Over the past five years, we have seen a dramatic shift in the military and government using more commercially available products when it comes to creating and implementing geospatial solutions. The use of commercial satellite imagery from companies such as GeoEye and DigitalGlobe, to the implementation of software solutions that aid the timely sharing and dissemination of intelligence data to the warfighter, the concept of Commercial-Off-The-Shelf (COTS) has taken on a life of its own. The result is that the military and government can be far more nimble and provide timely solutions to urgent geospatial needs.
Newer COTS solutions also provide the military with the flexibility to use available technologies to enhance, update and share key intelligence on the ground at anytime without needing to invest a tremendous amount of capital in building out their own solutions.
In addition, the use of innovative geospatial intelligence solutions by military operations has evolved over the past decade. Access to geospatial assets, particularly those in digital form, used to be limited to a small number of geospatial specialists. Today, the U.S. military emphasizes network-centric capabilities that put GIS information in the hands of every warﬁghter.
GIS in the form of dynamic digital maps, imagery, and intelligence data is now considered vital to the success of deployed warﬁghters around the world. Rather than relying on maps printed weeks or even months prior to an operation, todays warﬁghters are equipped with current intelligence based on COTS solutions that can be accessed on a computer in a disconnected environment. They can even be printed in the field by a mobile geospatial engineering team.
In addition, one of the biggest geospatial challenges that faces the Department of Defense is the development of solutions for quickly disseminating key GEOINT data to the warfighter in near real-time. Over the past several years, there has been an explosion of COTS-based innovation that focuses exclusively on capturing imagery and data, which has created a major data overload situation. Often the most actionable geospatial intelligence is inadvertently left on the cutting-room floor.
The U.S. Army Geospatial Center (AGC) is a center of innovation for geospatial capabilities within the U.S. Department of Defense. Its mission is to coordinate, integrate, and synchronize geospatial information requirements and standards across the Army; to develop and deploy geospatial enterprise-enabled systems and capabilities to the Army and Department of Defense; and to provide direct geospatial support and products to warfighters.
As the AGC continued to seek more practical methods for providing actionable geospatial data to warfighters in near real-time, the agency saw an opportunity to significantly improve the rapid, widespread distribution of maps and imagery, as well as the quality and richness of its products for mobile, operational end-users in the field.
This opportunity was realized when the COTS-based TerraGo® GeoPDF® and TerraGo Toolbar emerged as innovative new technologies for providing anyone, anywhere with easy access to geospatial products. These TerraGo offerings allow the AGC to produce compact, digital GeoPDF maps and imagery, then enable military personnel to access, update and share mission-critical, geo-referenced field intelligence.
Esri ArcGIS is the AGCs GIS solution for storing current geospatial intelligence and the complementary TerraGo solutions easily integrate into the ArcGIS workflow. GeoPDF maps and imagery produced with TerraGo Publisher for ArcGIS use geo-referenced PDF files as highly portable containers to deliver maps, imagery, and intelligence as geospatial applications. Mobile users whether operating in disconnected environments in the field or on the desktop can use GeoPDF and TerraGo software, including the free TerraGo Toolbar, to easily access, update, and share geospatial intelligence. Since the launch of the initial project, the AGC has used TerraGo Publisher for ArcGIS to produce a wide variety of battleﬁeld geospatial products, including Urban Tactical Planners (UTP), Engineering Route Studies (ERS), Urban Water Graphics (UWG), the Buckeye Map Book (BMB), Cultural Maps, and Country/Area Overviews.
In addition, AGC has used TerraGo Publisher for ArcGIS to produce approximately 15,000 GeoPDF products in-house along with more than 24,000 GeoPDF products created with TerraGo Composer for Acrobat. These files cover all corners of the Earth and give the warfighter and support personnel the valuable geospatial assets they need, regardless of their connectivity status.
The AGCs key benefits from this project include:
Reduced costs: By reducing the need to print maps in the U.S. and ship into the field, Army geospatial engineering teams can now create customized maps for soldiers from highly mobile vehicles operating on the battleﬁeld. In addition, the consumption of GeoPDF products only requires free Adobe Reader, which has helped the Army keep the costs of implementing software to a minimum.
Maximized resources: Since GeoPDF technology provides a standard way for operational users to exchange and use intelligence, the AGC can better use its internal resources. For example, GeoPDF maps and imagery can be customized and distributed rapidly from the AGC to government decision makers, battleﬁeld commanders, and forward-deployed warﬁghters. Command personnel working with geospatial and intelligence experts at operations centers can easily prepare, update, and email maps and imagery as needed to forces preparing for operations.
