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(Event) Insights from the international geospatial community

Interviews from the 2010 Geospatial Conference in Vienna with Geospatial experts who have attended the conference.

Fleming Europe’s Second Annual Geospatial Summit which takes place on the 1-2 June 2011 in Budapest, Hungary will again provide an insight into the latest strategies and technological advances for using geospatial information in society.

We have asked some of our speakers for their views about the industry.

Q: What areas should be developed in order to improve interoperability?

Commodore Pat Tyrrell: Interoperability is required on a number of different levels: it is vital within a single service, it is required for joint service co-operation and, increasingly, important for coalition operations. I would suggest, however, that there is little appetite for interoperability with those nations with whom you may find yourself in conflict!

Traditionally, interoperability has been achieved by setting robust and well defined standards. The problem is that, as the data requirements get more complex, standardisation becomes more of a behemoth. Complexity and standards are not happy bedfellows: if you standardise a thread on a bolt that is one thing but to standardise a complex environment such as GIS you need to be able to “flex” the building blocks to accommodate new technologies and opportunities. The key here is to understand those building blocks and the key one is the data with which we work. Expressing the data in a common format can be extremely difficult but, if we use language such as that offered by XML, we can provide equivalences of meaning in a highly flexible and dynamic fashion.

The key to effective interoperability is to take a holistic view of intelligence rather than one which looks at different collection methodologies in isolation. To this end we require an approach that links GIS with signals intelligence, human intelligence with open source intelligence etc. Here we will need some dictionary of key terms to ensure that we are talking about the same thing.

Col John Fitzgerald: Metadata standards need to be further developed to improve geospatial intelligence interoperability across communities and nations. As more information and functionality are delivered through services across diverse interconnected networks, then standardised and relevant metadata which describes the quality of information and aids in its management is essential for effective discovery, fusion and exploitation.

Lt Col Neil Marks:
• A continued drive forwards on the great standards work to date.
• Increased Member State burden sharing on projects, especially given the current financial climate. This would also see greater and wider use of multi-national systems, such as the EU Global Monitoring for Environment and Security (GMES) project.
• Member States look to reduce and remove release constraints on geospatial information, by working through the bi, tri and quadrilateral agreements and arrangements, particularly given the increasing amount of ‘online’ open source data being available.

Mr Pascal Legai: In the recent past, the EU Satellite Centre (EUSC) has experienced a remarkable increase in the demand for products. This evolution is especially due to the growing number of European Common Security and Defence Policy missions and operations. –

Those missions and operations represent the field where interoperability plays a most significant role: The Centre’s products and services need be fully integrated both in the political planning process of EU and Member States, as well as be readily available to the commanders of missions and operations in the field.

We expect that the creation of the EEAS will be a major step forward in the direction of interoperability, and we are looking forward to further integrating our processes with the workflow of this important new EU organ. This calls for several concrete steps: to fully integrate the EUSC’s capabilities into CFSP/CSDP operations, and direct support of operations, especially with regard to the integration of civil and military planning capabilities at the Council General Secretariat / EEAS; to play a key role in the security dimension of the EU Global Monitoring for Environmental and Security (GMES) programme in support to the European Security Strategy; and to continue to explore cooperative opportunities where benefits for further improvement in EU crisis response capabilities could arise.

Mr Francesco Pisano: UNOSAT is an international entity providing operational satellite analysis to various international and national actors in specific areas such as humanitarian aid and emergency response, damage assessment, human security, human rights and territorial development planning. As such UNOSAT does not perform any work that resembles intelligence or surveillance. Even so, we are experts in several of the same fields in which geospatial intelligence operates.

I answered this question earlier in my career, during a talk I gave in San Antonio at a large gathering of the US Geospatial Intelligence Foundation. Interoperability is too often defined as the capacity to work in inter-operable ways within the same compartment in any production chain, especially intelligence. My way to see interoperability is a way to connect various compartments and harvest the benefits of synergy across sectors rather than within sectors. With regard to the work we do, interoperability would ideally stretch to providing my Team with valuable data for us to help the international community respond to disasters and emergencies in developing countries.

Mr John Tate: I believe that the wider adoption of open standards, in particular data and web services, will lead to an improved interoperability. Improvements in the ability to share data in service and non-service manner will be achieved, reducing the numbers of data silos / towers of excellence (depending on your point of view). Coupled with the adoption of an ‘enable and enhance’ (current capability / equipment) approach rather than replace will offer costs benefits.

To read the full interview and to find out more about the upcoming 2nd Annual Geospatial Summit visit or ask your program directly from

About Fleming Europe

Fleming Europe conferences are events linking business with intelligence. Carefully designed to provide key strategic business information and the best networking opportunities for the participants, our B2B conferences are highly interactive. Number of delegates from specialized industry sectors – brought together by Fleming Europe – become part of a premium community discussing the questions of the day and enjoying the value of a five star event.