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February 14, 2011
Satellite Sentinel Project Uses Commercial Satellite Imagery to Monitor Sudanese Conflict
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Susan Smith - Managing Editor

by Susan Smith - Managing Editor
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Industry News

Satellite Sentinel Project Uses Commercial Satellite Imagery to Monitor Sudanese Conflict

By Susan Smith

It has long been the hope of commercial satellite imaging companies that they could extend their use to the commercial sector. With the goal of generating rapid responses for human rights and human security, the Satellite Sentinel Project (SSP) has employed DigitalGlobe to take high resolution commercial satellite imagery and make it available to the public in near real time.

On January 9, Sudan, Africa's largest country, held a historic referendum for self determination for southern Sudan. Southern Sudan voted by over 99% to secede and become Africa's 55th nation. If southern Sudan becomes a new nation it will do so on July 9. There is a mandatory six month period between the voting and the independence of Sudan.

If they are to become emerging nation they can not do business without maps. Southern Sudan is interested in maps not only for defensive purposes but for peacetime purposes --for hospitals, clinics, schools, roads, airports, shipping, real estate, businesses, oil production and transport. They don't have the basic coordinates or maps of the country in place yet.

Since southern Sudan produces much of the oil revenue for Africa, tensions are high in the region and it is necessary for diplomatic negotiations to take place to prevent a return to full scale civil war.

Troop Buildups

“The Satellite Sentinel Project (SSP) has confirmed that the Sudanese Armed Forces, or SAF, has deployed company-sized units of troops equipped with light armor and artillery in areas of South Kordofan around the oil-producing Abyei region and other strategic areas along Sudan's volatile North-South border. However,
the project's first report also indicates that the SAF troops do not appear prepared for imminent forward movement. This provides a window for the peace process to address outstanding North-South issues which, if unresolved, could trigger renewed conflict.

Troop buildups have been reported on both sides of the border. Authoritative sources, such as the Small Arms Survey, indicate approximately 55,000 SAF troops along the border of South Kordofan - half the strength of Sudan's standing regular army - spread out over some 100 garrisons. The satellite imagery collected to date by SSP is consistent with those reports, and it provides photographic corroboration of company-size deployments, light armor, mobile artillery, and other offensive military equipment, as well as helicopter transport.” - Satellite Sentinel website press release

Stopping War Before it Starts

So how did the SSP collect such comprehensive satellite imagery that hasn't been collected before for a commercial enterprise?

The imagery analysis, prepared by the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative, used new high-resolution imagery of a potential conflict zone captured by commercial satellite firm DigitalGlobe, which is providing imagery and additional analysis. DigitalGlobe and GeoEye are offering their images to this cause, which highlights the need for the use of imagery before a conflict takes place, rather than while it is taking place.

These images, “combined with the
Enough Project's field reports, provide a baseline understanding of what's happening in flashpoint areas, where the combination of large numbers of security forces and high levels of tension could cause localized incidents to escalate, drawing both sides into a wider conflict," according to Jonathan Hutson, Director of Communications, Enough Project.

The Satellite Sentinel project launched on Dec. 29. “The first report came out January 27," said Huston. "Sudan faces challenges to avoid a return to war in the wake of its historic referendum on self determination for Southern Sudan. If war is not inevitable, we can stop this war before it starts.”

The collection of commercial satellite imagery “has never been done before in the context of human rights or human security,” said Hutson. “Previously, efforts to incorporate satellite imagery to safeguard human rights have been exercises in after-the-fact documentation - we're trying to get ahead of mass atrocities, including potential genocide -- and make available the images in near real time within 36 hours.” Up until now the turnaround time between acquiring high resolution satellite imagery and uploading it to Google Earth, along with an analysis of an impact of human rights and human security on the ground -- has been at best two to three weeks, and
sometimes months.

If the turnaround time can be shortened to approximately 36 hours, Hutson said lives can be saved. The project is the result of an unprecedented collaboration between major institutions and organizations, Not On Our Watch, the Enough Project, Google, the United Nations UNITAR Operational Satellite Applications Programme (UNOSAT), the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative, DigitalGlobe and Trellon, LLC.

DigitalGlobe vice president Stephen Wood said the company has imaged nearly 750,000 square kilometers of Sudan in the last 30 days. “With access to imagery and information from the most capable constellation of high-resolution commercial satellites, the Satellite Sentinel Project can accurately monitor actions on the ground in Sudan during this very critical period.”

