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FCW : March 15, 2014
Geodata 20 December 2013 FCW.COM 16 March 15, 2014 FCW.COM or problems to peers or the citizens they serve. Wyden has gone as far as embed- ding maps in press releases dealing with Medicare reform. "It s a very integrative process," Cahill said. "I ll show what data is avail- able, and they ll say, We want it pre- sented this way. To present [it visually] is so much easier than words. You re setting up problems, putting topics they are interested in into a map where they can see it spatially and think about why those things occur and where." The changing technology landscape Geographers, GIS experts, coders and cartographers are sought-after profes- sionals in the private sector and gov- ernment alike. Producing high-quality, informative maps requires a complex skill set, but evolving tools, technolo- gies and policies are simplifying cer- tain aspects of map-making. Esri s mapping software has long been dominant in federal agencies --- integrating with other large data sys- tems and offering a full suite of ana- lytical tools for those with suf cient training. But Tableau Software and Google Maps offer increasingly power- ful visualization options for those new to GIS, while Esri is making its systems more accessible as well. Mapbox s mobile- rst approach and Imagine an environment based on seamlessly integrated intel- ligence that is so immersive that geospatial analysts in the intelligence community are able to "live within the data. " That futuristic-sounding scenario is on pace to be reality by 2020 at the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, according to NGA Director Letitia Long, who spoke at a conference hosted by Esri in February. NGA s Map of the World will serve as the backbone for the agency s innovative geospatial efforts, which are outlined in the Intelligence Community Information Technol- ogy Enterprise initiative. Decades ago, static maps were usually enough to satisfy the geospatial appetites of the 17 intelligence agencies, but major advances in cloud computing, mobile technology, networking, data transfer and computing in general now allow for immedi- ate access to geospatial data processed by NGA. Long said the Map of the World is the platform for all geo-intelligence, multisource content and knowledge, with corresponding analysis and reporting stored there as well. Imagery from satellites, maritime and air safety data, and a smorgasbord of other types of geospatial information are available to ana- lysts with the proper credentials. And it all has been processed, curated and meta-tagged. Using the Map of the World, analysts can focus on a geographic point in time and see layers upon layers of what is happening. The data is not, however, limited to geographic information. The Map of the World can also use social media and countless other data- sets to highlight any object of interest, which can include human targets, at a highly detailed level to better show the true story. The information gathered on the Map of the World platform is then made available via the Globe, a Web portal through which NGA shares intelligence information. "In the past, you had to access multiple databases and search by hand for hours, sometimes even days, to nd our informa- tion. That doesn t cut it in our rapidly chang- ing world, " Long said. "Map of the World provides a seamless, integrated environment so analysts can live within that data. [Our interest] is all about national security --- geo- spatial content far beyond any commercial offering.... All this content [is] tailored for speci c defense, intelligence community and senior decision-makers requirements. " NGA s Map of the World and its current geospatial capabilities will see improve- ments in the coming years, the biggest of which might occur through big-data analyt- ics, Long said. NGA is pioneering activity- based intelligence, which Long said will help the agency nd the "unknown unknowns, and discover them more quickly than ever before. " The automated process allows analysts to nd answers to questions more quickly because the new systems sift through pet- abytes of geospatial data in real time. Long said the bottom line is more insight so "our policy-makers and war ghters make better decisions. " "Everything exists, every activity occurs, and everyone is somewhere at some time, " she added. --- Frank Konkel NGA: Seeking full immersion in geospatial data "In the past, you had to access multiple databases and search by hand for hours, sometimes even days, to find our information." --- LETITIA LONG
March 30, 2014