It’s not a lack of information that hinders today’s homeland security and military defense operations; it’s a lack of information convergence necessary to deliver relevant information about threats in a timely and efficient manner to law enforcement personnel and the warfighter. Many federal agencies are now leveraging a fast and efficient solution to improve the reach and usability of their geospatial intelligence (GEOINT) data. Vetted over the course of several years by the National Geospatial Agency (NGA) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Topographic Engineering Center (TEC), the solution leverages an open, geospatial format and solution set (Adobe Acrobat/Reader/LiveCycle ES® and TerraGo Technologies GeoPDF® and MAP2PDF® software) to provide non-GIS experts with access to powerful geo-referenced data anytime and anywhere they need it.
Geo-Referenced PDF in Action
Here’s how it works. Geospatial analysts begin by using MAP2PDF software to create and publish layered, geo-registered maps, which are then exported to a geo-referenced PDF file, known as a GeoPDF. Using Adobe LiveCycle ES, the GeoPDFs can then be enabled with extended rights and dynamic, persistent security policies, ensuring better collaboration capabilities and a more secure form of information sharing. Users, even those located outside the traditional boundaries of firewalls, can then view the maps, make annotations, measure distances/areas, turn layers on and off, query attributes, display coordinates and collaborate by creating redlines and notes, all within Adobe Reader.
Taking advantage of the native compression of PDF, files are small and nimble and can be easily distributed to all kinds of personnel, from engineers on the scene of natural disasters to soldiers in the battlefield. Files can also be e-mailed as attachments or downloaded from the Web, thereby making dissemination more flexible and responsive.
No longer a static, final format where a map “goes to die,” a geospatially enabled PDF created by TerraGo Map2PDF software empowers anyone with the ability to serve as a field data collector. The files are embedded with powerful capabilities that allow users to work in connected or disconnected modes and to make changes or revisions that automatically update organizational GIS data. No special training is required because Adobe Reader is already installed on 94 percent of the network-connected computers today. Using the TerraGo Toolbar, a simple, free plug-in from TerraGo, any user is able to view the GeoPDF anywhere, anytime.
Using this toolset and process, all of NGA’s standard map products have been converted into the GeoPDF format and made available on the DoD/IC networks. TEC is producing GeoPDFs of its products, such as Urban Water Graphics, Engineering Route Studies, Country Overviews, Urban Tactical Planner, non-NGA holdings from its Geospatial Library and BuckEye GeoPDF Mapbooks so that all warfighters—and those who support them—can “see” the data with the geospatial information intact.
A Proven Solution for Geospatial Data Sharing
In addition to TEC and NGA, other agencies, including the U.S. Geological Survey, the Department of Homeland Security/Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Secret Service, the Department of State and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration are using the Adobe/TerraGo solution set. Many members of the US Intelligence community, as well as NATO and several international partners, have adopted GeoPDF as their standard format for geospatial data consumption and collaboration.
This standard platform for the delivery of geospatial intelligence has been adopted by warfighters in all military services and in many organizations throughout the intelligence communities. It is also well on it way to being ISO 32000-certified and OGC-compliant.
GIS for the Masses
Through the application of this Adobe/TerraGo solution, NGA and TEC are dramatically increasing access to GEOINT data for their customers, in effect creating geospatial collaboration tools for the masses. They have achieved this by developing and implementing a new industry best practice that provides a superior alternative to MILSPEC formats and turns Adobe Reader into a miniature GIS on everyone’s computer.
The success of the projects at NGA and TEC has even influenced the development of Adobe products. For example, the latest release of the Acrobat family now includes a coordinate transformation capability and the ability to view attribute data from a specific object, further advancing the use of GEOINT data in an open source environment and making truly intelligent spatially enabled content to an entire community of new users.