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We want to make the geospatial common language really common

Vladimir Gershenzon
Vladimir Gershenzon
Founder & Board Member, ScanEx

A common geospatial language will enable all countries to understand each other — not only in the application aspect of it but also in terms of connecting with each other, believes Vladimir Gershenzon, Founder & Board Member, ScanEx

How has ScanEx evolved over the years and what kind of activities is it involved in?
ScanEx is a private company with over 20 years of operations in designing and manufacturing of ground receiving stations and software packages for remote sensing data processing, archiving and licence agreement with leading players in the remote sensing market – whether European, American or other countries. We are engaged in different kinds of activities in the field of data collection.

We deal with a vast range of remote sensing imagery such as optical radar, high resolution or medium resolution; though the concentration is mainly on the operational application of remote sensing data. We focus on real-time applications as well as historical data available from global archives. Our main client is EMERCOM, or the Ministry of Nature and Catastrophic Phenomena, for whom we developed applications that use remote sensing data in real time. We also have a number of commercial customers like oil companies and others involved in ice monitoring, pollution detection, transportation etc. Our operations are mainly in the CIS countries but we also provide services around the world.

Economic and business activities have significantly increased in Russia. In such a scenario, which are your target areas?
Forestry, agriculture, emergency services and regional and university-level activities are our favourite areas of operation. Also, because they are more close to their field of activity, they are responsible for growing a new generation of specialists. Interestingly, ScanEx is offering technical expertise to some of these universities, not just in Russia but also in Spain and some other countries.

ScanEx is known to have played a major role in developing the cadastre in Russia. Tell us a little more about that project?
The cadastre project aimed to cover the entire country in high resolution — 0.5m resolution, data that is not older than three years. There was an open tender, which we bid for and won.

The project, which was completed in a year, was done in three ways — multi-scale mapping for Web, cadastral data checking and remote sensing data checking. The idea was to make available all three kinds of data to the public. ScanEx has completed all 17 million sq km (data purchased, processed and delivered), but around 4 million sq km turned out to be covered with clouds and have to be replaced within three years of the guarantee period.

It [a cadastral project] is very challenging for a huge, diverse country like Russia. It is also important that we create a common geospatial language between the Far East and the European territories. The European part is much more densely populated compared to, say, Siberia, which have only pipelines on the north. About two-thirds of the Russian territory is sparsely populated.

Prior to the satellite era, it was impossible to collect quality information from all parts of the country and our cadastral surveys were not so convenient and uniform. Now, new technologies like satellite imageries with precise resolution of just 0.5m permit us to create the initial base. More precise information with navigators and other devices can improve the quality of that data. However, there have been several problems especially with mapping and geospatial activities, despite the availability of government satellite data.

What is the policy environment while dealing with satellite imagery?
Since we procure data from all over the world, we have to obtain corresponding licences. For instance, all meteorological information is open in the US and China. But higher the resolution, more expensive is the data. Each player has its own policy in connection with their respective governmental rules, and we have to follow all these rules and copyright policies.

How is the awareness in the government circles in Russia towards the use of remote sensing imagery for various applications?
It is increasing with time. We are also working towards promoting and educating the public. There is a Russian language portal called Yandex which is even more popular than Google here. And now Yandex is also focussing outside Russia, in countries like Japan and Ukraine. Yandex has a lot of space images, with maps and without maps. It is our close partner at the B2C level.

We also have our own geo-portal, Kosmosnimki, which is more of a remote sensing geoportal based on a ScanEx technology called geomixer. It can give one a lot of examples of products that have been done through the utilisation of remote sensing technology. There are different types of access to data on Kosmosnimki: some information is freely available for everyone, while some parts of it are available for high-end customers and there are some parts giving subscription- based information.

We are trying to make the technology work faster, easily available and cheaper. This permits us to expand our customer base. Many of our clients ask for more professional data. So we are fully open, having all kinds of access with respect to all kinds of data rules and following them strictly.

ScanEx has been a major player in this domain and been quite active in Russia, CIS states and parts of Europe. What are your future business plans?
Our business plan is to be as open as possible in a wide variety of implementation as well as getting involved in many government projects. We have created several companies to concentrate our business in different technologies. One of them, called Sputniks, is connected with designing and manufacturing microsatellites. I hope this will be an addition to the remote sensing technology that already exists. There is going to be demand from universities and governments bodies.

The implementation will, of course, be more effective under the specific regulations because it is understandable for the government to be concerned about terrorist activities in such sensitive spheres. But that doesn’t mean the growth and development of technology needs to be restricted. ScanEx may not have any plans to cover each and every part of the world with its network stations or have partners in every city, but we have an advantage of flexibility and accessibility.

We want to make the geospatial common language really common for different countries to understand each other not only in the application aspect of it but also in terms of connecting with each other.

I hope that geospatial leaders, students and professors have the same vision of future. We are ready to be in a family which has the expertise to organise more global projects for sustainability, understanding each other and to prevent corruption.