Improved cross-functional collaboration: With access to a laptop or handheld mobile device, warﬁghters can mark-up GeoPDF maps and imagery with new information, share it with others in the field, and send it back to geospatial and intelligence analysts.
Accelerated innovation: GeoPDF technology establishes a baseline of capabilities on which AGC continues to innovate, including enabling warﬁghters with a rugged handheld GPS device to access and mark-up GeoPDF, as well as creating 3D GeoPDFs from LiDAR and other elevation data for improved terrain and infrastructure visualization.
In addition to the tangible benefits that GeoPDF has brought to the AGC, here are some other key products and services:
Country Area GeoPDF MapBook Products: The AGC created rich, interactive GeoPDF map books of the 50 U.S. states and approximately 200 countries.
Dynamic GeoPDF MapBook Server: The AGC and TerraGo created a browser-based solution based on TerraGo Composer for Server for military users to create customized mapbooks. They simply select an area of interest, the types of data they require, and configure a specialized GeoPDF product that meets their exact needs.
USGS Map Locator: The AGC helped the U.S. Geological Survey convert nearly 60,000 topographic quad maps of the U.S. to GeoPDF. With these, the USGS created an online resource that is available to the public and is especially useful in support of Army National Guard, FEMA, and local emergency management and response efforts.
The military and government have benefited tremendously by implementing COTS-based geospatial solutions for managing some of the most challenging data sharing and collaboration situations. AGCs use of combined GIS and geospatial collaboration solutions is a real-life example of just how beneficial commercial-based products are to helping achieve our missions.
As a result, the AGC significantly improved common operating picture (COP) and situational awareness from rapid and cost-effective distribution of current geospatial intelligence at all levels of the U.S. military. The AGC continues to work with innovative partners to deliver geospatial intelligence and collaboration capabilities into the hands of U.S. warfighters.
For more information, visit www.agc.army.mil or contact Ray Caputo, Geographer, U.S. Army Geospatial Center or Michael Bufkin, Founder and Chief Solutions Architect, TerraGo Technologies.
This articles opening and closing image is courtesy of Science Photo
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About TerraGo Technologies
As inventors of the GeoPDF, this Company has spent the past five years delivering powerful software solutions that are helping soldiers in the field, intelligence officers on a mission, first responders in emergency situations, utility workers in the field, natural resource managers in the field, and thousands of other people access complex maps and images in the simple-to-use GeoPDF file format. TerraGo Technologies has been focused on a single mission: Improving the productivity and effectiveness of non-GIS experts who depend on geospatial information. Success is driven, in most part, by the firms pioneering spirit. From their roots of working with GIS experts who wanted to convert paper maps into digital files, to inventing the worlds most widely used geo-registered PDF, to advancing geospatial applications now used in the most intense intelligence and military situations, TerraGos pioneering spirit continues to innovate and spawn unique solutions in the GIS world.
In working with the worlds most sophisticated GIS teams, the Company has helped to build some of the most advanced geo-enabled applications. Such includes digital atlases with associated forms to collect information from field resources. In the process, a solid reputation has been established for incorporating customer-driven capabilities into the core product. Industry-leading GIS vendors have recognized the value TerraGo solutions can bring to their customers and have selected to incorporate the firms software into their offerings. TerraGo works with our partners, including ESRI, ERDAS, Intergraph and BAE Systems, to provide a seamless experience for our customers. In addition, TerraGo leverages the Adobe platform and capabilities as one of the select few Adobe Gold partners.
About the author
A founder of TerraGo and co-patent holder for the process that creates georeferenced PDF, Michael Bufkin has been involved in the evolution of TerraGo GeoPDF and the products that produce and display GeoPDF maps and imagery since the beginning. Today his role is primarily in architecting solutions for customers who want to push TerraGo products to the limits, creating applications that we never thought possible when we founded the company.
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Disaster Damage Assessment in Japan
When a 9.0 magnitude earthquake struck northeastern Japan on March 11, 2011, it was the worst in the countrys history and the fourth most powerful ever recorded. The earthquake was so strong that it moved Honshu about eight feet east and shifted the Earth on its axis by estimates of between four to 10 inches. The ensuing tsunami unleashed waves up to 128 feet high and reached six miles inland. Together, the killer quake and tsunami took the lives of more than 15,000 people, left nearly 8,000 missing, displaced 450,000 more and damaged in excess of $300 billion worth of property.
