Geospatial Intelligence Program Helps to Map a Constantly Changing World

Posted: March 20, 2008 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Tara Laskowski

Imagine being able to walk around downtown Washington, D.C., with a small handheld device that could tell you everything you wanted to know about the area. Point it at a monument on the Mall and it would tell you the history and significance — plus give you directions to the next tourist site you wanted to visit, with up-to-the-minute traffic, weather and air quality information.

Geospatial intelligence (GI) — a complex study of the space around us, the changes in it and techniques to monitor such changes — is making technology such as this not just feasible but much more. GI typically addresses the collection, organization, analysis and dissemination of information on the position of physical features, man-made structures, moving objects, people, events and activities.

Although mostly used by the government and military, GI can have a large impact on civilians as well. Its principles, techniques and methods can be used by the government for surveillance, by border patrols to map and track high-traffic areas, by environmentalists to track pollution, or by medical professionals to track the progress of tumors in a patient’s body and compare this information to a relevant database.

“Geospatial intelligence aims to decipher the DNA of movement and activity,” says Anthony Stefanidis, associate professor of Earth Systems and Geoinformation Science.

This year Mason launched a new graduate certificate program in geospatial intelligence, and last month this program became one of only three university programs in the world accredited by the U.S. Geospatial Intelligence Foundation, a nonprofit corporation. The University of Missouri at Columbia and Penn State University are the other two.

The program is designed for professionals in geospatial intelligence careers or those interested in entering the field. With new emerging technologies, the field is constantly changing.

“We need new curriculum to reflect these changes,” says Stefanidis, who is also the director of the program. Mason’s College of Science is planning to establish a new Center for Geospatial Intelligence in next few months and is putting together a new master’s degree in GI.

“With strong expertise in geoinformatics, ranging from remote sensing and geographic information science to digital image analysis and sensor networks, Mason is uniquely positioned, both academically and geographically, to offer a world-leading certificate program in geospatial intelligence,” says Stefanidis.

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