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Data is Turning into Commodity – Geoff Sawyer, European Association of Remote Sensing Companies

Geoff Sawyer, Secretary General, European Association of Remote Sensing Companies

For many years, earth observation and satellite data has been used primarily for research purposes or by the military for strategic missions. However, in the last few years, this has changed dramatically with commercial satellites being launched in constellations, giving assurance that a lucrative business case can be built upon a steady and assured supply of imagery.

Again, in the early days, imagery was made on film and expert photogrammetrists would inspect the images and interpret them for intelligence signals. Now, all imagery is digital and becomes much more accessible and importantly tractable by computers. Thus, earth observation has not only joined the digital world and but has also become an integral part of it.

Data is the king

Although we are already seeing better sensors and more open data beginning to come from governments, there is room for growth. Data is gradually turning into a commodity. No matter what the platform (satellite, aircraft, drone, crowd, or in-situ measurements) data is the king. The digitalization imagery data was only the beginning of the story. The real transformation is being catalyzed by substantive improvements in storage and processing capabilities which have become cheaper and more performant. It is no longer necessary to move large volumes of data around all the time, or to make deep investments in analytics engines.

Artificial intelligence is helping make sense of the large volumes of data which we seek. This opens up new possibilities where more automated processing becomes possible and new business models spring up to cater for this new market. Companies must also prepare to adapt as the market moves towards on-line services and the previous consultancy model becomes a niche market for some experts to work in.

Policy and technology go hand-in-hand

EARSC is a trade association with the mission to foster the development of the European geospatial services business. We play the role of an enabler and do our best to follow technological trends but more important are the policy trends in Europe because we believe both go hand in hand. We engage with the EC and the European Parliament to understand priorities and to influence the shape of future legislation.

As the trend towards on-line services accelerates, we are establishing a marketplace through which member companies can sell their services. It is a promotional tool called eoMALL where just like the physical shopping malls, companies can set-up their shops which sell services. It is like a very sophisticated store-guide which helps customers find the services which they are looking for, and at the same time allows sellers (service providers) to promote their offers in many different ways in order to attract and keep customers. eoMALL is just becoming operational and it will be very interesting to see over the next two years if this assertion is correct.

The next big theme for EARSC is to try to increase the success of research ideas being translated into business ventures.

Also Read: Most Global Processes Today have Become Geospatial Data-Driven – Max Polyakov, EOS Data Analytics