Adapting to a Changing Threat Spectrum with Real-Time Information

Security is no longer just a matter of protecting national borders and military infrastructure. Today, a nation’s sovereignty stands or falls with the integrity of its communications, power and transportation grid, and its energy production and public health facilities. This reinforces the need for better real-time information and flexible, evolving technology, emphasizes Juergen Dold, President, GSI, at Hexagon AB.

How do you see the global security scenario evolving in the Fourth Industrial Age?

Thanks to the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR), we are seeing the combined use of automation and machine-to-machine communication optimizing virtually all aspects of manufacturing, defense, infrastructure, and industrial efforts. The benefits of industrial systems to leverage smart sensors and IoT for handling issues with minimal human intervention are transforming commerce, government and defense in ways we never imagined. Because of this evolution, security organizations and systems need to be multi-faceted and dynamic to manage ever-growing threats. Today, independent nations as well as alliances of countries around the world are developing strategies to address the expanding range of non-traditional risks and challenges. We are also seeing conventional threats growing, including asymmetric terrorist threats and attacks on industrial systems, designed to influence elections and the larger political discourse.

Security is no longer just a matter of protecting national borders and military infrastructure, or defending the front line. Today, a nation’s sovereignty stands or falls with the integrity of its communications, power and transportation grid, and its energy production and public health facilities. Security strategists call this the ‘rear area’, behind the front line. This reinforces the need for better real-time information and flexible, evolving technology that can adapt to a changing threat spectrum.

As we usher in the age of the data economy, how critical is it to have sovereign and secure data environments for national governments and regional organizations like the European Commission?

Having sovereign and secure data environments has never been more important. Thanks to efforts like the recent European Commission initiatives on cloud computing and GAIA-X, which is the federated data infrastructure for Europe, data sovereignty is already a priority. Also, data sovereignty has trickled down from the political agenda to the business level. Politicians and governments have expressed their strategic interest in the issue, and now companies are also embracing the opportunity by offering exciting Cloud solutions that meet data sovereignty requirements. Of course, there is much more to consider when it comes to data sovereignty.

These developments have changed how nations operate. Data was once classified and shared under a “need-to-know” paradigm and was shielded — sharing was an exception. That paradigm has been flipped. Now, it’s all about the ‘need-to-share’, which is opening the potential for massive amounts of shared data. We see this shift all around us. For instance, ‘need-to-share’ is the guiding principle for NATO nations and their allies. Years ago, the European Commission moved to open location data with the INSPIRE Directive, and it is now looking to repeat this move with the European Digital Data Act.

However, these efforts present a challenge: information overload. Earlier, organizations were exposed to very little information; now, the opposite is happening. By leveraging solutions that provide users a role-based access, organizations can break down traditional data stovepipes, while ensuring that only the right people see the data they need to do their jobs.

The concept of ‘sensors to action’ is driven by a host of technology innovations both in hardware and software. How do you view these innovations supporting the workflow of security agencies?  

Every technology revolution in history has served the same purpose — to allow humans to do more with the same or fewer resources. Today, this is achieved through the ability to acquire and analyze data more efficiently. We have made great strides on the acquisition side. For example, autonomous, remotely piloted systems allow us to quickly and cost-effectively inspect and survey lands and facilities. This can apply to bridge inspections with UAV and LiDAR sensor data, and the same goes for facility and base security. In addition, military systems, such as the F35, now operate as data vacuum cleaners, with a wide array of sensors for capturing threat information. However, with the proliferation of sensors and data, defense and security teams risk too much data to process. Consider operators sitting in a control room viewing 30 screens filled with feeds from CCTVs, perimeter security devices and more.

But what if you could embed intelligence into the process? For example, Hexagon’s BLK247 is an intelligent sensor with edge computing capabilities built into the device, so the surveillance professional no longer gets data like video streams, but actionable information in the form of threat alerts. With our single photon LiDAR capabilities, it is now possible to detect drug production facilities in rainforests. In addition, AI is being used within the geospatial software to detect anomalies in ship movements for maritime security.

