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Geosearch and Georeferencing

When London was awarded the 2012 Olympics in mid-2005, Assistant Chief Constable Steve Thomas was asked to lead the British Transport Police (BTP) and the Olympics project in preparing for the massive security effort to protect rail, maritime, aviation and road transportation to the game’s venues in England, Scotland and Wales. Critical to BTP’s success was building a new information infrastructure that included location-based situational awareness.

MetaCarta GSRP software makes geographic information actionable with geographic text search and content referencing.

“We needed to understand at a glance what was happening across our patch before, during and after the Olympics to provide the security necessary for the 2012 Olympics,” says Richard Smith, who serves as BTP’s Force Information Manager.

As a key component to its information infrastructure, BTP deployed a geographic search and referencing platform that consolidates data from multiple data sources by geographic location. BTP-specific data sources warehouse millions of documents. All of the information needed to be “geo-enabled” so it could be searched, retrieved and used in a map-based application to meet BTP’s challenges.

BTP is using the MetaCarta Geographic Search and Referencing Platform (MetaCarta GSRP) from Qbase to initially geo-enable hundreds of thousands of its own documents, millions of documents from other police forces, and nearly 1 million documents from BTP’s criminal intelligence system—a data and information solution designed specifically for law enforcement. This will provide analysts and watch standers the ability to search for and discover information by geographic location, giving them a comprehensive situational awareness tool that includes information about past crimes, recent crimes, breaking news and other all-source intelligence.

MetaCarta GSRP identifies places and points of interest in text documents, news feeds, e-mail, reports, Web pages and blogs; disambiguates place names; and assigns latitude and longitude coordinates so the content can be searched, retrieved and visually displayed on a map. The platform replaces a previously manual, time-consuming process. MetaCarta GSRP can identify more than 500 million place names, and law enforcement agencies are now able to geo-enable all of their content in English, Spanish, French, Russian, Arabic or mixed-language documents so it can be used in location-based applications to help visualize trends and enhance intelligence analysis.

In addition to geo-enabling BTP’s archived and proprietary data, Qbase MetaCarta technology supplies breaking news from 30,000 sources, including blogs, from 150 countries. Breaking news items play a key role during major events. Watch standers can look for breaking news concerning incidents that may impact the safety of the people attending the event. If a cluster of incidents is detected, watch standers can quickly overlay discovered information with crime maps to see if patterns emerge as real-time events occur.

To date, implementation has been smooth for the BTP. “We’ve had no problems thus far,” says Smith. “There is a quick learning curve. If you can use any mapping or Web-based application, you can use a MetaCarta solution.”

The aim is to allow analysts or watch standers to be able to call up a map of a particular railway station or point of interest, digitally draw a box around that map area and find a comprehensive history of crime in or around that location as well as news items that may have relevance. This map fuses all the information together, from a variety of sources, and provides analysts an “at-a-glance” view of what is happening in each community. What once took hours or days to discover and react to now is delivered in seconds, allowing for swift and intelligent decision making.

For more detail on BTP’s application of Qbase’s MetaCarta technologies, visit

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