Flying over Uncharted Land

DigitalGlobe flies one of its satellites over Sudan at 17,000 miles per hour every day, with ground speed at between 280-485 miles above earth. Huston said he can view each day's high resolution imagery of Sudan captured by DigitalGlobe's satellites with his iPad.

The three satellites from DigitalGlobe - QuickBird, WorldView 1 and WorldView 2 follow the sunrise so each day one of them sweeps the strategic hotspots along the north-south border, monitors activity and analyzes potential security threats.

Much of southern Sudan has never been mapped accurately or comprehensively using geodata. The Enough Project collaborates with Google and uses its Map Maker technology to create the first detailed comprehensive maps.

Any data needs to be corroborated with policy analysis, field reports, and crisis mapping as well as crowd sourced information, “but it's our hope that the targeted real time verification offered by this advanced satellite technology will help deter atrocities, activate response and ensure accountability,” said Hutson.

Hutson said they expect the lessons learned from the Satellite Sentinel Project will have practical applications, not only for human rights and security in southern Sudan but worldwide. “We hope to develop best practices that can be applied from Bosnia to Burma, from Congo to Kurdistan and that could affect how news coverage and academic analysis incorporates satellite imagery in addressing other emerging crises such as climate change, oil spills, global health emergencies, and population shifts.”

Amnesty International has used satellite imagery in the project called “Eyes on Darfur” to monitor thirteen villages in Darfur. Physicians for Human Rights and the American Academy for the Advancement of Science have used satellite imagery to gather evidence of mass grave tampering in Afghanistan.

How SSP's efforts differ is that they are using high resolution imagery in near real time to prevent human rights crimes before they occur as well as to promote greater accountability.

Hutson said they would like to see a whole new generation of students aware of the true capacities of the geospatial intelligence industry. He makes the analogy that DARPA developed and funded the Internet, yet it was the private sector that capitalized on it and exploited it to its fullest potential. He predicted that five or ten years from now those commercial satellite companies that today depend up on government defense contracts for their welfare will also rely on revenues from the private sector.

SSP aims to create an interactive portable map that will combine Google Map Maker and satellite imagery with field analysis and concise, clear calls to action. “We want to share this app for free with students, academic and human rights activists all over the world,” said Hutson.

Not On Our Watch gave $750,000 in seed money for a six month start up phase and the SSP hopes to secure additional funding to extend the startup phase throughout this crisis in southern Sudan.

Ushahidi has included its Sudan vote-monitor project to incorporate crowdsourced data into SSP's crisis mapping and reports. There has also been some imagery donated to UNISAT by GeoEye and other satellite firms have asked how they could become involved with the project.

More people in Africa including Sudan have cell phones than have laptops. Thus mobile technology is essential to communicating with people on the ground.

Students care a lot about Darfur and preventing genocide and mass atrocities. SSP is collaborating with MTV and MTVU. MTVU is on 24/7 in 750 college campuses nationwide, and in all the fitness centers, dorms, and dining rooms. MTVU has put SSP on their home page; SSP will develop a free app to give away so students all over the world can become inspired by it and develop their own approaches to other crises in other countries.

Mapping Plans

Most of the imagery of Southern Sudan has been low resolution and has not been any where near near real time.

The plan of SSP is to create maps based on the experiences of people who have lived and worked in Sudan, then geotag it. It is difficult to get accurate information in Sudan, said Hutson, as there can be four different villages that have the same name, in a region where people speak four different languages, and spelling and pronunciations vary. “We actually need some one on the ground with a GPS transponder to identify it by its characteristics and its proximity to bodies of water, other villages, etc.”

Harvard Humanitarian Initiative was to develop the first accurate database of GPS coordinates so that data can be triangulated and referenced on a point based on a fixed known starting point and then be able to develop a basic map. Hutson said, “Whether there is peace or war, you can't build a nation without accurate maps. You can't decide where to build a hospital, clinic or school.”

Google's worldwide community of mapmakers, “Power Mappers,” are trained in how to use Google Map Maker for crisis response. They were called to map the Pakistani floods and determine humanitarian relief. People whose villages had been flooded needed food, water and medicine.

Two Pakistani developers who were instrumental in the Pakistani effort using Google Map Maker volunteered to help develop the basic application that SSP used to launch their interactive map.