Geospatial is the key to operations, because data needs to be rapidly handed off to support various operations for fast visualization, analysis and decision-making

Positioning infrastructure, including Positioning, Navigation and Timing (PNT) solutions, is critical for defense. Lately, GNSS systems have been subject to spoofing. How does Hexagon address this vulnerability?

Hexagon’s prioritization of a secure and assured PNT is demonstrated by our investment in Satellite Based Augmentation Systems (SBAS), sensor fusion and anti-jam technologies. We have delivered key positioning technology for WAAS and other SBAS infrastructure that rely on NovAtel Ground Reference and Uplink Receivers, which are critical to the safety of life systems in aviation. As the fusion of GNSS with Inertial Navigation Systems (INS) and sensors became an essential component to achieving high accuracy ground truth, we also invested time and energy in learning how INS creates a more robust positioning system. Our NovAtel SPAN GNSS+INS technology couples GNSS and inertial measurements deeply in a way that provides continuous operation and withstands spoofing.

The next step to ensure that safety-of-life systems continue to operate across aviation, defense and mobile mapping is to identify when PNT may be under threat from interference. Hexagon recently introduced its NovAtel GNSS Resilience and Integrity Technology (GRIT) suite of firmware options for the OEM7 family of GNSS receivers. This solution enables users to identify when spoofing or jamming is occurring, and provides tools to protect a user’s PNT for trusted situation awareness across applications and environments.

Geospatial information provides a foundational layer to data ecosystems, and so, it’s the responsibility of geospatial platform companies to embed encryption and security features into their products. In this context, what unique value proposition does Hexagon’s geospatial platform offer?

Everything starts with an overall ‘data lake’ vision or a data ecosystem. This is a complete paradigm shift where data is at the center of a system architecture — leaving data at rest while not going through challenging database migrations and data replication efforts. With fewer data replications, there are fewer opportunities for the data to be compromised. Hexagon is fully invested in this ‘data lake’ vision, which is ideal for security agencies.

For example, the HxDR provides accurate digital representations of the real world through Cloud-based visualization and collaboration for spatial data and services. Our Luciad Portfolio is the platform of choice for building situational awareness and real-time Location Intelligence solutions drawing from such data. Many defense organizations and suppliers, such as NATO and Airbus, have relied on Luciad technologies for their systems.

We will also be launching a scalable SaaS solution that bridges information and communication gaps, removes data silos and enhances collaboration between diverse roles, organizations and sectors. When it comes to encryption and embedded security, I believe this should be left to the security providers and not necessarily geospatial technology players. What is important is that the geospatial platform is architected for optimal safety, and that it functions within an organization’s overall enterprise security environment.

Information enterprises for security agencies have data coming in from several sources in different formats and standards. How do geospatial platforms empower data fusion and integration?

We empower this fusion through the simple process of time stamping each piece of data. In many ways, geospatial is the foundational platform for gathering and analyzing all data. That’s why we have seen a massive adoption of geo-technologies, and they are no longer the exclusive domain of geospatial specialists. Geospatial is the key to operations, because data needs to be rapidly handed off to support various operations for fast visualization, analysis and decision-making.
Therefore, the geospatial industry has also been on the forefront of developing open standards in ways that are unseen in other industries. As a result, geospatial is at the core of today’s information architectures. The concept of “Bring Your Own Device” (BYOD) has evolved into “Bring Your Own Data”, under which data is ubiquitous.

How do you view the future of geo-intelligence, and what is Hexagon’s role in shaping the next generation of geo-intelligence enterprise?

At GEOINT 2017, Robert Cardillo, then Director of the US National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, said the agency would be dealing with ‘a million times more data’ in five years. In 20 years, the NGA would need to employ eight million analysts to manage the data load. AI and automation can help with this challenge. Our aim is to continue shaping the future of geospatial intelligence by helping defense and security agencies not only manage the tsunami of data, but easily turn it into actionable information.

More Prime Read