Geospatial Location Processes in Applied Defence Scenarios: Whitepaper

Every aspect of defence and intelligence decision support involves geographic information.


Every aspect of defence and intelligence decision support involves geographic information. Military decisions depend on digital maps; location coordinates from GPS units on vehicles and war fighters, and digital imagery from UAVs and satellites. Different types of map data and sensor data (including video) can be combined to create new location information. For example, given elevation, surface geology and hydrology data, geographic information systems can calculate the best off-road routes for military vehicles. Time of arrival, visibility, audibility and radio reception over that terrain can also be calculated. Such “geoprocessing” can support targeting, logistics, aviation, signal intelligence, and human intelligence, all of which depend on location information.

In the defence and intelligence context, decision support involves geographic information in everything from complex strategic planning challenges to battlefield operations requiring real-time information flows and split-second decisions. The creation of a common, geospatially-based operating picture improves situational awareness, enables the effective tracking of assets, including patients and casualties, and helps personnel make effective, consistent, and timely decisions. The importance of system-to-system communication of location information increases as open standards enable location to converge with other rapidly advancing information technologies, such as smart phones, robots, service chaining, cloud computing, social networks, and sensor webs.

The Standards Imperative for Defence and Intelligence Decision Support

The Web, based on a set of open standards (TCP/IP, html, http, XML, etc.), gives information system planners a means to connect virtually all legacy system components and all future system components in a coherent enterprise information environment. These Web standards enable an unprecedented degree of interoperability among software applications running on diverse operating systems, database systems, and middleware.

By standardising on widely used Web interfaces and encodings, system planners can take advantage of diverse products, mixing and matching to meet programme requirements. The Web also provides a framework that allows rapid response to innovation. Twenty years ago, defence and intelligence organizations paid for custom systems and custom code because the commercial offerings were not up to the task. Too often, long procurement cycles resulted in agencies buying outdated technology. Today, change is more rapid and the latest and greatest technologies appear quickly in commercial products. Defence and intelligence activities require rapid cooperation and communication among different agencies, countries and communities. There is also a requirement for adaptability and flexibility in defence and intelligence information systems. Within this context, information technology standards are imperative to enable the access and sharing of geospatial information. National and multinational geointelligence "common operating pictures" would be inconceivable without standards.

In the geospatial domain, the OGC is the organisation principally responsible for open standards. Implementations of the OGC's open interface and encoding standards enable communication between diverse clients and many diverse servers. To maintain coherence between OGC's standards and other standards in related areas, the OGC works closely with the International Organisation for Standards Technical Committee 211 for Geographic Information (ISO TC/211), as well as other standards organisations, like Digital Geospatial Information Working Group (DGIWG), the multi-national body responsible for geospatial standardisation for defence organisations.

The OGC utilises interoperability test beds, pilot projects, and plugfests and interoperability experiments to develop new standards and to mature existing OGC standards. Organisations with a stake in these standards work in OGC Technical Committee working groups to review and approve OGC standards, which are now implemented in thousands of proprietary and open source products and systems.

Steven Ramage
Executive Director, Marketing and Communications
Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC)

Posted on: 01 March 2013 • 8:28pm

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