Top News

The beta release of the highly anticipated Esri
File Geodatabase API is now available and will help developers improve the interoperability of applications. The API allows developers to create applications that can interact with a file geodatabase without using ArcObjects so that applications can be run on computers that do not have an ArcObjects license. The File Geodatabase API is a C++ library that allows developers to Create, open, and delete file geodatabases.
  • Read the schema of file geodatabases.
  • Create and edit schema for simple feature objects within a file geodatabase.
  • Read, edit, and delete simple features in a file geodatabase.
  • Perform attribute and limited spatial queries.

  • Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC) announced it was awarded a task order by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to provide software engineering and technical support to the Office of Environmental Information (OEI). The task order has a four month base period of performance, four one-year options and a total value of $20 million if all options are exercised. Work will be performed primarily in McLean, Va. The Next Generation Geographic Information Systems Support (NGISS) task order was awarded under the EPA's ORD Software Engineering and Specialized Scientific Support (SES3) contract.

    As part of their
    Public Mapping Project, Dr. Michael P. McDonald of George Mason University and Dr. Micah Altman, Senior Research Scientist at Harvard University Institute for Quantitative Social Science, have teamed up with Azavea, a geospatial analysis (GIS) software development company, to develop District Builder, an open source, web-based redistricting application. The software is designed to give the public access to online redistricting tools and can be configured to redistrict any state or locality within the United States

    MapQuest, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of AOL Inc. released a series of new tools for developers, new sites for the OpenStreetMap (OSM) community, and new global routing for all.

    GfK GeoMarketing will be launching an entirely new version of its geomarketing software RegioGraph at the upcoming CeBIT 2011 trade fair: "RegioGraph Strategy". This new version of the software includes detailed data and offers a wide array of options for analyzing information down to the level of street segments. The software is geared toward businesses wishing to extract insights based on the geographic analysis of company and market data. Additional features of RegioGraph 2011 include new territory- and location-planning functions as well as an overhauled user interface and an updated cartographic basis. RegioGraph provides support for a diverse range of tasks in
    sales, marketing, expansion-planning and controlling.

    Esri software and services are being used as part of a project in a special episode of the Emmy Award-winning hit TV show Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. The episode aired on ABC Television on January 30, 2011. It showcased a new home built for Jeannie and Johnnie Mac Brown, who tragically lost their teenage daughter, Alex, in a car accident as the result of texting while driving.

    Urban Mapping, Inc (UMI), a provider of web services and on-demand data for interactive mapping applications, announced the availability of Acxiom's InfoBase® Business Directory Database within Mapfluence, the company's web-based mapping platform. UMI, known for its leadership in geographic data sourcing, curation, and hosting, selected InfoBase due to its breadth, accuracy and relevance for Mapfluence industry solutions. Direct marketing, site selection and business intelligence professionals can now thematically map firmographic data on the Mapfluence platform.


    3-GIS, an Alabama based product development and services company and “Data +”, Russia's leading provider of technologies and solutions for the creation of geographic information systems (GIS) have announced a partnership agreement.

    Telvent, real-time IT solutions and information provider for a sustainable world, announced that it has entered into an agreement to acquire an additional stake and make an additional investment in Telvent DMS, LLC. The transaction also includes acquisition of energy management systems (EMS) applications and a new three year R&D plan which will enhance and extend its presence in global utility smart grid infrastructure investments.

    Aeroquest International Limited and OSI Geospatial Inc. announced the acquisition by Aeroquest of the Mapcon Mapping group of companies from OSI, which closed on January 31, 2011. Mapcon provides LiDAR, photogrammetry and related geomatic services to customers in the North American marketplace. Mapcon consists of two entities: a Canadian sales, operations and project management team located in Burnaby, BC; and a United States sales team located in Salt Lake City, Utah. Mapcon generated approximately $4 million of revenue in its last fiscal year.

    Expert System, the provider of semantic software that searches, discovers, classifies and interprets text information, and Esri Italia announce a partnership aimed to offer solutions which combine the capabilities of semantic technology with spatial and geo-referencing analysis and management technology, for increased OSINT capabilities.

    Intergraph Corporation and S&C Electric Company announced a strategic alliance to deliver integrated self-healing solutions for the smart grid. By joining Intergraph's GeoMedia Product Suite, an integrated set of geospatial processing applications, and the S&C IntelliTEAM SG Automatic Restoration System, the alliance supports creation of an interoperable smart-grid electric delivery system.

