Can industrial imaging software benefit military SIGINT analysis?

Software creates a height map from a 2D image.

Software creates a height map from a 2D image.

I received a press release today from Olympus Industrial Equipment Group (the camera guys) about an update to their image analysis software used with industrial microscopes. Who knew Olympus made microscopes? This is not normally my area of expertise.

However…the Olympus Stream image enhancement software has some pretty awesome capabilities that make me wonder if this COTS software could be used (or adapted) to work in military/aerospace signals intelligence (SIGINT) or reconnaissance imagery analysis. After all, the key part of C4ISR is not capturing the (image) data, it’s analyzing the images to make meaningful decisions. For instance: was there a truck parked there yesterday? Has that patch of grass been matted down by a vehicle or group of humans?

As well, images often need to be enhanced due to poor lighting, dust or fog obfuscation, and finely measuring distances would be handy too.

HDR image enhancement in the Olympus Stream microscope software might benefit military image analysts. Note how this sample looks like a satellite image of a  plot of land.

HDR image enhancement in the Olympus Stream microscope software might benefit military image analysts. Note how this sample looks like a satellite image of a plot of land. (Courtesy: Olympus; YouTube.)

The 1.9 version of the Stream software adds these features: Automatic Measurement and Coating Thickness. “Automatic Measurement allows the creation of complex measurements using scanners by automatic detection of material edges and pattern recognition. This materials solution automatically measures distances, circle diameters, and angles between two lines. Automatic Measurement also supports the multiple stage location and sample alignment with OLYMPUS Stream Motion.”

A full-on (top-down) view of a sample. Image that this object is an enemy bunker.

A full-on (top-down) view of a sample. Image that this object is an enemy bunker. (Courtesy: Olympus.)

Now forget about the fact that someone is analyzing a hunk of metal covered with scratches that gouge hills and valleys out of the surface. Couldn’t this be an image of an earthscape with real hills and valleys? Might we want to measure the distance between some of these surface features? The software can also digitally adjust focus, change and enhance details in the image, and create 3D images using z-axis slices from the original image.

Image enhancement and 3D rendering from a 2D view and z-axis sensor slices.

Image enhancement and 3D rendering from a 2D view and z-axis sensor slices. (Courtesy: Olympus.)

To me, this COTS software has many features that U.S. DoD and CIA analysts need when analyzing recon images. I wonder if it could be used not in microscopes, but it tactical military scenarios.