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Location-based services top ISRO’s list; new initiatives on the cards

location based services
Uday Raj, Chief General Manager of NRSC, ISRO, Department of Space, speaks at a seminar organized by FICCI on Location Based Services. He threw light on various innitiatives taken by ISRO based on LBS.

Use of Location Based Services (LBS) has become an inseparable part of our everyday lives. The popularity of smartphones has all the more triggered this trend. ISRO, through its various projects in the past or ongoing initiatives, has given LBS a big impetus.

“Location Based Services are crucial. We are looking at right from global climate models to individual communities or individuals. So that is the power of LBS. One of the important components of LBS is Geotagged data, which when it combines with business practices provides a lot of intelligent outputs,” says Uday Raj, Chief General Manager of NRSC, ISRO, Department of Space, at a seminar organized by FICCI on Location Based Services 2017.

Transparency is the key word today in the business and economic sector, and geo data provides that transparency. So everything from evaluation to monitoring can be done by using geotagged data. For this, you need high-resolution data as image base and maps in the background. With the rapid advancement of technologies, today satellite image data with high resolutions straight away form image maps and no further inputs are required.

With growing dependence on GPS, ISRO has realised that it needs to be self-sufficient, so the Indian Space Agency has started launching its own regional navigation system and also value-added services based on GPS from the existing systems.

Improving accuracy

If we take the example of driverless vehicles, to make this concept really useful and efficient, it needs a very accurate location otherwise the car is bound to crash. So, when the dot moves on the map, it requires database at sub-centimeter level. This is a major challenge and ISRO is looking at resolving this problem. “We essentially need what is called foundation layers to make sense out of LBS. ISRO is looking at creating some highly accurate foundatious ways, which are available freely in the public domain. Even though everyone is used to Google Maps, ISRO is looking at indigenous maps of high accuracy,” says Raj.

ISRO’s value added services like GAGAN provides very high accurate GPS system. The GPS system available in mobile phones may not be as accurate as it is required to be. The main culprit for GPS error budget is atmospheric corrections. India gets most of the data from global models and since the country is located in the tropical area, where ionospheric disturbances are much more, India needs to work on real-time atmospheric models to remove the error. A very good solution that ISRO has come up with is the option to integrate GAGAN dongle with mobile phones to improve accuracy.

Other than this, ISRO is also working on ortho products and elevation data. The national orthoimage base of the entire country is available at 2.5 meters, though Google already provided 1 meter, this is totally an Indian data and is much accurate. Very soon 1-meter ortho data is going to be available at ISRO’s geo portal, which can be used as an image base. Similarly, digital elevation model is extremely useful for smart city applications. Therefore, there has been a paradigm shift in image data availability.

location based services
ISRO’s GAGAN satellite-based navigation system can be integrated with mobile phones to get more accuracy.

Opened up to private players

LBS requires a host of high-resolution data for both commercial and government. In order to cater to the growing demand of LBS sector a huge constellation of satellites is required. Meeting the expectations, ISRO is actively working with other players like Planet Labs for a heavy constellation of satellites, so that data available now is of high resolution and can be delivered on a daily basis, which was not possible earlier.

The space agency has launched three high-resolution satellites in last two years. These are CARTOSAT- 2 series, of which one satellite was launched a few days back that gives (.6 meter) resolution data.

New initiatives

Apart from the automotive sector where LBS is widely used, ISRO is now focussing more on agriculture insurance. “We can really come out with high-quality products and services. We are collecting information and data from different states and central agencies. We have several satellite images and value added data. It is helping us to categorize the areas. So, location-based apps will be useful for agricultural insurance,” says Raj.

Another project that ISRO has recently initiated is using space technology for the Ministry of Culture. The entire Indian heritage and monument sites have been put into the database and are available to management plans. Earlier development plans and no objection certificates for them took at least six months. Now, the entire process has been automated using location-base services. All you have to do is download an app. The entire process for NOC takes just 2 mins.

Also, ISRO has taken up a national level program called space-based decentralized planning. All of this can be done if the national database is in place with satellite images in the background. This gives a new perspective to grass root level platform. This is a fine example of a location-based services.

ISRO is also working on remote dashboards that can create automatic reports on traffic violations like speed violations. So, it actually tells you the problematic areas and gives you real time information about road route information.

Through the use of geofencing the fishermen warning systems are being made so that they can be warned before crossing the border areas. Along with this, location intelligence applications in surveillance are being developed that can be used to monitor use of narcotics, tobacco, etc.

In agriculture crop intensification, crop distribution, high-value crops, horticulture, etc. are being worked upon. Location-based information is imperative for these initiatives and analytics. “Through satellite data, we have come up with unique address systems so that every parcel of land can be addressed. Also, a new product is emerging called business register at government level where one can valid the suppliers’ local traders by using geotagging,” adds the Chief General Manager of NRSC, ISRO, Department of Space.

Also read: Indian Culture Ministry uses geospatial technology to maintain heritage sites