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Geospatial Technologies for Defense and Situational Awareness

Key insights on how to best manage and leverage high-volumes of geospatial data for mission success.

BK:  Welcome to HxGN Radio. My name’s Brian. It’s no secret that defence organizations in the European Union must contend with ever expanding amounts of geospatial data, pointing to an increasing need for cutting-edge geospatial data management solutions that play a key role in advancing decision support and mission success. Today we are speaking with Patrick De Groot, manager and sales operations at Imagem and also speaking on behalf of the Dutch Defence; as well as Rob Mott, vice president of Hexagon U.S. Federal. Gentlemen, thank you. Appreciate it.

PD:  Well, thank you for having us here.

RM:  Yeah, glad to be here.

BK:  It’s good to have you. Well, let’s get started. Patrick, we’ll start to talk a little bit about some of the big data dissemination at the Dutch Defence, and tell us how this has changed their way of working in recent years.

PD:  So, Dutch Defence came from a situation where all the data that was coming in was filed and described manually, and with ever more data coming in, that became a huge task. So, in September of 2015, they started using ERDAS APOLLO, and that allowed them to build up and maintain their catalog automatically. All data is now being described with ISO metadata, and data is made available as web services, using open standards. Now all their base data can be easily retrieved using spatial search, keyword search, or by browsing through the catalog, and because it’s using open standards, it’s accessible to both their own solutions as well as to third-party applications. And this means that getting them the right data at the right moment in time and downloading it for further use has become much faster.

BK:  Excellent. So, what are the biggest geospatial data management challenges that the Dutch Defence is facing right now?

PD:  The biggest management challenges today I believe revolve around making sure all the data is available to every department that needs it, when they need it, but taking into account, of course, the security restrictions that apply to those data sets. And again ERDAS APOLLO is providing them the control and throughput they need to do this.

BK:  Tell us a bit about the vision that was presented by the Dutch secretary of defence and how Hexagon technology is going to fulfill this.

PD:  Well, that new vision is actually quite interesting, and it revolves around the notion of information-based operations. And, in short, what that means is that Dutch Defence wants to be able to retrieve, process, and disseminate all relevant information in time and at any desired level so that they can be in the right place at the right time with the right equipment. From a Hexagon perspective, I believe that we have the perfect tools to fulfill those needs, starting from raw data processing, like satellite and drone information, and right up to calculating optimal cross-country mobility routes using spatial models in our tailored  M.App X solution. And the flexibility that M.App X offers in terms of customisation through spatial models means we can shape the solution to customers’ needs and reuse models that were previously developed using our desktop programs. But M.App X is a web application. All of a sudden, that functionality can be made available to many more users, without them having to have the expert knowledge of the underlying processes. And this means they can focus on getting the right answers when they need it in time.

BK:  Now, was there something that prompted this vision, by the way, by the Dutch secretary of defence, do you know?

PD:  Yes. In order for us to explain this, you must understand that we came from a situation—well, we came right out of a financial and economic crisis, right, in the first decade. And that made Defence cut budgets over time, and this has actually now been turned around. Also, under the influence of—well, recent comments about European countries having to face up to NATO requirements and spending more budgets, but that led to a rethinking of what it is they need. And that focuses a lot more on ICT components rather than physical materials.

BK:  Excellent. And Hexagon’s providing that now. All right. Well, thank you. Yeah, I wanted to know kind of what the background was behind that because there’s obviously always a need there, you know? What’s the need, what’s the problem, how do you solve that? So, that’s great. Well, Rob, tell me a little bit about—well, when it comes to defence data, for example, defence data management and processing, how are Hexagon solutions helping these organizations like Dutch Defence, other defence organizations in general, as well?

RM:  Well, we’re seeing that ERDAS APOLLO, as Patrick already explained, has a very strong fit for handling very large amounts of data, very complex amounts of data, in a variety of formats. One of the most attractive features of ERDAS APOLLO that our defence clients in the United States, that we hear other organizations also kind of explain, is the ability to customise it through its SDK to handle some specialty requirements that they might have.

One area of focus that Hexagon U.S. Federal has had, as it pertains to ERDAS APOLLO and its fit for defence customers, is developing an extension module called Defence Formats for APOLLO. It’s actually a classified piece of software that can be deployed on a classified network to handle very specialized requirements and unique formats. And the commercial product, ERDAS APOLLO, lends itself very well to the building of these additional modules to handle those types of unique requirements.

Defence Formats for APOLLO are not just for U.S. classified customers; it’s actually releasable to the Five Eyes’ nations, a partnership that the U.S. has with Canada, UK, Australia, and New Zealand. So, we’re seeing that there is continued interest in investment in Defence Formats for APOLLO to handle emerging requirements.

One other feature of ERDAS APOLLO that we’re getting very good feedback on is the ability to work with open-standard formats. So the Open Geospatial Consortium, the OGC, a very important global organization as it relates to not just the defence and intelligence organizations around the world, but the broader geospatial community, has vendor-neutral format descriptions for imagery, for vector data, for elevation models. And ERDAS APOLLO has very strong support for working with those types of formats and connectors.

What that means is that there may be an organization that has a mix of technologies from Hexagon and other companies, and ERDAS APOLLO and its ability to work with those OGC formats lend itself very well to fit in that kind of heterogeneous technology environment and meet the needs of the clients.

One other technology that we’re really excited about in the Hexagon portfolio that has really strong applicability to the defence and intelligence organizations and HHHomeland Security and those other types of more domestic missions is the Luciad platform. Luciad was acquired in 2017 by Hexagon, and it has a very strong fit for situational awareness, which is a very strong component of many of the defence organizations’ missions. And that has a nice set of complementary features and works well with other solutions within the Hexagon portfolio.

BK:  Excellent. And more information, by the way, too, you know, if you want to go check it out and read it for yourself, don’t forget to visit imagemnl.com. Let me spell that. Visit imagemnl.com, and hexagonusfederal.com. You can read more about that information. But sounds very exciting, and glad it’s actually looking at specific solutions for needs right now. So, thank you both. Patrick, Rob, thank you. Appreciate it.

RM:  Thank you, Brian.

BK:  All right. And, of course, for additional episodes, more information, HxGNSPOTLIGHT.com. Thank you so much for listening. Have a wonderful day.

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