Technology can also help store, organize and query data extracted from multiple sources. Multi-user databases can now be built relatively quickly without the need for advanced, specialized technical expertise through the use of built-in forms and automated importation of information from data extraction tools and systems. Complex database query languages that previously had to be learned by analysts can now be replaced by simple, more intuitive, ways to query data, such as using graphics to “draw” questions. Some of the tasks that can be facilitated by currently available technology include the following:

  • Conduct full text searches of the database to find exact matches, synonyms or words that sound similar to those in one’s search criteria.
  • Draw the query question by dragging and dropping relevant graphic icons and links from previously constructed charts. One can then save, organize and share queries and information with other analysts.
  • Reveal all relationships between a selected chart item and other entities in a database.
  • Visually establish the shortest path between two data elements, even if the relationship involves several degrees of separation.
  • Maintain the quality of the database by searching a set, a query result or the entire database for duplicate information.
  • Create reports that can be printed, posted to a web page, or saved in a word-processing application to facilitate the communication of query results.
  • Enable location-based database queries by interfacing with available geographical mapping software.
  • Interface with analytical software to provide the means for allowing the manual analysis of data and/or the automatic generation of charts, such as link diagrams, event timelines and financial transaction flow charts.

Geographic information system technology and services are available to augment database development and query capabilities. For example, required geographical information can be obtained through a web-based map interface (e.g., Google Maps, Google Earth, Ushahidi), providing access to geo-referenced infrastructure data. One existing system provides more than 1,300 layers of infrastructure data encompassing the physical, economic, socio-demographic, religious, health, educational, energy, military, transportation, political, governmental, geographical and chemical infrastructures of the United States. For example, some systems can provide the name, address, administrator contact information, number of beds and personnel for each hospital in the United States. Similar information can be provided for schools, fire stations, airports, and related facilities.

For the part-task training exercises and scenarios required to develop critical thinking skills, database development and query capabilities are not likely to be required of the trainee. However, the development of training exercises and scenarios, to be realistic, must be compatible with current and future database configurations, formats and capabilities. For this reason, the training developer must be knowledgeable about these and future systems and how they are likely to be employed in the intelligence process.


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