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The Centre for Earth Observation (CEO): an intiative of european commission to promote the use and availabolity of earth observation data

P.N. Churchill1, M.J. Sharman2, G. Schreier1, J. Aschbacher1
1European Commission, Joint Research Centre,
Institute for Remote Sensing Applications
I-21020 Ispra (VA), Italy,
Tel : +3-33278 5425, Fax : +39-332-78-5461
E-mail : [email protected], [email protected], [email protected]
2European Commission, Directorate General XII-DA, Space Unit
Rue de la loi 200, B-109 Brussels , Belgium,
Tel : +32-2-29-59798, Fax : + 32-2-296058
E-mail : [email protected]

The European commission (EC) and the European Space Agency (ESA) have agreed with their Member states to establish a co-ordinated , decentralized Earth observation network, the European Earth Observation System (EEOS). The EC contribution to this is the Centre for Earth Observation (CEO) programme. The objective of the CEO is to promote the use of Earth observation data and services and their costomers. The CEO will be driven by user requirements. It will be decentralized in its approach. It will pay due regart to and take advantage of existing an planned institutions, infrastructure and projects. It will also be designed to evolve and adopt flexibility. This paper outlines the status and objectives of the CEO Programme, and proposes a concept for the CEO.

Ceo Background
The European Space Agency (ESA) and the European Commission (EC) have agreed to work towards a more efficient and cost-effective use of Earth observation data, by combining their expertise with that of their member States and other relevant European organizations such as EUMETSAT to establish a co-ordinated, decentralized Earth observation network called the European Earth Observation System (EEOS.

EEOS will link with international initiatives such as NASA’s Earth Observation System DATa and Information System (EOSDIS) and Japan’s international satellite data management and information system (EOIS).

In the collaboration ESA and the national space agencies shall take responsibility for receiving data from satellites, and for the pre-processing and supply of these space data.

The EC contribution to EEOS is the Centre for Earth Observation (CEO). The CEO will foster the development of applications of Earth observation data that fulfil the specified information requirements of scientific, operational and commercial users. This will help to ensure that relevant higher level products and information are generated and made available. Associated with the application development are various services These will include services that permit access to data and information, and help preserve the data and information.

Project Organisation and Status

Project Status
The CEO project is divided into 3 phases :

  • Feasibility Study 1992-1993
  • Pathfinder Phase 1993-1995
  • Design and Implementation Phase 1996-1998

The CEO programme is now at the end of the Pathfinder Phase. The goal of the Pathfinder Phase is to produce a project plan for the Design and Implementation Phase containing sufficient information and understanding of the system to bring the CEO successfully into being. The work of the Pathfinder Phase is described in a Project Plan that has been presented to and discussed with the Pathfinder Phase Steering Committee (PPSC).

The Pathfinder Phase is organised by Activities each with contributory deliverables. There are 5 Activities, of which the first two (Activity 1 : Survey and understand the present infrastructure status and Activity 2 : Capture user requirements) take place simultaneously at he start of Pathfinder Phase. The third Activities (synthesis) starts during Activities 1 and 2, and ends when the implications of those Activities are fully assimilated. The fourth Activity (Plane the Design and Implementation phase) then starts. Throughout the Pathfinder Phase, the fifth Activity (Cost and benefits of the CEO elements of the system) maintains an up-to-date estimate of the probable cost of the programme. This work is being supported by practical tests of potential elements of the CEO. These “Proof of Concept” studies will aid in the definition of the plan for the Design and Implementation Phase.

Project Organisation
The Pathfinder phase is overseen by a Steering Committee (PPSC) composed of delegates of the Member States of the European Union (EU) and the European Economics Area (EEA). The PPSC is also observed by the European Environmental Agency (EEA), EUMETSAT, the European Space Agency (ESA) are relevant organizations of the EC such as EUROSTAT, plus other space data providers such as EURIMAGE and SPOT Image.

The Pathfinder Phase is managed and co-ordinated by a Project Team based in the JRC Institute for Remote Sensing Application (IRSA). The Commission’s DG XII provides strategic and policy support through its D4 Unit (Space).

Further information is available via a prototype World Wile Web (WWW) information server at the following address :

Ceo Objectives and Assumptions
The PPSC and the CEO team have established the following high level objectives for the CEO :

The CEO shall promote the application of Earth observation in the EU and Member States by :

  • Encouraging communication and exchange of services between individual users and between user communities;
  • Stimulating the creation of high level products, where and when necessary;
  • promoting improved data standardization and quality assurance;
  • co-ordinating the design and operation of existing and future decentralized data archives and data bases and data delivery services;
  • improving the accessibility and availability of Earth observation data, services and expertise.

Two main design constraint apply to the CEO

  • The CEO shall pay due regard to, and take advantage of , established institutions and existing and planned networks and projects.
  • The CEO shall be designed to evolve and adapt flexibly to future needs of the users and to changes in data sources.

These objectives, and discussion with the PPSC, have lead the following reflections about the CEO :

Participating Entities
The entities that should benefit from the existence of the CEO include all organizations or individuals with a professional objective that may be approached by using information obtained from Earth observation. Such entities will include the Services of the Commission, National government organizations, regional, local and city government, universities and research centers, commercial companies and international consortia.

It is therefore expected that users of and providers to the CEO will be drawn all these entities.

Organisation Autonomy
Organisations across Europe and outside Europe will participate in the CEO programme. The CEO team and the PPSC will ensure that the CEO is implemented according to the design criteria. There is no reason for the CEO faculty to interfere with the autonomy of organizations using its facilities, but rather the CEO faculty should leave users free to expand their expertise and infrastructure by using services and resources made available through the CEO programme.

Decentralised Approach
The CEO should be decentralized, and rely on as few central services as possible. In the early stages of the CEO project a central co-ordinating facility will certainly be necessary although its role and responsibilities remain to be determined.

