raster data via the cloud. MrGeo’s cloud based storage supports easy button widgets and workflows. 

“Sharing [MrGeo] with the public gives users at all levels another tool to help solve geospatial problems. For example, first responders could use it to plan the best ways in and out of dangerous areas taking into account terrain, land use and changes in weather,” Chris Rasmussen, NGA’s public software development lead, said in a statement.         

According to a video description, MrGeo supports global-scale high-resolution imagery processing, terrain analysis, mobility and route-planning analysis, MOVINT (moving intelligence) or analysis of track data, suitability analysis and predictive geospatial analysis.   

The analytics MrGeo can perform include global-scale raster processing, in which products are computed once at the highest resolution of data available and served out rapidly at proper viewing or analytic scale; site scanning, which is a simple and powerful means to classify the landscape of an area to determine various elevations and terrain features; communications, which use radio frequency propagation for situational awareness and mapping; line of sight analysis, where real-time views based on terrain and obstacles are used for greater situational awareness; touchdown, which searches for suitable landing zones for aircraft above; mobility analysis and route planning, a cloud accessible analytic tool for those operating in the field on foot, in a vehicle or off road; suitability analysis, which determines the appropriateness of an area for various tasks; and foresight, which builds signatures and assessments of particular regions where data does not exist.  These analytical capabilities are designed to support soldiers and analysts.

About the Author

Mark Pomerleau is a former editorial fellow with GCN and Defense Systems.

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