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Opening an app on your phone to help find your way to a destination has become second nature. Confidence in first-responders to arrive efficiently and directly has become ingrown.

Those are some of the many “technologies that now go unnoticed,” said Chris Johnson, Chief Technology Officer for GEOHuntsville, which will holds it annual Summit next week.

Developing the cutting edge of similar technologies, for security, emergency response and consumers, has been a natural tie-in to Huntsville’s history of space exploration and satellite launches, “the legacy we all grew up with in space hardware,” as Johnson said.

Geospatial is the location technology that provides the data that “helps us navigate our world better”

Mayor Tommy Battle in 2012 introduced three workforce initiatives that “would further diversify our economy and at the same time rely on the great brainpower in Huntsville,” he said.

GEOHuntsville was formed, along with a cyber and energy non-profit, volunteer-driven initiatives. It’s a collaborative effort among businesses, academic and government entities to support workforce growth and economic development by bringing awareness to the professional expertise in our area.

“Mayor Battle has been right there with us in lockstep, and very much engaged,” Johnson said.

For the uninitiated, geospatial is best described as location technology and the space-based hardware that provides the data that “help us navigate our world better,” Johnson said.

The continuing quest for geospatial entities is to “turn data into something that’s actionable,” said Johnson. That could be as simple as routing a trip to the beach or as beneficial as a sensor that picks up an approaching storm and speeds up preparation time. It’s a realm basically limited only by imagination and destined to only expand as technology continues to evolve.

GEOHuntsville has some 300 active members, and it is divided into several work groups that tackle various projects. For example, last summer, it held Project DEMEX. Working with public safety officials, it was a mock drill at the VBC for Huntsville Police, Huntsville Fire & Rescue and HEMSI. The exercise tested the effectiveness of Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) in a crisis situation.

GEOHuntsville Summit attracts big names

The GEOHuntsville Summit 2018 will be held Monday, February 26, at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center’s Educator Training Facility Auditorium, with more than 140 attendees expected and roster of speakers nationally known in the geospatial community. (The Summit officially opens with an off-site networking event on Sunday.)

Dr. Anthony Vinci, the Chief Technology Officer for the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA), will be the keynote speaker at 12:30 Monday.

The group will also hear from Dan Irwin, SERVIR Global Program Manager for NASA; Lt. Gen. (ret’d) Ronald Burgess, former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency; John London, chief engineer for SMDC Space and Strategic Systems Directorate; Terrence Howard, VP for Strategic Initiatives at Sarai Services Group; and Travis Potter, Project Manager for FEMA Region IV.

Dr. Vinci’s appearance continues a long-standing relationship with NGA, with other agency officials having attended previous GEOHuntsville events.

NGA will have a recruiting team on hand to meet with students, other young people and even mid-career workers to better understand the NGA mission and opportunities therein.

The relationship with FEMA will also be strengthened through a table-top exercise on Tuesday after the Summit in which participants will study the utilization of unmanned aircraft to provide preliminary damage assessment following a disaster.