Mobile apps Offline: Chaos management and disconnected Capability

Photo caption: Ben Tuttle, NGA mobile applications team lead, speaks during GEOINT 2013* Symposium April 14.

When Internet networks crash during natural disasters or bandwidth becomes unavailable at crowded national special security events, analysts must be able to continue doing their jobs.

The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency’s Geospatial Intelligence Advancement Testbed Mobile Apps Team has created a capability that allows analysts to continue sharing GEOINT data despite limited or no connectivity, said Ben Tuttle, Ph.D., mobile apps team lead.

 The April 14 panel at the GEOINT Symposium, “Chaos Management in a Disconnected World,” highlighted how Tuttle and his team have worked with other analysts across the agency and throughout the GEOINT community to explore the legal issues, application governance, and emerging standards for mobile capabilities.

“NGA works with a wide range of GEOINT users, to include emergency response, search and rescue, security, and military personnel who require constant use of mobile applications,” said Tuttle. “Many commercial apps are completely dependent on access to servers to function properly. We know analysts need the capability to use their GEOINT apps when disconnected from servers, because it’s the most frequent request our customers have.”

The mobile apps team sought to develop applications that provide persistent and relevant GEOINT when connected and disconnected from their servers, and to ensure the apps, and the data they store, gracefully transition between periods of connectivity.

An interagency working group, led by the Army Geospatial Center, developed GeoPackage, said Tuttle.

GeoPackage provides the Open Geospatial Consortium with a set of universal standards for storing data to reduce duplication on mobile devices’ limited storage space.

Tuttle and his team developed MapCache to ease the creation of caches for offline use, he said. The Mobile Analytic GEOINT Environment, known as MAGE, allows users to create and share observations in the field using mobile devices, and the Mobile Interactive Intelligence Reports allows easy creation of reusable interactive content deployable across many platforms.

“We will soon have disconnected capability for these apps on Android, iOS, the Blackberry 10 and Windows7 and 8,” said Tuttle. “There are obviously certain limitations to what we can and cannot provide without a network connection, but our apps allow us to gracefully degrade the service as analysts lose access to the data they need.”

The new apps were used by security personnel as part of NGAs support to recent special events such as the Sochi Olympics and continue to be used by our federal partners, said Tuttle. The mobile devices and apps continue to transform how GEOINT is collected, increase situational awareness, promote information sharing, and enable NGA’s vision of an online, on-demand environment on multiple security domains, much like the Map of the World and The Globe, two products NGA has also recently unveiled.

“The feedback has been positive and we have been able to implement suggestions users have made at a rapid pace,” said Tuttle. “It’s the agency’s priority to make data accessible on all platforms at all times and provide users with online on-demand access to search, discover and access that data. I believe that apps like MapCache and standards like the GeoPackage will be instrumental building blocks in fully realizing those goals.”

Approved for public release: 14-307