In 1957, the first satellite was launched into space. Today, almost any company could unlock endless innovation opportunities with earth observation data. From detecting pollution and managing logistics to reporting on material use and increasing crop growth, let’s have a look at how EO has become the next big thing in innovation.
Where it all began
In the past, public authorities have been the prime procurers and consumers of earth observation data and insights. However, as more companies have international markets and supply chains entangled in a global web of diverse environments, this EO data might fill in the gaps in your data sets and provide valuable insights for your management, planning, and reporting. Think of opportunities like detecting pollution or emission leaks, increasing biodiversity and growth in carbon sequestration projects (forests, fields), or improving the yields of low-income farmers.
Earth observation is the gathering of information about the Earth’s physical, chemical and biological systems via remote sensing technologies. These technologies usually involve satellites carrying imaging devices. EO is used to monitor and assess the status of, and changes in, the natural and human environment. Through the FIRE forum project, Verhaert set up workshops with different industry experts to see how these existing and evolving data can assist in reaching companies’ ambitions as well as the European Climate Goals.
What sparked the rise?
We’re currently in the next innovation wave with earth observation. Next wave? Yes, because the previous revolution in earth observation data was the commercialization of online GPS systems in the late 1990s. So let’s take a trip down memory lane:
- In 1983, Reagan authorized the use of Navstar by civilian commercial airlines for positioning.
- By 1995, a new stronger version of Navstar, GPS was developed and fully operational.
- In the late 1990s, GPS increased its accuracy and became available for commercial use. In 2000, the GPS receiver and processing chips price dropped from roughly $3000 to $1.50. Both lead to exponential growth in GPS usage.
- Since the 1950s, authorities have been using earth observation satellites for spying and defense purposes.
- A first wave of commercial earth observation constellations came online in 2014. (Planet Labs, Blackbridge, Satellogic, Spire Global,…). Nevertheless, the majority of the customers remained governmental.
- Today, we see larger and larger constellations with more capable sensors being approved (400 000 approved in 2022, but not all are for EO) enabling more data, but also at lower price points.
In addition to becoming more easily available and cheaper, earth observation data is also providing more granular and detailed data with shorter time intervals. And this will only improve further as new constellations consist of smaller satellites and state-of-the-art cameras. Combining these inputs with data sets generated by connected thermometers, buoys, drone imagery, aerial photography and many more sensors, provide truly valuable insights in the changing conditions of environments, urban and industrial areas. Think of changing temperatures, unusual emissions of methane, carbon,…, departing ships and planes, tracking spills, and much more.
How can you get started?
The EO market is rapidly evolving, so even if you found drone imaging last year too expensive, a new player may have entered the scene with new solutions since then. So where do you get started sifting through the endless opportunities? FIRE, the non-profit industry-led Forum for Innovation and Research in European Earth Observation, aims to promote the adoption of EO solutions by shaping the research and innovation strategy for various industries.
From February 1st to 3rd, the FIRE Forum is dedicated to unlocking the benefits of EO in various industries, including agriculture, raw materials, urban development, infrastructure, wind energy, and marine & maritime. Dedicated teams will showcase and explore how aerial and drone footage can be replaced by satellites, as well as discuss the current capabilities and solutions available on the market.