The CEO programme should ensure accessibility to data, information and services. To achieve this the CEO programme should sometimes recommend or promote (but not impose) standards, formats or software.

The CEO should help users to access data ad services across the full range of formats and standards available on the system. This may require the creation of specialized software but there is no assumption about who should provide that software.

Earth Observation Expertise
Earth observation expertise and data are distributed over many organization. The CEO should establish mechanisms to make them more easily available to potential users

User requirements for the DEO Programme will change as new applications are introduced, as users become more expert into analysis of Earth observation data, and as their understanding of the capabilities and potentialities of the CEO increases. The CEO should therefore keep track of and be responsive to changing user requirements.

New Technology
New technology and its consequences must be continuously incorporated into or accommodated by the CEO Programme.

Sugested Concept for the Ceo
The architecture of the CEO will only become apparent once the results of the Pathfinder Phase available ad analysed. Nevertheless, it is possible to suggest a concept that conforms to the objectives listed above, and which does not impose or imply any particular architecture.

The Present Situation
Earth observation data is rather under-exploited in Europe and world-wide. Data from different sources are typically held in separate depositories in diverse and sometimes obscure formats, and objective information about remote sensing and its possible applications is dispersed and not always easy to find. The market is fragmented, and potential users are not always aware of the possibilities. Some customers are better informed and have found suppliers of products, information or data, but in general the level of connectivity between potential customers and suppliers could be improved.

The Potential CEO Concept
The CEO concept will be user driven, and thus the existing and potential user of Earth Observation data and services are supported in various ways. Among these are the demonstration of the potentials of Earth Observation through application examples, education, training and promotion of remote sensing and support in Earth Observation data and management

The easiest of putting customers and suppliers in contact is to provide a clearing house in which requests can be advertised, either over a computer network or by less sophisticated means. In what follows we will discuss a computer-based solution, but this does not prejudice other means of access. This central clearing house is termed the European Wide Service Exchange (EWSE). A prototype of the EWSE is currently on-line and can be accessed via Internet ). It may contain separate section that operate as an electronic bulletin board (exchange information in a sequential way), or as a telephone yellow pages (organized by theme) or as a dating agency (where the system aims to find a perfect match of customer requirement and service provision).

The user of the European wide service Exchange must find it simple and intuitive to use. It should certainly provide context-sensitive help. The costumer advertising his need or the provider advertising a service should be able to use the facilities provided by the exchange to define precisely the service required or offered.

New services will appear on the market as a response to the demand the users. Popular services will tend to be offered by several providers, thus stimulating competition and improvement in the service. Such a system adapts naturally and without outside control to changing user requirements.

Projects and Services
The critical phase in the life of the CEO will be the initial one, in which it has too few users to make it an attractive means for customers and service providers to find one another. The most direct mechanism to stimulate the use of the CEO, and to populate both its data bases and its complement of users, is for the EC to support application projects that make use of the CEO. These projects would be proposed and organized by entities that wished to examine the contribution of Earth observation to some decision making process. These projects would have clients with well defined information needs, that might in some cases be currently met using conventional data sources, but to which remote sensing might bring added benefit.

A project is intended to stimulate the Earth observation market, in a broadest sense, by injecting money and energy into the system without unbalancing the value-added market. Any project launched in ensure that the data sets and products generated by its activities were properly archived, catalogued and interfaced to the European Wide Service Exchange.

The idea of a service is a key element for the CEO. A service is defined as any activity that is carried out for a customer. Providing a list of services is a service, as is publishing the request of a customer for a certain service. Services may be provided by anyone; Earth observation data suppliers, value added companies, university departments, or various individual users of the system. Suppliers are free to offer their service under whatever conditions they wish, as is presently the case in the absence of the CEO. Some of the services may be provided by the CEO programme or by the (hypothetical) Co-ordinating Facility (see next section)

In the manner the CEO provides a “shop window” for service providers which they are free to use or not use as they wish. The CEO may initially provide some limited funding to give an impetus to attracting service providing to establish the system. In general, though, service providers will be drawn in by the attraction of the ready access to a growing market.

Co-ordination of the CEO : User Committees and Central Facility
In this concept of the CEO, the functioning of the programme remains largely in the hands of the user. Users (either or both customers and suppliers, as appropriate) may decide to form committees to co-ordinate the behavior of users (including suppliers) in any given domain of the CEO. The terms of reference, method of operation and method of funding of these committees is still to be determined.

Certain functions of the CEO system may have to be co-ordinated centrally. This leads to the idea of a CEO Co-ordinating Facility (CCF). The functions, responsibilities, staffing and financing of the hypothesized CCF are to yet determined and will probably change over time as the requirements of the hypothesized CCF are not yet determined and will probably change over time as the requirements of the system change. In the initial stages of the CEO most or all of the functions of the CCF shall probably the provided by the team responsible for the CEO Pathfinder phase or subsequent phases.

The CEO is no in its definition phase. Data are being collected on user requirements and current and planned infrastructure to help this definition. On the basis of what has already been collected a preliminary concept for the CEO suggests a distributed, decentralized approach conforming to the requirements of clients for information derived from Earth observation data, and driven by application oriented projects that produce the information that customers want and provide some of the necessary services that will make the CEO an attractive environment in which the Earth observation profession will flourish.

Selected Biobliography

  • CEO Pathfinder Phase Project Plan, Doc. No. CEO/74/1994 (Issue 5, July 1995), JRC Ispra
  • Preliminary Assessment of CEO User Requirements, Doc. No. CEO/155/1995, JRC Ispra.
  • CEO Status Report for the 6th Pathfinder Phase Streeing Committee Meeting Doc. No. CEO/153/1995, JRC Ispra