CIA funds pilot for GIS utilities

CIA funds pilot for GIS utilities

A pilot funded by In-Q-Tel Inc., the CIA's venture capital arm, has demonstrated a suite of interoperable geographic information system services.

Several vendors contributed to the Geospatial Fusion Services suite, which was built from off-the-shelf products with a proposed interface standard developed through the Open GIS Consortium Inc. of Wayland, Mass.

The suite components search text documents for place references and link their locations to a Web map.

One problem with GIS and other spatial resources is integrating text documents with maps, said Chris Tucker, chief strategist at In-Q-Tel. The spinoff was formed in 1999 to spur development of commercial products that the agency can use.

The CIA 'has lots of maps and a lot of text,' Tucker said. 'Helping the enterprise exploit the two is what we have been working on.'

International input

The interface specifications were hammered out last year and early this year on a test bed linking sites in the United States, Australia, Canada and Europe via the Internet.

'If you can do it across a public infrastructure like that, you can do it over the enterprise,' Tucker said.

The In-Q-Tel pilot, whose cost was not disclosed, produced what Tucker called 'interesting initial results. There are a number of vendors who are now building products to the specifications,' he said.

The components of Geospatial Fusion Services are a geoparser, which searches text for spatial references; a gazetteer, which pinpoints the references in a dictionary of place names and locations; and a geocoder, which links the information to a map.

The GIS components already existed, but 'the history of GIS is that it is not interoperable,' Tucker said. Such systems have always required custom integration.

Aside from the interface, the only new technology in the pilot system was the Location Organizer Folder, an Extensible Markup Language document with information associated with a given location. The folder client software can open a map in a Web browser.

Companies taking part in the In-Q-Tel pilot were Environmental Systems Research Institute of Redlands, Calif.; Galdos Systems Inc. of Vancouver, British Columbia; Ionic Software SA of Belgium; Lockheed Martin Corp.; Polexis Inc. of San Diego; Science Applications International Corp. of San Diego and Social Change Online of Australia.

About the Author

William Jackson is a Maryland-based freelance writer.

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