Millions of gigabytes of satellite data now available to commercial users


As of today, businesses from all around the world can conveniently and cost-effectively access over a million gigabytes of data from European satellites. A consortium of Creotech Instruments, CloudFerro and Brockmann Consult developed a unique satellite database integrated with a fast computing cloud, the Earth Observation Cloud. The data and computing power are available to all parties interested in their processing and use for both commercial and scientific applications.

The EO Cloud project was commissioned by the European Space Agency and was delivered by a consortium. A vast, constantly updated database, a friendly interface and a flexible price list tailored to the needs of various users all make EO Cloud the perfect solution for both established companies and start-ups seeking to grow their business based on satellite data. EO Cloud is also available to scientists, universities, public institutions and research institutes, all of which already had the opportunity to put its capabilities to the test.

“EO Cloud is the only solution of its kind that bundles a vast archive of consistently updated ESA-provided satellite data with a computing cloud that enables searching, grouping and processing of huge amounts of data into a one stop shop solution,” said Grzegorz Brona, PhD, President of the Management Board of Creotech Instruments S.A. “Cloud computing technology allows users to tap into the business potential of satellite data without leaving their computer, anywhere in the world. In the past, it could take months to download huge files, such as images of large swaths of the Earth, to local IT infrastructures,” added Grzegorz Brona.

EO Cloud servers contain constantly updated and archived data from the Landsat, Sentinel and Envisat series satellites. The oldest of the Landsat and Envisat series are now defunct; the others though continue to regularly send high-quality imagery from their various data-collecting instruments, which, after cataloging, are sent to the EO Cloud. As at the EO Cloud’s launch, the data collected in the repository took up over 1 petabyte of disk space, i.e. a million gigabytes. What is more, the photos being taken by Sentinel-1, Sentinel-2, Sentinel-3 and Landsat 5, 7 and 8, will increase the repository’s size by over 2 petabytes per year.

“We managed to create a unique and effective tool that will greatly facilitate building businesses based on satellite data. The array of potential applications is virtually infinite, and the rapidly growing demand for such services only confirms that the market will grow in this direction,” said Maciej Krzyżanowski, President of the Management Board of  CloudFerro sp. z o.o. “The platform has already been tested by Polish and foreign businesses and scientists who appreciate its convenience and the efficiency of our computing cloud,” emphasized Krzyżanowski.

Rapidly growing innovative industry

While many of us use satellite navigation and television daily, few people realize how wide the range of satellite data applications actually is. Photographs taken from the Earth’s orbit help monitor climate change, erosion of the coastlines of seas and oceans, inspect oil installations and combat illegal logging of rainforests. Up-to-date satellite images are an invaluable source of information for developers, geologists, engineers, farmers, ecologists, researchers and responders to natural disasters. Not to mention, intelligence services and armies.

Thanks to universal access to satellite data archives, the number of companies able to leverage their resources to make money is growing rapidly. The number of services, often very niche and specialized, based on the processing and interpretation of satellite data may be staggering. Selection of a site for a solar power plant? With the help of specialized software analyzing satellite data, a consulting company will find a site with the highest exposure to sunlight. A new high voltage line? A specialized company using satellite data, geological maps and spatial development plans will determine the optimal route for the project. Improving the effectiveness of crop and agricultural land monitoring? A special application will enable fast and effective nationwide data collection. Satellite imagery can also be used for corporate social responsibility projects, e.g. to find the best location to build wells in areas with low water supply or to monitor animal species endangered by climate change such as polar bears.

The latest estimates for sectors of satellite-based services, called the “user segment” by the European Space Agency, were reported in the Space Economy at a Glance 2014 study prepared by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). The authors of the report estimate that while in 2013 the entire space sector generated revenues of USD 256.2bn globally, the user segment alone accounted for as much as 58% of that, i.e. a staggering USD 149.6bn! Moreover, the space sector is one of the fastest-growing in the world. According to OECD data, in 2006-2013 revenues of the entire industry grew by an average of 7% annually, with the cumulative growth over this period standing at 65%, from USD 165bn in 2006, to USD 256bn in 2013.

Missing link between satellites and businesses

The key to commercializing even the most brilliant idea relying on orbital information lies in the skillful interpretation of large amounts of data, which requires huge computing power on top of a smart algorithm. Building an infrastructure capable of such calculations requires substantial capital expenditures.

What makes the EO Cloud unique is that beyond merely collecting satellite data (other such archives exist in the world), it is integrated with a computing cloud. This in turn, makes it possible to commercialize ideas for “satellite” businesses from the comfort of one’s desk by accessing cloud resources remotely, on demand, using one’s own satellite data processing algorithms on the platform. As the “missing link” between petabytes of satellite data and a host of resourceful entrepreneurs, EO Cloud is poised to contribute to the emergence of new technology companies worldwide. In Poland, we stand to seize this opportunity by tapping into the potential of the rapidly growing global services sector.

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