    ITT Visual Information Solutions, a subsidiary of ITT Corporation, and a developer of software products for data visualization and image analysis, announced it has signed an agreement with sarmap SA of Switzerland to distribute sarmap's SARscape software products worldwide. A popular add-on for ITT's ENVI software product for image analysis, SARscape provides ENVI users with the ability to read, process, analyze and output information from synthetic aperture radar (SAR) data and imagery. SAR is an increasingly popular type of geospatial data and imagery that is used in a wide range of applications because of its unique ability to provide information
    about an area regardless of time of day or weather conditions.


    Esri has established a research and development (R&D) center in Beijing, China. The center will provide geographic information system (GIS) software development to support China's many growing industries.

    The GIS Certification Institute (GISCI) invites all interested parties to comment on a proposal to update requirements for GIS Professional (GISP) certification. On January 28, GISCI made public a proposal to update the certification requirements. Key among the proposed updates is the addition of a required examination. The Working Group that prepared the proposal recommends that the exam be based on the U.S. Department of Labor's new Geospatial Technology Competency Model and related resources.

    The “GISP Certification Update” proposal and instructions for commenting on the proposal are available at
    http://www.gisci.org. As part of its deliberations the GISCI Board of Directors will consider comments received between February 1 and February 28, 2011. A Board decision about proposed changes is expected in April, 2011.

    Across the globe, the rapid evolution of geospatial technologies and applications has led to exciting opportunities for both the public and private sectors. And yet, as attorney Kevin D. Pomfret recently told audiences at the Geospatial World Forum in Hyderabad, India, this sector is advancing so quickly that national governments now face a daunting challenge: keeping pace with emerging law and policy issues that promise to affect everything from personal privacy to national security.


    ITT Corporation reported 2010 fourth-quarter revenue of $3 billion and income from continuing operations of $272 million, or $1.46 per share. Excluding special items, income from continuing operations was $253 million, or $1.36 per share, reflecting year-over-year growth of 42 percent.

    For the full year 2010, ITT reported revenue of $11 billion and income from continuing operations of $654 million, or $3.53 per share. Excluding special items, income from continuing operations was $818 million, resulting in a record $4.41 per share, an 18 percent increase over 2009. For the full year, free cash flow was $937 million, a 104 percent conversion of net income from continuing operations adjusted for non-cash special items.

    New Products

    Esri developed a newly launched
    web application that provides mapping and analysis to enhance Australia flood information supplied through the Ushahidi social network. The network allows people to report incidents via SMS, e-mail, or the web. The information is categorized and analyzed using geographic information systems (GIS) technology to provide hot spot visualization. By combining web GIS capabilities with Ushahidi data, anyone can view reports of flood incidents, damages, requests for help, and response requirements in a map context.

    Broadcom announces two new system-on-a-chip (SoC) solutions with support for GLONASS (the Russian Navigation Satellite System), in addition to GPS, marking the first cost-effective, commercially-available, single die SoC solutions that support both GLONASS and GPS simultaneously.

    The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and FortiusOne announced the launch of
    IssueMap, an online mapping site that enables citizens to quickly map data they care about and easily share it through social networks. IssueMap is as simple as "
    copy, paste, map." Users can go from a spreadsheet to a shareable map in less than 60 seconds.

    Agency9 announced the release of their platform, 3DMaps SDK (Software Developer Kit) and Geo-portal solution internationally. The company's product Agency9 3DMaps enable a new range of e-services and improved communication in city development, GIS, defence, surveillance and online applications. The launch of the 3DMaps SDK allows system integrators and ISVs to develop and offer state-of-the-art 3D Geographic IT solutions.

    GE announced the release of the Smallworld* Enterprise Gateway solution. This new software product enables users of GE's geospatial solutions to directly use Smallworld data for applications operating on Oracle® Spatial technology.

    Trimble introduced the Trimble Corridor Analyst routing software for power transmission lines. The innovative software simultaneously considers construction costs, environmental restrictions, social concerns and legislative obligations, allowing utility planners to thoroughly examine alternatives and select the most appropriate corridors for high-voltage power transmission lines, which can provide significant reductions in project planning time and cost for projects.

    MapQuest, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of AOL Inc., has made travel-planning for the Big Game on Feb. 6 just a little bit more enjoyable with “Play-by-Play” directions on
    MapQuest.com that deliver football fanatics to their destination in a memorable way.

