January 25, 2012

Improved Information Fusion for enhancing Counter-Piracy Capabilities

News Report

As announced in a recent press release, an Anti-Piracy Exercise is being unveiled by an industry team led by geospatial capabilities specialist, Esri UK, during the Defence Geospatial Intelligence 2012 in London. It aims to demonstrate how, by joining up multiple sources of data and intelligence into a location-based common operational picture, faster and more informed decisions can be made.
The live demonstration will be provided by Esri UK in collaboration with exactEarth, Exelis VIS and i2, with open-source intelligence provided by IHS.

Piracy presents similar challenges to the counter insurgency operations encountered in Afghanistan. The aim is to identify, track, intercept and disrupt a highly mobile and increasingly organised network. The Anti-Piracy Exercise aims to show how data can be tasked, collected and collated, processed, exploited and disseminated between different parties to create improved situational understanding, enhance decision making and the effectiveness of joint operations.  Data sources currently used by naval task forces such as Automatic Identification System (AIS) feeds, imagery and meteorological and oceanographic (METOC) data, can be overlaid to create a common operational picture. As Esri’s ArcGIS software is an open standards-based commercial off the shelf platform a vast range of data in different formats, most of which are Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC) compliant, can be integrated, from aerial reconnaissance to signals intelligence and even social network analysis.

The Technology

The Anti-Piracy Exercise draws on Esri UK’s experience as the geospatial information system (GIS) provider for the UK MoD’s Dataman GIS capability, which was successfully deployed last year in Afghanistan. Dataman integrates over 300 layers of data from intelligence and reconnaissance assets to deliver shared situational understanding throughout the command chain.

Dataman is a Geospatial Inteligence system fielded in response to an Urgent Operational Requirement by the British military in Afghanistan. Dataman is based on COTS technologies, operated by the Defense Ministry's Joint Aeronautical and Geospatial Organization (JAGO), and relies on a software backbone supplied by Esri UK.

The system is integrated within a ruggedized stack of COTS servers manufactured by Dell, packaged in two cases and weighing a total of 300kg.

System operators access the system functionalities through the GeoViewer, a computer interface which taps into the Dataman server to deliver information in a series of layers which the user can choose to have visible or not, depending on the task in hand. GeoViewer can be run near to the servers but also on laptops carried by remote operators.

At its simplest level, Dataman supplies a detailed map to its connected users. The map is not moved around from computer to computer, but held on the server: connected users access information tagged to the map, thus minimizing bandwidth requirements. Dataman allows this rich intelligence picture to be shared laterally, permitting any operator to better understand the changing nature of the space around them. Information is added to the system from a variety of sources and it is tagged to a specific location, permitting the operational units to "drill down" into the layers of data and learn about what has happened there over a period of time.


Almost all data has a location and time so it can be plotted geographically. By bringing it together in a visual context, patterns and relationships can be seen, which might not be immediately apparent from analysing each intelligence source in isolation”, said Nick Rigby, Non-Executive Director, Esri UK. “It is this collaborative approach that can help joint forces focus their limited resources and counter the piracy threat far more effectively.

References: ESRI (1,3), Angus Batey (2)


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