Innovative Geospatial Apps Power NGA GAS Station
|The cloud environment allows users to streamline the data analysis and imaging process on apps such as Exelis VIS ENVI imaging software.|
Effortless and seamless access to geospatial data and intelligence is crucial to improving the decision-making process in the defense and intelligence industry. In “NGA Strategy 2013-2017,” the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) outlines two strategic goals and seven strategic objectives designed to take geospatial intelligence (GEOINT) to the next level over the next five years. A key component of NGA’s strategy is the creation of “an intuitive online environment” that allows users to access data and intelligence in the cloud.
Beau Leeger, Exelis Visual Information Solutions (VIS) VP of product marketing, noted in a recent article in Defense Systems that making sure all the pieces of a web-deployed geospatial infrastructure are compatible with each other is a considerable hurdle to implementing NGA’s vision:
For this reason, the Geospatial Intelligence Standards Working Group (GWG), an NGA-led organization, was created to set interoperability standards in support of the National System for Geospatial Intelligence (NSG). As both defense and commercial entities develop functionality to be deployed within this framework, these standards will define the inner workings of the technology.
To provide a platform for testing and feedback on geospatial apps, NGA has created the GEOINT AppStore Station (GAS Station). Exelis VIS ENVI imaging software is one of the apps available through the GAS Station, as ENVI Services Engine.
Bill Okubo, VIS enterprise product manager, said the cloud environment allows users to streamline the data analysis and imaging process and has many benefits over traditional desktop imaging, such as faster decision-making from airborne and satellite imagery and operation by remote users on any device, anywhere.
“Depending on the user’s realm of experience, there’s a lot of interface for (ENVI’s desktop imaging),” he explained. “It might be more than they need to get their work done. Now fast-forward into centralized deployment in the cloud, you can reuse that same custom code (from a desktop and) redeploy that into an enterprise-type environment.”
ENVI Services Engine is based on the algorithms in ENVI’s image analysis desktop software and offers the ability to work with hyperspectral imagery as well as LiDAR collected data. In the cloud, end users can choose what they want to run on a base map, making it an easy-to-use and less expensive interface. It allows users to create custom projects specific to their GIS mapping needs, Okubo said.
Kristen Maglia, director of marketing communications for Exelis VIS, said ENVI has partnered with Esri to make certain ENVI Services Engine runs well with ArcGIS. “That tight integration (allows) you to get to image processing and analysis capabilities directly within the Arc interface,” she said. “Today, the world is not looking at GIS as something different from remote sensing. In everybody’s workflows, it’s all coming together. The image is part of the map; the information in the image is part of the mapping product.
“We really strive to pull all that together on the back end so that what the user sees is seamless.”
With a cloud-based system, agencies such as the military can save money while still getting the speed and analysis capabilities they expect. And the cloud interface requires little additional training.
Okubo said users appreciate being able to get the capabilities of ENVI out to more clients through the cloud. Those who have tested ENVI Services Engine through the NGA GAS Station have offered suggestions on how to improve the product. The company has responded to the suggestions by working on a way to publish its imaging services with the push of a button.
“ENVI desktop is widely used by NGA,” Okubo said. “With the introduction of ENVI Services Engine, NGA has been able to develop and deliver a variety of ENVI analytics, ‘apps’, that work with both ENVI desktop and ENVI Services Engine.”