Anatomy of an Alert: How BlackSky Monitors Events

We are constantly monitoring events around the world with BlackSky. Let’s look at one event in particular to see how we construct a BlackSky Alert for a customer.

Anatomy of an Alert – Attack on Chinese-funded projects in Gwadar, Pakistan

In the first view (below), we’ve asked BlackSky Events to show all the events worldwide in the past 24 hours for particular thematic topics – these are our default “channels” every time we login. You can see the world “today” as a variety of Conflict, Energy, Natural Disaster, Outbreak, and Refugee channels. BlackSky channels that are chock-full of relevant events are automatically curated by the system using a variety of data science and big data computing techniques, including complex event stream processing, machine learning, natural language processing, machine translation, and geoaccuracy processing.

We’ve also configured the view to give us access to observations derived from local and regional news articles and some limited social media. We can add many topics/channels to the view but this “starter” set works pretty well as a home page default while you’re looking for activities around the world. Think of this as your personal “situational awareness” view – a Global Risk Dashboard tailored for your interests.

Global activity in the last 24 hours, organized by theme/topic:

In addition to the map view, we can also look to see what’s trending in terms of news or social media articles that are feeding into BlackSky at high volume and high velocity. One emerging event that caught our eye was an attack on Pakistani workers who have been involved with a Chinese-funded set of projects near the port of Gwadar in southern Pakistan. In this view, we’re looking into the details of a particular event to answer some questions – what happened? What sources fed into the event? What entities are we extracting from the article texts – like sites, people, organizations, places, etc? This view (as opposed to the map view) gives you plenty of screen real estate available to read the supporting articles in detail.

Detailed anomalous event – Attack on workers at China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project in Gwadar:

We may also want to go further into the analysis of why BlackSky identified this as an “anomaly”. You’ll see in this next timeline view that this part of Pakistan had been relatively quiet until we see a big spike in activity over the weekend when the workers were gunned down. You can see the graph “go red” as it generated an alert. This deviation from the normal pace of Conflict activity is one of the reasons BlackSky was alerted to this particular event.

Anomaly Timeline for Event:

Finally, let’s switch back to the map for a Vignette view – combining maps, satellite images, event descriptions, and related photographs into a briefing-style snapshot view of this particular incident. As new information arrives, our view will be updated with new or amplified events in the 24-hour Global Conflict channel. We select the “best-of” contextual articles and photographs to illustrate the vignette and save a screenshot for posterity. We can also save the vignette within the BlackSky application using a feature called “Recall Points” so we can bring the same scenario up at a later date and collaborate with other analysts.

BlackSky Vignette – Attack on workers at China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project in Gwadar:


Hopefully this gives you a little more insight into BlackSky Events and how the service is used today. And, BlackSky functionality is evolving rapidly – we’ve got several new features cooking in the lab for release later this year. Stay tuned!

Scott Herman

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