Airbus backed startup UP42 offers satellite imagery and geospatial analytics from a wide range of sources, allowing the users to explore different datasets and run their own algorithms.
Last month, UP-42, a subsidiary of Airbus Defence and Space, launched its commercial data and analytics platform and marketplace. Founded in 2019 and headquartered in Berlin, UP42 offers access to geodata and processing tools that enable observation and analysis of portions of the planet at scale, facilitating customers to build new geospatial products.
UP42 has ready-to-use algorithms for vegetation indexing and moisture detection, object detection, change detection, and pre-processing tools. It provides access to data from a range of sources, including both commercial and open-source high-resolution satellite/drone imagery and IoT data.
With the launch of its new platform, the company intends to provide access to analysis tools. It will offer actionable insights to the customers so that they can make data-driven decisions.
The company is eager to welcome new customers onto the platform and help them solve their business problems with geospatial data. UP42 provides SMBs and independent developers easy access to a wide range of geospatial data and analytics.
Airbus is the main data source of UP42, with Pléiades, SPOT 6/7, and WorldDEM data available via the platform. In the near future, TerraSAR will come onto the platform as well. The platform allows developers, data scientists and users who want greater control and flexibility to write their own algorithms.
UP42 provides entrepreneurs the power to access geospatial data, encouraging experimentation and exploration with different data sources and processing algorithms. “As an entrepreneur myself, I know all about the need to experiment with new data and technologies when coming up with a new product. They need to be easy enough to iterate on, and flexible enough to allow for real innovation. At UP42 our aim is to help make this possible, and we are always looking for ways to improve”, says Eli Tamanaha, CEO of UP42 in an interview with Geospatial World.
How do you think the platform will spearhead innovations in multiple fields?
We are lowering the barriers to entry for industry players. When companies are able to access geospatial data seamlessly, they will experiment more. This experimentation will lead to more use cases, and we will see satellites deeply integrated with all sorts of applications in the future. We are already witnessing sparks of innovation in the fields of oil and gas, agriculture and infrastructure monitoring, and I expect this trend to continue in the insurance and finance sectors as well.
UP42 promises access to tools and analysis that would be a game-changer for the geospatial industry. Where do you think the geospatial industry would be heading in the next 10 years?
The game-changer here is about interoperability. There are lots of businesses in the world that want to use satellite imagery to become more efficient and innovative. Also, there are lots of businesses that are building services to address this need.
However, the main problem that impedes the free flow of commerce is the work required to use the various pieces. Customers need to find, evaluate, and integrate data sources and processing algorithms into their solutions. Many times this involves writing code. If they want to scale their products, they also need to deploy to a data center. It involves a lot of work which is really complex.
UP42 does all of this for customers. They can simply create an account, select the data sources and algorithms they want to use, and hit Run. All the components are already integrated into the platform and work seamlessly with each other. Plus, everything is running on the cloud and designed to scale on demand.
This makes it far easier for customers to experiment with new applications. The freedom to experiment and explore is what will dramatically increase the size of the geospatial industry in the next ten years.
Just like Google Maps revolutionized the way we navigate our cities, we will see positive disruptions in other industries, such as agriculture, insurance, finance, infrastructure and energy. Geospatial data is just the beginning to transform businesses.
Since technological convergence and integration would be the cornerstone of new innovations, what do you think is the future of data analytics?
Data analytics is evolving the same way that web programming did about a decade back. In the future, functionality will become more modular, and thus shareable. As web programming started to mature in the 2000s and 2010s, libraries and frameworks emerged that allowed developers to build on top of existing code, meaning they didn’t have to recreate boilerplate code before they could get to the innovative stuff. They could just focus on the next step, or the next advancement, and websites flourished as a result.
I believe data analytics is about to go through a similar evolution. As technologies converge and become more integrated (something we are driving at UP42), data scientists will have the necessary environment and audience to start creating frameworks and libraries. Data will flow in from multiple sources, such as satellites, drones, planes and IoT devices, onto a common platform. The infrastructure to run analytics algorithms will be standardized in the cloud, making it easier to scale. All of this contributes to a healthy primordial soup, so to speak, for analytics to evolve.
In terms of AI and Machine Learning, usage patterns and training data are key. As we bring together data sources and analytics providers, and make it easier for customers to access geospatial data, we will see usage go up and up. Once usage passes a certain threshold, these usage patterns could potentially be used as training data for AI providers on the platform. However, we of course need to make sure user data is protected first. Airbus is also giving us access to their valuable training data set. We will make it available to analytics providers on the platform, giving them access not only to the right audience for their algorithms, but also training data to make those algorithms better.
How beneficial UP42 would be for farmers? And do you think that on the lines of Vegetation indexing there could be a tool for detecting global warming?
Our first customers were actually from the agriculture space. They were looking to detect the amount of biomass in crop fields to optimize their application of fertilizer. This is a use case that inspires me personally, because it decreases the amount of fertilizer needed, saves cost for farmers, is healthier for consumers and, hence, is better for the environment overall.
As far as a tool to address global warming, there are dozens or maybe even hundreds of geospatial solutions out there. One specific example, however, involves using a sensor on the Sentinel 5 satellite that can detect methane gas emissions. So, for example, you could create a tool that monitors methane gas from space, and sends an alert for any gas leaks to be patched up as soon as they start.
What are some of the major challenges that the data analytics industry faces?
Hailing from the software industry, I am still relatively new to the geospatial domain. My impression so far is that it’s pretty competitive and there’s not a great deal of collaboration. I think that if players in the space cooperate more, we will be able to grow the industry instead of trying to steal each other’s share. I believe that we have only seen the tip of the iceberg when it comes to how people can use valuable geospatial data but we still have a long way to go.