The Rise of ABI and the Impact of GIS

Activity Based Intelligence (ABI) is a practice that grew through the changing dynamics of threats posed to nation states. Without a defined nation-backed enemy coupled with more and more threats coming from loosely based organizations, traditional location-based surveillance is no longer enough. ABI looks at not just where something is happening but why; today it’s a multi-intelligence approach to human activity and transactional data analysis that seeks to resolve unknowns and develop object and network knowledge and relation.

In 2013, an article from Defense News was the first discussion of the formal procurement of ABI services. While the article is now a few years old, it still provides a great baseline discussion of what ABI is. As Defense News explains, ABI produces real results:

An analyst might, for example, place all available intelligence about an explosion of an improvised explosive device atop information about a kidnapping in the same area, then lay in data about the local bus line, the fruit market at the corner, or the local timber-smuggling operation. Once displayed, the information may overlap or intersect in interesting ways.

It quickly becomes clear how this type of analysis is critical in today’s threat landscape. In the years that have followed initial procurement, technology has developed to meet ABI’s new approach and its application has spread beyond the intelligence and defense community.

Since 2013, government leaders have noted the stunning pace at which the geospatial world can change – from technological advancements, to the continuous addition of data sets, to the implementation of new sensors and IoT. The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency has been tasked with keeping up with these quick tech developments and has since become an inter-agency example in establishing strategies and priorities for GIS IT. Not only are agency leaders employing cultural, openness, and cooperative measures within and between agencies, but NGA has been open to the fact that they are unable to “stay ahead of technology trends” on their own. In fact, NGA is deliberately looking for connections with “traditional and nontraditional partners” to bridge the IT gap. NGA’s Map of the World campaign as well as their responses to international crisis, including the 2015 Ebola crisis and Nepal earthquake, are great humanitarian examples of how the agency is working with internal and external partners to bring GIS and ABI technologies to real world response.

As major intelligence agencies increase their emphasis on ABI, it’s important for geospatial solutions to further their technology advancements to meet these emerging requirements. Today’s GIS-driven solutions integrate with more datasets and larger datasets than ever before to become part of the daily analyst workflow. MapLarge is helping to make large scale ABI more accessible with their cloud-based platform for big data analytics and visualization. MapLarge’s models are enhancing spatial and temporal resolution, correlating with open source data, validating, refining, and interactively helping GIS users find the results they need from sometimes disparate data sources. Similarly, Boundless is enabling a new model of spatial data production and analytical collaboration based on open geospatial software that offers intelligence agencies the cost savings needed in the ever-evolving GIS architecture.

GIS software will continue to evolve as ABI grows in importance for government agencies. For more information on how we’re supporting agency GIS initiatives, click here.

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