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Human Geography at GEOINT

December 18, 2012  - By

Could the Connecticut Shootings Speed Human Geography Tools?

By Art Kalinski, GISP

During the past few days there has been a stream of talking heads offering advice after the tragic shooting in Newtown, Connecticut.  Some want schools to have airport like screening equipment with full time police officers, others want more aggressive psychological counseling, while others want to ban some or all guns.  Just last August, Norwegian mass killer Anders Breivik was sentenced to 21 years after his 2011 killing of 8 with a car bomb and 69 students in a summer camp with semi-automatic weapons.  That, in a country with some of the strictest gun laws in the world.  So what’s the answer?  I’m not sure but I lean toward more conceal and carry permits.  The cause and effect may only be statistical, but the numbers seem to show less crime where conceal carry permits are common.  Most bullies and killers fear someone fighting back so they almost always pick soft targets.

There is another possible, longer term path that has the potential to be very beneficial and possibly very sinister, Human Geography.  In the early days of GIS I was thrilled to be able to print a simple zip code map with points plotted within the zip code to measure and display demographic data.  In the mid nineties, when I was the GIS manager of the Atlanta Regional Commission, my GIS team was able to help the Atlanta Fire Department catch a serial arsonist by mapping the arson locations and comparing that distribution to home addresses of know past arsonists.  Although not a perfect match, the plots did help identify and ultimately convict the arsonist.

We are now well beyond points, lines, and polygons GIS.  Today I use my cell phone for navigation, voice directions as well as a street-level imagery of my destination along with photos, video and hundreds of other web based applications.  The same progress has occurred in the intelligence community as maps, imagery, live video, and “other” sources of information have been merged using “Geospatial Multi-INT fusion” to build pattern of life analysis with the potential to anticipate harmful actions.

One of those “other” sources of data is social media and human geography which had its genesis with Web 2.0.  The term Web 2.0 was coined in 1999 to describe web sites that use technology beyond the static pages of earlier web sites.  It was not a new version of the World Wide Web but referred to the way web sites evolved to allow users to interact and collaborate with each other such as social networking sites, blogs, etc.  Although the US and Europe lead the world in use of social media, Second and Third World countries also have a strong user base of social media.  Most Third World countries never went through the long technology slog we went through laying miles of phone land lines as the technology evolved.  Many of them went direct to cell-phone technology, bypassing the expense and effort of land lines.  As a result, social media plays a surprisingly strong role in countries that still have limited mass media access.

It’s no surprise that there was an increase in the number of human geography presentations and exhibitors at GEOINT.

Geoint 2012 panel 

There was even a pre-conference day devoted exclusively to Human Geography.  The following is a limited snapshot of exhibitors I saw that focused on human geography and social media.  Most of the big players such as Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, BAE, SAIC and others have been doing significant work in these areas but the below are small companies that focus exclusively on human geography.

Aptima ( ) produced LaVATM , a statistical tool for extracting concepts and patterns using natural language processing.  They use online news, social media and blogs to follow the spread of ideas.

Berico Technologies ( demonstrated CLAVIN (Cartographic Location And Vicinity INdexer) which is an open source software package that derives location names from unstructured text and compares them against a gazetteer.  CLAVIN doesn’t just “look up” location names – it uses intelligent logic paths to identify exactly locations based on the context of the text. CLAVIN also uses fuzzy logic to work its way through misspellings or language translations.  There is a USGIF video taken at GEOINT that explains the process (

Courage Services, Inc.  (  does research and analysis related to human geography, Socio-cultural dynamics, social media, risk assessment and mitigation.  Their geospatial services include human geography mapping services, imagery and video analysis, mobile and web based applications.  They have focused heavily on humanitarian assistance, disaster relief and development.  Specifically supply chain logistics, situational awareness, critical infrastructure mapping and emergency response support.

DataCards (  indexes data sources that relate to irregular warfare, assessment, or can be used for socio-cultural modeling.  These cards provide a summary description and evaluation of the content, quality, intended purposes, and potentially appropriate uses of each source

Ergo ( ) delivers ground truth and actionable intelligence from frontline sources.  Unlike other human geography firms they rely on hands-on experience and feet-on-the-ground rather than electronic media.  They have a network of vetted and trusted team members who are locals. They know the political and business environment, understand the customs, and speak the language.  They specialize in “hard cases” – opaque geographies, obscure topics, and sensitive issues that other firms struggle to address with open source media.  They’ve been in business for 7 years and have completed over 400 projects in 90 countries.

