GEOINT Student M.Appathon Winner – Conflict Trends in Somalia

This year Hexagon Geospatial partnered with The United States Geospatial Intelligence Foundation (USGIF) to bring training opportunities to USGIF’s academic partners participating in the GEOINT 2018 Symposium. Hexagon Geospatial hosted a student M.Appathon competition, inviting university undergraduates to use the Hexagon Smart M.App platform to create an Incident Analyzer View visualizing the position, frequency, and temporal characteristics of specific types of occurrences. One of the student winners, Kevin Mercy, USC Provost Undergraduate Research Associate, shares some insight the Smart M.App he created with his own data, his experience with the Smart M.App platform, and the M.Appathon at GEOINT 2018.

Tell us a little bit about you and your Analyzer View from the Student M.Appathon at GEOINT:

Q: Where you are from?
A: I grew up in Lakewood, Colorado, a small community about ten miles outside of Denver.

Q: Where did you attend school and what did you study? Why did you choose this subject?
A: I have been attending school at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. I’m currently in a progressive degree program working to earn a B.A. in Archaeology with minors in Geospatial Intelligence and Computer Programming, and an M.S. in Geographic Information Science. I am a junior with two years left to complete both degrees. I became fascinated in the spatial sciences and archaeology through my work with remote sensing and archaeology during my sophomore and junior year at USC. I worked extensively on a project which utilized remotely sensed light detection and ranging (lidar) data for the digital detection of previously undocumented ruins in Guatemala. After working for the lidar project, I was interested in expanding my skills in GIS and decided to pursue the GIS Master’s degree.

Q: Where do you currently work? What is your current job? What are your responsibilities?
A: I am currently an intern at the MIT Lincoln Laboratory. I work in their active optical systems group on various ladar based database and machine learning projects.

Q: What are some of your favorite things to do during your free time?
A: Growing up in Colorado I always loved to hike in the mountains during the summer and to ski during the winter. I’ve replaced skiing with surfing while I have been living in California, and spent many morning surfing at the beach. I enjoy spending a lot of time in nature.

Q: Where did your interest in geospatial/mapping/information services come from?
A: I first became exposed to spatial sciences on a project I worked on the summer of my freshmen year at USC. I spent the summer on Catalina Island performing an extensive hydrology survey and mapping terrain parameter to create a preliminary water balance model of the island. After working with Esri software for the hydrology project, I noticed the broad expanse of projects which could utilize spatial thinking and analysis.

Q: What did you think about GEOINT?
A: The GEOINT Symposium was an incredible career development and networking event. I wasn’t aware of the amount of industry and government agencies that are involved in the geospatial intelligence community. It was very insightful to see the diversity of applications of geospatial technologies.

Q: What did you think about the Student M.Appathon?
A: The Student M.Appathon was an interesting competition which provided GEOINT student assistant award winners the chance to test our skills and geospatial abilities with software and technology which most of us were not familiar with. It was a unique opportunity to gain more extensive knowledge of commercial geospatial software.

Tell us about your Smart M.App idea:

Q: What is the problem your Smart M.App addresses?
A: The Smart M.App I created utilized data from the Africa Conflict Location and Events Dataset ( and focused specifically on analyzing military conflict within Somalia. The data highlights hotspots of militarized activity within Somalia.

Q: What is your Smart M.App called?
A: Militarized Conflict Trends in Somalia 1997-2016

Q: What does it do?
A: The conflict map has various key performance indicators which display the temporal distribution of conflict in the region, the types of militarized disputes, and actors that were involved in each conflict. Analysis of the key performance indicators and the conflict hotspots could be used to garner understanding of which geographic regions have been most prone to conflict, and which actors have been involved in these conflicts. The map provides nuanced understanding of conflict trends in the area.

Q: In what other ways might you use Hexagon Smart M.App platform and the Analyzer Apps again in the future for different data?
A: The Analyzer Apps could be utilized in a broad array of disciplines or projects. Hotspot analysis which is possible in the Smart M.App platform enable users to observe geographic trends within input data. This could be particularly useful in analyzing vehicular accident data, crime data, or epidemiologic data. The scale and level of analysis possible in these different topics would ultimately depend on the accessibility to high quality data. The Smart M.App provides a user friendly interface which can be used to investigate geographic data of any type.

Learn more about Kevin’s Smart M.App, Conflict Trends in Somalia (1997 – 2016), by viewing the live demo. Hexagon Geospatial would like to congratulate Kevin again on his achievement and winning the Student M.Appathon at GEOINT 2018!

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