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The View From Harris
Year In Review
by John Delay, Director of Strategic Management for Government Solutions,
Harris Broadcast Communications

Video is playing an increasingly important role in U.S. military and government applications, ranging from surveillance and reconnaissance to intelligence gathering and training. The reality is that military and government agencies are using an ever-growing volume of video, much of which is migrating to HDTV resolution. This past year has witnessed the need of video and other media formats to make a critical difference in analyzing intelligence—in 2008, such will only become more crucial to our military, government and public agencies.

As the volume and quality of live and digital media files increase, it’s becoming more challenging to deliver content via satellite, fiber, or IPTV as the bandwidth associated with these “network pipes” is a finite resource. File storage and management also become unwieldy as media repositories grow.

At Harris, we recognize that real-time video delivery, efficient storage, transfer, and management of digital media assets by military and government agencies, are all critical to our national defense and homeland security. As military commanders and government leaders often make mission-critical decisions based upon digital media assets, our mission is to provide comprehensive, powerful solutions that make it possible to encode, transmit and decode large video files efficiently, as well as automate the tracking, retrieval and sharing of these media-rich files between agencies.

With the world’s most prominent broadcast organizations among our customers, Harris is uniquely positioned to deliver to military and government users the same reliable, full-featured solutions that have proven successful in the demanding television broadcasting business. Just as with broadcasters, military and government users strive to produce the highest video quality possible to discern the detail in every picture frame. They also want to capture key live events on video without fail—the way that sportscasters capture that winning touchdown in the Super Bowl or a photo finish of a race. They also want to employ the same sophisticated digital asset management techniques used by broadcasters to organize and harness video in a way that helps them meet their objectives.

At Harris, we’re also sensitive to the fact that U.S. military and government agencies must conform to strict budgets and appropriations. This means some customers may be using legacy gear, while others have the latest in video technology. Our flexible, scalable, upgradeable solutions support the latest standards, such as MPEG-4/H.264 compression, while also remaining backwards compatible. In addition, we offer encoding and decoding tools ideal for satellite transmission as well as an end-to-end workflow for video production and IPTV.

Ever since 9/11, it’s become painfully obvious the security of the United States rests upon our ability to gather and interpret accurate intelligence in a timely manner. Lives depend upon it. Possessing good, solid intelligence is more than simply a matter of collecting data. What makes intelligence “actionable” is the manner in which the data has been interpreted—and the speed with which such data is disseminated and digested.

If there is chatter that a terrorist attack is imminent, or if we are sending special operations forces behind enemy lines, government and military officials must have immediate access to intelligence that is organized, relevant and immediately available. Otherwise, it is of no use at all.

Everyday, massive amounts of data pour into military and government agencies from a variety of sources worldwide—such as satellite imagery, airborne sensors, ground-based sensors, satellite and surveillance video—and the process of organizing and managing this huge influx has become a daunting, time-consuming task. We’ve reached a point where intelligence analysts no longer have the luxury to manually capture and edit all the data at hand and then distribute that information using conventional workflow methods, as time is of the essence.

At Harris Corporation, we worked closely with the intelligence community to develop a new, integrated workflow platform, called FAME™ (Full-Motion Video Asset Management Engine). We demonstrated FAME at the GEOINT 2007 Symposium in San Antonio, Texas, in October 2007. We developed FAME in response to a need expressed by intelligence analysts for a video and audio analysis tool that would allow them to perform “intelligence fusion”—combining information obtained from many sources to form a single composite picture of specific operational environments.

To be especially meaningful, all of the media at hand must be able to be analyzed based upon an accurate, geospatial timeline. If you want to look at media that’s been focused on a particular location, you want to be able to place every image frame on a timeline. Then, you can compare the progression of events at that location over a certain period of time.

By leveraging uniform geospatial metadata, intelligence analysts can align essence data—still and moving images—in relation to specific dates, times and places. This metadata is critical to establishing relationships between different essence data to see the way objects have changed or moved over time.

If media assets and metadata are correlated manually, the workload can be overwhelming. Backlogs extending months or years can result. Intelligence planners routinely miss crucial insights that could avert disasters all because their agencies failed to properly catalog and retrieve critical media and then deliver it to decision-makers in time for it to make a difference in our national security efforts.

The digital ingest of newly arriving media assets also involves the extraction of any metadata that cameras may have recorded, such as date, time, place and timecode. To the extent possible, this process of extracting the metadata must be automated. Once metadata has been extracted, the essence media can be rapidly searched, retrieved, visualized and correlated along a timeline.

Once the user has analyzed the data, the actionable intelligence that results is also metadata, in the form of notes, reports, and memos. The FAME platform allows for tracking this user feedback in relation to source media in the repository, which essentially closes the loop of integrated content management and delivery.

By automating the media asset management process, military and government agencies can create a dynamic, interactive library that helps their analysts build upon their understanding of the intelligence. Such also fulfills the “Four Rights of Multisensor Intelligence” all intelligence entities strive to attain—delivering the most useful intelligence to the right user at the correct time via the appropriate device.

The FAME platform’s automated workflow encompasses the acquisition, processing, management, transcoding, distribution and consumption of media assets in the repository. As media often arrives from different sources in a variety of compression and file formats, these files must be transcoded into formats supported by the central repository, such as a video server, in order for the data to be accessed or shared by cooperating departments and agencies. The automation of this “media lifecycle” amounts to a powerful system for finding and using relevant assets in the timeliest way.

At Harris, we believe that our solutions, which support next-generation technologies such as MPEG-4/H.264, digital media management and IPTV, can contribute to our nation’s ability to convert media-rich data into actionable intelligence in time to prevent disasters—save lives.

John Delay is Director of Strategic Management for Harris Corporation, Broadcast Communications Division’s Government Solutions business unit based in Mason, Ohio. John has provided technology and marketing leadership in media for over 20 years.

Prior to being named to his current position, John headed the digital television studio product line, identifying, developing and marketing technologies for evolving broadcast needs. Before that, he held positions in increasing responsibility in product management and engineering. John is well known as a speaker on emerging technologies. He is a graduate of Culver-Stockton.