Q&A: Eric Webster, Vice President, ITT Exelis Geospatial Systems, Discusses New ITT Exelis Helios Program - (Archived)

With the rise in severe weather in the U.S., our nation has a need to address a costly and dangerous gap in detecting and verifying severe and threatening weather.  The challenge comes down to not having appropriate real-time intelligence for weather detection and analysis on a hyper-local scale.

To meet this need, ITT Exelis Geospatial Systems launched an innovative new platform called Helios, which enables traffic and surveillance cameras to function as weather sensors to provide accurate, real-time environmental intelligence for better decision-making and response.

We recently spoke with Eric Webster, Vice President of Weather Systems for Exelis Geospatial Systems, about the new Helios program and why it is the ideal solution for bridging that critical gap in verifying severe weather.

FedPulse:  Tell us about ITT Exelis Geospatial Systems.

Webster:  ITT Exelis Geospatial Systems is a division of ITT Exelis that focuses on providing remote sensing and navigation solutions that offer the right insights and situational awareness.  Whether it is at the space, airborne, ground or soldier levels, we help customers beyond mere image acquisition to using this data to make informed decisions.

ITT Exelis began its work on weather sensors for space with NASA back in the late 1960s and with NOAA in early 1970s. The Weather Systems area core capabilities are building sophisticated imaging and sounding space-qualified payload systems and services for the Geostationary Earth Orbiting (GEO) and Low Earth Orbiting (LEO) programs.

FedPulse:  You recently launched an innovative new data platform called Helios.  Tell us about that.

Webster:  Sure thing.  With Helios, our engineers were able to take capabilities that were developed for military customers and transform them for the environmental and weather communities.  The product essentially links cameras together to provide the validation and authentication with what is happening at a much more granular level.  For example, most weather radar systems cannot tell if it’s raining in real time on a particular street.

With Helios, our users can get this type of detailed information.  It integrates networks of surveillance cameras already deployed to monitor traffic, facility security and railroad assets, and aggregates disparate images from these sources into a single source.  Helios is capable of providing notifications that allow users to quickly view corresponding camera imagery for verification and closer monitoring of severe weather near their area of interest.  Users can access real-time images and video as well as time-lapse views, which are stored for post event analysis.

FedPulse:  What kinds of organization will be using Helios and how can it benefit them?

Webster:  Our first customer segment is the commercial weather community.  We are also targeting the media companies as well as government customers.   What makes Helios unique is that we have built in proprietary algorithms that notify our users when it’s raining in a specific region, or if there is ice on the road.  The process is fully automated with capabilities to provide the data when it is happening in real-time.

FedPulse: What other initiatives are you focusing on in 2013?

Webster:  We actually want to expand Helios to serve unmet needs related to road weather and branching out into other capabilities in the traffic arena, which would be ideal for logistics companies and retailers.  We also plan on augmenting capabilities in the hyper-localized weather forecasting arena.

FedPulse: Anything else to add?

Webster:  I would just like to add that in this era of ‘Big Data,” we aim to improve our understanding of the environment by using existing sensors and analytics to glean more precise data in ways that government can’t afford to do on their own.  It is a great time for the private sector to provide this capability to the government and the public in general.

We would like to thank Eric for sharing his insights into this next generation solution that will help aid planning and response for severe weather conditions, which have become very commonplace in our nation.

In case you missed it, the FedPulse blog named ITT Exelis a official “Winning Contactor” for its continued growth during these uncertain budget times.

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