Make it Real - the Convergence of GEOINT and M&S Tradecraft

Contributed by: 
Stuart Blundell, Presagis

It is said that timing is everything in life, love and technical innovation.

I am reminded of that truism as the GEOINT community evaluates the state of its analytic tradecraft readiness in the context of the Fourth Generation of Intelligence. An era marked by widely divergent threats, converging information systems, persistent GEOINT leveraging multi-INT sources and the adoption of new analytical methods such as Activity Based Intelligence (ABI) and Object Based Production (OBP).[1] In parallel with these advances in tradecraft, the geospatial Modeling and Simulation (M&S) community is pressing forward with its own new requirements from the Special Operations Forces (SOF) to deliver real-world 3D geo-specific terrain databases compatible with gaming systems technology: systems that are capable of delivering authoritative and relevant information at the point of need, and powered by machine learning but designed with human-factors in mind. It appears the timing is right to further assess how geospatial analysis, simulation, and gaming technology can be made more interoperable to deliver virtual training environments matched to real world operational environments.

At a recent Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC) Interoperability, Simulation and Gaming (IS&G) Working Group meeting at OGC's 112th Technical Committee Meeting in Banff, Canada, participants from SOCOM and OGC identified this requirement, and stated: “Gaming Systems leveraged by Special Operations Forces are not compatible with real world geospatial information sources used in 3D M&S terrain databases supporting mission rehearsal and training.”[2] The challenge of adapting gaming systems for use in real-world scenarios with real-world data points out the need for further software and hardware integration approaches between simulation, gaming technology, and geospatial analysis to promote the next-evolution of interoperability. At the root of the issue is (1) the current inability of gaming engines, such as Unity or Unreal Engine, to efficiently manage geo-coordinate transformations between simulation and geospatial analysis domains[3] and (2) the challenge of delivering geospatial intelligence to warfighters in denied and degraded environments.

So, where do we go from here?

The recently published OGC Public Engineering Report, Mixed Reality at the Edge Concept Study, provides an excellent look into the future of how to “jump the s-curve” with respect to merging real and virtual worlds. In this report, users at the “edge” are first responders, field deployed utility workers, and the warfighter who may all have “denied, degraded, interrupted, or limited (DDIL) internet access.” Key takeaways from this report include the following:

  • All users going to the edge should share the same geospatial foundation data so that delta data updates and real time information feeds can be efficiently transmitted.
  • Machine learning (ML) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) approaches will play a big role in automating the detection and filtering of relevant insights streamed to the user.
  • Human factors need to be carefully considered both in terms of human-machine interfaces to systems (VR/MR), but also ensuring that humans are “in the loop” on decision-making and training ML/AI algorithms.

In order to close the gap between virtual training worlds and real-operating worlds, the GEOINT and M&S communities must close the interoperability gaps between their two worlds. Presagis is addressing this need by heavily investing in ML/AI, gaming technology and partnerships with leading geospatial data and software companies through bodies such as OGC, SISO, and USGIF. Finally, Presagis has approached OGC and the United Stated Geospatial Intelligence Foundation (USGIF) about re-activating the USGIF chapter of the IS&G Working Group to promote both education and research.

Stay tuned to the OGC blog or reach out to OGC's Interoperable Simulation and Gaming DWG for more information on this topic!


[1] Patrick Biltgen and Stephen Ryan: Activity Based Intelligence Principles and Applications, ARTECH House, Norwood, MA, 2016.

[2] Susan Raymie (USSOCOM) and Luis Bermudez (OGC): OGC IS&G Working Group, 112th OGC Technical Committee, Banff, Canada September 11, 2019

[3] Kevin Bentley (Cognitics): OGC IS&G Working Group, 112th OGC Technical Committee, Banff, Canada September 11, 2019