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DGI Conference Europe - Report

By [email protected] - 4th March 2007 - 15:51

Defence Geospatial Intelligence Conference - EuropeThis yearâs DGI Europe conference took place at Londonâs QE II centre, 22-25 January 2007. It is Europeâs annual gathering of international defence geospatial intelligence experts, providing a forum to discuss and debate the development of geospatial intelligence capabilities across the globe.
A fundamental objective of the event was how to achieve interoperability and common geospatial intelligence goals through the co-ordination of national and multinational initiatives. Over the conference four days, many aspects of the collection, processing, exploitation and dissemination of geospatial data were covered with the ultimate objective of getting the right information to the right user at the right time.In his opening remarks on the 24th January 2007, the conference Chairman, Brigadier General (ret'd) Jack Pellici, now with Intergraph, explained how he was first struck during operation Desert Storm, in the first Gulf War, by the important emerging role of military geospatial intelligence. âDesert Storm saw the largest army corps ever assembled. And every platoon was GPS enabledâ. The Iraqi Presidential Guard was completely outflanked with US forces appearing out of a barren area, long considered by the Iraqi Army to be impenetrable, and thousands of prisoners taken of every rank. âHow did you do that? the Iraqis senior officers asked us. Every time we weâve been in there, we got lost!â General Pellici advocated an enterprise approach to geospatial ability to ensure the goal of improved situation awareness for the soldiers on the ground was achieved. This meant the information must be available and accessible through secure web services with open data standards so that stovepipes of information were not created.One of several interesting talks was given by the Rand Corporationâs terrorism expert, Ms Farhana Ali who emphasised the need to couple geospatial and information from intelligence agencies. She gave as an example the well-known overhead image believed to be of Bin Laden at Tarniq Farms. âTaking that that image of him was only possible through human intelligence. It wasnât just that we were overhead and suddenly captured this data. In order for there to have been a successful missile strike, you would have had to rely on field operators on the ground to learn about his movements. Thatâs what I call a convenient marriage between human and geospatial intelligence. And itâs going to be even more important in todayâs environment when terrorists operate in the urban terrain (i.e., densely populated cities). For example in a massive city like Karachi, if you only had an aerial overhead image, it would be very difficult to track terrorists unless you are working in coordination with the local police, the intelligence agency, and other field operators to understand where they (the terrorists) are. You may be able to capture photos of buildings, which are static, but one has to recognize that terrorists are always moving. So, a picture is not really worth a thousand words without the human intelligence. Keeping track of their daily movements is very difficult, so geospatial intelligence alone is not the answer.â (For a full account of Ms Aliâs views on modern terrorism, please read the exclusive Contingency Today interview with her in the Interviews section).The theme of interoperability was hammered home during the conference. The need to enable the military on the ground to exploit data would best be achieved by designing systems from the bottom up and then using the internet to share. Systems must be developed so that information is tailored to the required level and presented in an appropriate way, offering the abilty to drill down for more detail if necessary.It was clear from the conference that much military geospatial technology is operating at the cutting edge. Apart from the massive demand from the armed services, the firm impression Contingency Today got was that companies that manage to leverage their military expertise into the civilian sector stand to do well.

Author: Jonathan Rush

Bio.: Editor, Contingency Today

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