The HumanGeo Group, LLC ( developed geospatial applications to synthesize, manage, and exploit large data sets, leading-edge non-traditional cyber security and specialized rapid search capabilities. The HumanGeo Group also brings together experienced special operations and intelligence agency veterans to address security and intelligence needs.  HumanGeo also provides business intelligence, geospatial visualization and innovative enterprise search applications that can help reduce risk.

Recorded Future ( is in the business of mining “Big Data” to try to have advance knowledge or improved understanding of what might happen in the near future.  They continuously harvests and perform real time analysis of news from more than 40,000 sources on the web, ranging from big media and government web sites to individual blogs and selected twitter streams.  This analysis ties together countless pieces of information that highlight future events.  They can’t predict the future but they can highlight future events based on analysis of millions of events tied to more than 2 billion facts in their database.  This may sound somewhat Orwellian but does point to where things could be headed.

Fulcrum ( is a cloud-based data collection system for iPhone, iPad, and Android devices.  Users can create location-based data collection apps and deploy them to mobile devices within minutes.  It facilitates collaboration so a data collection team can work on the same project collecting data in the field quickly, accurately and with great flexibility.


GeoXray ( is a web-based software application that allows users to search the internet and social media sites for content relating to a geographic area and filter the results by topic, time and source.  TerraGo, creators of the ubiquitous GeoPDF, demonstrated interoperation by allowing a user to access GeoXray directly from a GeoPDF.  TerraGo’s Michael Bufkin indicated that the next step in this interoperability will be to cache the GeoXray discovered content within the GeoPDF when it is created, thus enabling access to the content directly from the TerraGo Toolbar. Users would then be able to discover GeoXray content even if not connected to the internet while using the same tools that they use for map display and collaboration.

GeoCOP ( is a web-based voice, video, and data overlay service which connects people, applications, and knowledge.  “GEOCOP” stands for “Geospatial Common Operating Picture” and is a Sensitive but Unclassified web-based voice, video, and data overlay technology that instantly connects people, Geospatial Applications, and knowledge.  It was designed by former special agents and law enforcement experts, to provide law enforcement and intelligence agencies with an improved situational awareness tool.  I had a chance to test GeoCOP during a recent exercise where we combined real time earthquake data from USGS with tweets from the affected area verifying the extent of the damage.  I was very impressed with its functionality, broad access to extensive data sets, user friendliness and speed.  GEOCOP users can gather data from multiple online sources, then overlay the results alongside geospatial applications, web video players, live messaging, and other programs.


If your GIS life focuses on points, lines and polygons please look over the cubical wall. There is a silent revolution occurring in the geospatial community that may dwarf traditional GIS.  This has been the most rapidly expanding part of GEOINT as more and more users do a deep dive into all aspects of human geography.  Some of the growing capabilities are quite startling, almost “Big Brother” / “Minority Report” like science fiction.  If I’m still around, it will be interesting to attend GEOINT 2030.  Perhaps we’ll have tools that can use “Big Data” and analysis to anticipate and block damaging events.

Kalinski photo


Art Kalinski, GISP

A career Naval Officer, Art established the Navy’s first GIS.  Completing a post graduate degree in GIS at the University of North Carolina, he joined the Atlanta Regional Commission (ARC) as the GIS Manager from 1993 to 2007.  He pioneered the use of oblique imagery for public safety and Homeland Security.  Art retired early from ARC to join Pictometry International to direct military projects using oblique imagery which led to him joining Soft Power Solutions, LLC.  He also writes a monthly column for GeoSpatial Solutions aimed at federal GIS users.


About the Author: Art Kalinski

A career Naval Officer, Art Kalinski established the Navy’s first geographic information system (GIS) in the mid-1980s. Completing a post-graduate degree in GIS at the University of North Carolina, he was the Atlanta Regional Commission GIS Manager from 1993 to 2007. He pioneered the use of oblique imagery for public safety and participated in numerous disaster-response actions including GIS/imagery support of the National Guard during Hurricane Katrina; the Urban Area Security Initiative; a NIMS-based field exercise in Atlanta; and a fully manned hardware-equipped joint disaster response exercise in New York City. Kalinski retired early from ARC to join Pictometry International to direct military projects using oblique imagery, which led to him joining SPGlobal Inc. He has written articles for numerous geospatial publications, and authors a monthly column for the GeoIntelligence Insider e-newsletter aimed at federal GIS users.