NGA wants to crowdsource its emergency response at Austin hackathon

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The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency is again reaching out to the public for some fresh ideas on how to use its data.

The agency — which analyzes satellite and mapping intelligence — is offering a $5,000 award for the most innovative use of its data sets to help emergency responders handle potential crises at an overnight Austin GIS hackathon on July 29 and 30.

The event, which is hosted by information technology strategy company Blue Compass, LLC, is another in a series of innovative outreach programs that NGA began sponsoring in 2016. The goal is to tap the creativity and perspectives of those outside of the intelligence community for new ways to utilize big data, artificial intelligence, automation and predictive analytics.

“We’re expecting a diverse group of participants including individuals, companies from commercial industry, academics and military personnel,” Col. Marc DiPaolo, NGA’s enterprise innovation lead, said in a statement. “Having a wide range of participants with different experiences and areas of expertise will give us a diversity of thought we don’t always have in the intelligence community.”

NGA began sponsoring the hackathons last year as a way to engage developers to tackle agency challenges through open source platforms. The agency welcomes participants to use its open source services on GitHub to create new tools “real world impact.” NGA subject matter experts will also attend the event to give participants helpful context of the agency’s data sets.

Officials said that pitches should include multiple topics of interest, “such as using artificial intelligence and machine learning to predict regional issues, analyze and interpret large raw data sets, create automated workflows and locational data to support emergency responder planning.”

Hackathon projects will be judged based on their impact, creativity, design and execution.

NGA will hold additional hackathon competitions in San Francisco in August, Boston in September and New York in November.

At a previous hackathon in Seattle, NGA offered developers $10,000 for solutions that “improve content curation and provide national security decision makers with a customized user experience that improves decision-making abilities.”

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