Intelligence agencies help test new GIS tool

Two intelligence agencies will this week begin beta testing a tool that tags specific place names in text files and maps them on advanced geographic information systems for analysis, according to one of the companies that developed the product.

The joint system, from MetaCarta Inc. of Cambridge, Mass., and ESRI of Redlands, Calif., underwent beta development last week and will ship in March. Randy Ridley, MetaCarta's vice president of sales, said he could not name the agencies doing the testing, but 'you would recognize them if you saw them.'

The new product, which does not have a name, combines ESRI's ArcGIS software with MetaCarta's Geographic Text Search Appliance, linked through a software extension. The product's cost depends on the number of users.

The combination lets customers apply updated geospatial news and information to high-level, multiple 3D maps. 'In our product, you do one search at a time,' Ridley said. 'The ESRI product allows you to do searches upon layers. And this is pretty much instantaneous.'

Ridley said MetaCarta has a 'verbal commitment for an office in the Department of Homeland Security' to deploy the joint product this summer.

In-Q-Tel, the nonprofit research arm of the Central Intelligence Agency that invested in MetaCarta, could not confirm whether the CIA or other agencies are using the joint product. But In-Q-Tel spokeswoman Gayle Von Eckartsberg said, 'You can definitely understand the sort of DOD or military applications they'd do. The richer the geospatial inputs are, the richer the analysis is.'

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