My week with USGIF was one of the most informative, unique and exciting weeks of my life. I entered the week excited to learn about US intelligence and defense, and after a week with the Geospatial Intelligence community, I know that “GEOINT” is so much more then just those two aspects. Anything ranging from farming, to military to natural disaster relief falls under the umbrella of geospatial intelligence. On Monday we were given a presentation on GEOINT and the roles it plays as well as the role of USGIF by Max Baber, over the next few days we were able to see these funtions first hand and meet some incredible people in the industry. Tuesday morning we went to NGA, which is the U.S. National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency. We met with a man named Greg Glewwe who gave us a briefing on what NGA does and his role and operations with NGA. After, we spoke about how his agency provided direct support to both the Ebola outbreak and the Nepal Earthquake. With their technology they were able to create a virtual maps that show areas with a clean water supply, the nearest hospital, the nearest airport and various other useful locations. After NGA we met with Director Joe Fontanella and a team of his engineers/analysts for briefings. They spoke about some of their projects, which included water supplies, inland waterways and environmental initiatives. This is the first time we were able to see the broad outreach of capabilities GEOINT provides. Wednesday morning we visited Google’s Reston office. Google is an incredible company with a truly unique business model. We met with Michele Weslander-Quaid and two other employees. They spoke about the culture Google has always had and some of the practices they have. While Google does not play a huge role in the direction of the intelligence field, they offer the largest open source setting on the Internet. The information that is accessible through Google is essentially an endless stream of data that is free for the world to access. Next, we drove into DC to meet with Melinda Laituri. Professor Laituri is a professor at Colorado State University and is in DC for a full year for a fellowship. She is researching for the US State Department focusing on human geography. In addition to speaking to us about GEOINT, she stressed the importance of networking and communication in any field of employment, but especially in the DC area. We returned to USGIF that evening in order to attend their innovation task force. Representatives from companies such as HumanGeo, Thermopylae, esri and many other companies within the industry spoke about their company and its capabilities as well as what they plan on doing with the technology they posses. We were able to speak with a woman named Jessica King who offered us a little more insight into her company, HumanGeo. They are able to collect human data based on social media, Internet posts and other variables in order to produce “activity based intelligence” in any given region. Thursday morning we visited a company called Pixia. I was incredibly impressed with Pixia and the capabilities they posses to have a large impact on the future of Geospatial intelligence. We had a fascinating conversation with their Director of Technology, Ian Heffernan who gave us in-depth descriptions and demonstrations on some of their programs. Pixia’s goal is to unify the GEOINT community by providing a database of information that can be accessed by certain branches of the defense community. We finished the day by visiting the Udvar-Hazy museum and seeing important GEOINT items such as the SR-71, the Corona Satellite and SRTM.
This week was an incredible opportunity to learn more about the GEOINT community and witness the different factors to what is quickly becoming a GEOINT Revolution in this country! Dr. Max Baber and Keith Masback were incredible hosts who organized a fascinating week for us. We were able to first and foremost expand our knowledge on the different aspects of Geospatial Intelligence while making connections with people who are distinguished within their field of practice.