Google's Earth observation data now available for companies, govts worldwide


This article was licensed through Dow Jones Direct. The article was originally published on HT Digital Content Services with permission from MINT.

After being restricted to researchers, academia and non-profit organizations for over a decade, Google is opening access of its Earth Engine to all commercial and government entities around the world.

In a statement on 27 June, Google said that its move reflects demand from companies and government authorities around the world to step up sustainability efforts - which its Earth Engine can help enable.

The Google Earth Engine is one of the world's largest, publicly available collections of Earth observation data. The latter continuously scrolls a stream of Earth observation imagery from a host of satellites deployed in orbit around Earth, along with other imagery resources to offer a constant and near-live feed of Earth imaging data to those who have access to the platform. Such data, in combination with geospatial cloud computing platforms integrated into the Google Earth Engine, offers analytics and insights on various factors pertaining to a region - such as climate data, possibility and impact assessment of natural disasters, management of diseases in various regions, and more.

It is this that Google says will help companies and governments around the world, which can now keep an eye on target forest regions or other sensitive areas - and act accordingly. A pilot access project has been live already, where SC Johnson, a US-based multinational consumer chemicals organization, has used Google Earth Engine to develop predictive models of mosquito populations around Earth. Such models used available mosquito breeding patterns, in combination with over one billion data points generated through Google Earth Engine, to predict which parts of the world might see the highest concentration of the disease vector in upcoming times.

The opening up of geospatial imagery data around the world, including its liberalization in India, has opened scope for numerous private operators in space to offer similar satellite imagery and analytics to government bodies and private companies back on Earth. For instance, private Indian space-tech startup Pixxel, which launched its first satellite 'Shakuntala' in April this year as secondary payload aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, is set to offer clients hyperspectral imagery and image-based data analytics for actionable insights on climate change, sustainability, agroforestry and even defense applications.

Fellow Indian space-tech startup GalaxEye, which is also building a satellite imagery-based data analytics platform, is tipped to launch in 2023 - and offer satellite data to companies and governments working on mining, disaster management and insurance sectors, among others.

Google's Earth Engine data will be a key rival for such private operators, and is available starting now for companies and governments alike. Google, however, has confirmed that the Earth Engine will remain free to access for nonprofits and academia, at least in the near future.

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Shouvik Das


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