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Enhancing access to earth analytics

Gaetano Volpe, CEO, Latitudo40

Digitization of economies is a trend that we are watching closely. In an increasing number of sectors, business processes are driven and managed using data generated by machines and sensors. The huge amount of digital data created in a different smart city, smart agriculture and smart infrastructure projects is contributing to the creation of a new culture that explores an innovative model of valorization of digital heritage as a top priority for institutions, organizations, and companies. The knowledge economy has entered into its development phase, and this is creating massive opportunities for startups to offer a new way of collecting, organizing, managing and manipulating this heritage.

This continuously transforming market has given us the opportunity to use the huge amount of data in the images that are taken daily by Earth Observation satellites and transforming them into useful information to support decisions, through the use of a series of algorithms of Artificial Intelligence and computer vision and the application of Machine Learning. Without this enormous awareness of the intrinsic value in the digital transformation of geospatial applications, our business experience would never have started.

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Expanding geospatial applications market

The idea of Latitudo40 comes from the awareness that extracting information from satellite images is a complex process that requires a dedicated team of professionals/organizations, which only large companies can afford. We want to bring Earth Analytics within the reach of everyone, especially small and medium-sized enterprises. This vision has turned into our startup, which is launching an end-to-end Cloud platform that can build and manage an application that performs geospatial analytics in four steps and integrate the results into any application, be it SAP or GIS. Early market feedback makes us confident that we are on the right path. In 2019, we concluded a major business agreement with a leading operator in the transmission of electricity who is using our platform to better know the status of the distribution network.

We want to fill a market gap by creating a horizontal platform with connectors to the catalogs of the main operators and a series of ‘blocks’ of ready to use analysis, based on algorithms of Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence. We call them ‘earth bricks’. The workflow system at the base of everything allows to orchestrate different operations and create automatically the final result, which consists of useful information for those who have to make business decisions — from water/energy distribution manager to insurance companies. The concept is absolutely innovative in the field of reference and allows to create a new application in a very short time. One of the examples of the application is the creation of an index of sustainability of a city: the user only has to select the area of interest, indicate the period of analysis and select the ‘urban quality index’ detector. Our platform will periodically perform the analysis and will return indices based on heat maps and presence of cars, all without specific knowledge of image processing and Artificial Intelligence.

Our vision is to expand the market of geospatial applications to a wider number of subjects, with a highly automated approach and without the need to write code. Latitudo40 reduces the time to release an application that uses satellite data by more than 90% and reduces the associated costs, both as capex and opex, by more than 50%. The value of this approach has been validated by our customers, partners and business prospects.

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Using AI for sustainable development

Artificial Intelligence represents one of the main innovations in the field of geospatial applications, in particular for those that use Earth Observation data, to offer a concrete support to a better and deeper knowledge of the environments in which we operate and to process large amounts of data. With the widespread use of Deep Learning (DL) neural networks, new possible applications and models of use of spatial images are highlighted, opening the use also to innovative business domains and applications.

In this innovative scenario, the themes of particular interests, on which many companies like ours are focusing, are represented by the classification and extraction of objects within satellite images (such as roads and buildings) and the development of digital replicas of physical objects, the ‘Digital Twins’, to apply mathematical and physical models of in-depth analysis. All this can boost the development of spatial information systems of the future and can make a fundamental contribution in the field of autonomous transport, and planning and implementation of intelligent and sustainable cities.

The combined use of geospatial applications and analysis algorithms based on Artificial Intelligence therefore offers a new and powerful dimension to the understanding, prediction and optimization of the real world and the improvement of the quality of our daily lives. The World Economic Forum has also stressed the importance of these new technologies for achieving the objectives of global sustainability, a typical case in which technology can make a concrete contribution to making the presence of man on Earth more sustainable and to improving the use of natural resources.

Added to this is the constant development of the Internet of Everything solutions, with connected devices and sensors that produce huge amounts of data every day. This data can be used to make immediate decisions, and its combined use with geo-information can provide important training sets to improve the ability to interpret systems based on AI. Clearly, in order to obtain the maximum results from these innovations, a profound rethinking of the IT platforms for data processing is necessary. These platforms must be more open to the processing of data from heterogeneous sources and ensure great flexibility to adapt to the different needs of the market.

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Innovating to save cost, time  

We live in a world with economic uncertainty, which may have an impact on the activities of companies in the short term, especially those with more traditional business models. At Latitudo40, we believe in innovation as a fundamental value of our business model. We wake up every day to try to bring some form of innovation in the field of geoinformation and this is our greatest value. Innovative companies will feel less impact of recessionary phenomena, as innovation creates lower costs for businesses and governments and greater effectiveness. We offer the market a significant reduction in costs and time to create geospatial applications, and this allows us to better address the uncertainties of the market.

Geospatial information is not only essential for the business sector and for our daily lives, but is also the basis for a profound transformation of the services that public administrations offer to citizens.  The integrated use of data and images, combined in geospatial applications, can create a great revolution in all sectors of the economy, allowing a great recovery of efficiency and effectiveness in the management of major business processes. This is a great value in the context of scarce economic resources.

Through AI, Machine Learning and computer vision-based geospatial solutions, automated mapping and detection of changes in land use can be achieved, with a significant reduction in costs and real-time management of resources. A better understanding and management of location-based digital data and services, integrated with urban planning and other information sources such as census data and administrative data can enable efficient allocation of resources for better service delivery. We believe that the launch of projects for the analysis and monitoring of a territory or an infrastructure always represents a long-term investment with a positive impact for the entire population.

Investing in future

Our approach to business management is inspired by the principle of continuous innovation. Our R&D team always has the maximum support to continue in the development of our technological roadmap and to develop solutions that can make the customer journey of our applications even easier. We adopt an approach totally based on the principles of ‘lean startup’, so from a shared vision at management level, we commit our team to continuously validate new ideas and new solutions from the point of view of the impact on the market and the improvement of our customers’ processes.

We create and use geospatial solutions to solve concrete problems in the market. In the next six months, we aim to complete some of the features of our workflow engine for Earth Observation to make it even easier to use. We also plan to launch the project internationally, opening new foreign offices, and laying the foundations for our satellite constellation for which we have already started a collaboration with the University of Naples for the launch of a first test satellite.

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