    Data East introduces TAB Reader 4.0, an ArcGIS plug-in data source specifically designed for direct reading of the MapInfo TAB and MIF/MID files in ArcGIS with retention of existing native TAB rendering, symbology properties and information about coordinate system. Besides, TAB Reader provides tools for importing TAB symbology to ArcGIS, batch converting TAB symbology from TAB files to ArcGIS layer files, importing MapInfo workspaces to ArcMap documents, and exporting data from ArcGIS to MapInfo TAB format.

    i-Move introduced its multimodal navigator during the first public live demonstration of In-Time services held January 25th in Vienna, Austria. It is based on AnyMap Mobile Navigator 2.0, the Navigation SDK for professional markets that hit the market end of 2010. It consists of a user-friendly journey planner combining straightforward on-board mobile navigation with server based, real-time journey planning. Its usage of real-time public transport timetables and either static or dynamic Park & Ride availabilities allow it to compute a truly real-time multimodal route.

    uismedia announces the release of a new version of Mappetizer Standalone, the company's easy-to-use software for creating high sophisticated, interactive and dynamic web mapping solutions.

    Mappetizer web mapping solutions are based on SVG technology which is an nonproprietary and vendor neutral, from the W3 Consortium developed standard.

    Global Geomatics is set to revolutionize the survey market in Africa following the purchase of a StreetMapper mobile laser mapping system. It is the first system of it's kind to be operational in Africa and will provide Global Geomatics with a competitive advantage with a world-leading rapid surveying capability.

    Around the Web

    GISCafe Today Blog


    Date: February 14 - 17, 2011
    Place: Fira de Barcelona

    Widely regarded as the mobile industry’s “must attend” of the year, the GSMA’s Mobile World Congress presents a cutting-edge conference agenda that consistently features the industry’s biggest names, the most relevant topics and the most innovative companies who are changing the face of the mobile sector.
    Date: February 17 - 18, 2011
    Place: Malaga, Spain
    Next generation satellite services will cater the demands of personal services by bringing the satellite terminals directly to the hands of the user hence providing satellite personal services directly to the user. Technological advances in satellite communications have made it possible to bring such value added satellite services directly to the user by reducing the overall cost as well as addressing many technological challenges such as supporting mobility, having miniaturized antennas and terminal sizes, and providing high data rate links. With the unique broadcast nature and ubiquitous coverage of satellite networks, the synergy between satellite and terrestrial
    networks provides immense opportunities for disseminating wideband multimedia services to a wide range of audiences over large numbers of geographically-dispersed people.
    Date: February 23 - 24, 2011
    Place: Redlands, CA USA
    Professionals from California, Hawaii, Nevada, and the Pacific Islands are invited to connect with your peers, colleagues, and ESRI contacts. Whatever your industry, position, or level of GIS experience, you’re encouraged to attend this helpful and engaging forum.
    Date: March 1 - 2, 2011
    Place: Horizon Convention Center

    401 South High Street, Muncie, IN 47308 USA
    The Indiana Geographic Information Council (IGIC) will host the 2011 Indiana GIS Conference March 1-2, 2011 at the Horizon Convention Center in Muncie, Indiana.  This event brings together over 300 of Indiana’s leading GIS professionals specializing in all facets of GIS use and development.
    Date: March 5 - 8, 2011
    Place: Palm Springs, CA USA
    As a partner, you’re part of ongoing, breakthrough innovation that fuels organizations across the globe. The Esri Partner Conference is here to help you further grasp how to drive business with the geographic advantage.
  • Get updated on trends and how you can leverage our resources.
  • Connect with people who can help you succeed, from other partners to Esri staff.
  • Collect insight from Esri President Jack Dangermond.
  • Gain a more competitive edge and improve the health of your company.
  • Date: March 6 - 8, 2011
    Place: Palm Springs Convention Center

    CA USA
    Plan to join us for the 2011 ESRI Worldwide Business Partner Conference (BPC),
    Date: March 7 - 10, 2011
    Place: Palm Springs Convention Center

    CA USA
    Plan to join us for the 2011 ESRI Developer Summit, taking place March 7–10, at the Palm Springs Convention Center in California.
    Date: March 14 - 16, 2011
    Place: Convention Centre of Al Bustan Rotana Hote

    Dubai, United Arab Emirates
    GISWORX is our proactive technical support delivery mechanism. This annual 3-day event provides a unique indepth learning environment on different aspects of GIS to both beginners as well as advanced users through several technical workshops on focused topics. It helps the organizations take full advantage of their software investment by enhancing the knowledge and skills of their GIS professionals. It also addresses key issues related to implementation of GIS in specific industries. Over the years, GISWORX evolved to be the premier GIS event in the Middle East region.

    You can find the full GISCafe event calendar here.

    To read more news, click here.

    -- Susan Smith, GISCafe.com Managing Editor.