Adding to the unprecedented scope of these natural disasters was the compromise of the multi-reactor Fukushima nuclear plant complex, which released radiation necessitating evacuation of the surrounding area.
Once the immediate challenges of search and rescue were accomplished, attention shifted to recovery and damage assessment efforts. Federal, prefectural and local governments needed a way to rapidly disseminate, update and share information to determine which buildings and homes were damaged and to what degree so that property owners could receive government-issued disaster victim certificates.
Once the certificates were issued, compensation could be made to property owners and reconstruction could begin. Complicating matters was the inability to physically enter the nuclear evacuation zone to conduct on-the-ground inspection of property damage.
Damage Assessment With Georeferenced Maps + Imagery
Because the Great East Japan earthquake so radically altered and submerged the coastline, geospatially referenced maps and imagery were the obvious choice by which to visualize and exchange information. In addition, because no one could enter or fly over the evacuation zone near the Fukushima nuclear plant due to radiation exposure issues, satellite imagery was the only way to safely assess damage.
Hitachi Solutions, Ltd. proposed that by using pre- and post-March 11 maps and satellite imagery combined with property boundary information, damage assessment could be accomplished much more quickly and as a result, clerical work of issuing disaster damage certificates could be dramatically simplified. The maps would need to cover the more than 600 sq. mi. affected by the disaster in the Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures.
Due to the urgency of the disaster, the maps must also be able to be produced rapidly and be easily distributed and updated. Hitachi turned to TerraGo® Technologies for its geospatial collaboration software and GeoPDF® solutions to produce the map atlas. Hitachi Solutions is the TerraGo distributor in Japan and East Asia and a joint development partner.
Using TerraGo Publisher and Composer, Hitachi created 38,501 TerraGo GeoPDF® maps and combined them into 42 map books. The GeoPDF atlas maps are comprised of three layers: Residential cadaster maps from before the earthquake, post-disaster SAR (Synthetic Aperture Radar) flood estimate data and satellite imaging. The GeoPDF atlas incorporates residential map data from Zmap-TOWN II by Zenrin Co., Ltd., flood estimate data by Pasco Corp. and satellite images by DigitalGlobe.
The map atlas was produced in just two days after deciding the specification. Hitachi then officially donated it to the Japanese Cabinet office, which in turn distributed discrete maps from the atlas on DVDs and USBs to the respective prefectural and local governments. GeoPDF maps, which can compress geospatial data by as much as 20:1, are easy to distribute to the field where users can readily view, update and share information. Users were able to confirm the condition of affected areas by comparing the different map layers and utilize geographical coordinates when adding information and images to each location. Certification of property damage, which had previously required confirmation on site, could now be carried out much more quickly through the comparison of residential maps containing homeowners names and post-disaster satellite images.
Hitachi also provided Nikon-Trimble GPS Pathfinder SB handheld devices with TerraGo Mobile software to write data on the GeoPDF maps, permitting on-site uploading of current georegistered data and images to the GeoPDF map atlas. (GeoPDF maps can support the inclusion of georegistered audio, video, notes, web services and other intelligence. In addition, the company supplied its StarBoard® interactive whiteboards, which can be placed in disaster response headquarters and other command and control centers to more efficiently visualize spatial information and coordinate support efforts.
Faster Response To Those in Need
Even in situations where on-site visual inspection was necessary, the use of GPS and geographical coordinates in the atlas greatly expedited the inspection process. The GeoPDF maps and satellite images also enabled area-by-area damage assessment for use in planning reconstruction schedules. Furthermore, progress could be monitored by uploading the status of documented recovery efforts on the GeoPDF map atlas.
By the end of May 2011, approximately 150,000 of the 180,000 applications for disaster victim certificates had been processed with GeoPDF maps playing a critical role. In the Fukushima nuclear evacuation zone, where on-the-ground inspections were not possible, 183 property owners received the Risai Shomeisho disaster victim certificates exclusively on the basis of the GeoPDF satellite imagery maps.
Disaster response and reconstruction are greatly aided by the ability to disseminate geospatial information and to incorporate the most current intelligence from the scene to be shared by individuals and between organizations whether in a connected or offline disaster environment, said Jeff Vining, Gartner vice president and research analyst for government, homeland security and law enforcement.
Hitachi Solutions plans to expand support coverage in response to requests from local governments, provide add-on tools for integrating data on the GeoPDF maps using cloud services and continue to seek ways it can assist in reconstruction efforts.
Intel: Improving Warfighter Access To Geospatial Intelligence
by Michael Bufkin, Founder & Chief Solutions Architect, TerraGo Technologies