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Google’s imaging tool offers a new look at Earth

Central Kalimantan, Indonesia: While Google Earth has always been considered as the satellite imagery program par excellence, experts often felt that something was missing, especially when it came to mapping the forest cover by comparing it with images from the past.

Last year, Google launched its Earth Engine, which complemented the standard, but static, satellite images with “trillions of scientific measurements dating back more than 25 years,” allowing scientists to “detect changes, map trends and quantify differences on the earth’s surface,” according to its developers.

“There are fantastic images of the earth from space that have been taken over the past 25 years,” says Moore, a scientist at Google. “If those data could be put in the hands of people or scientists, they could see in great detail how earth has been changing, such as where forests are being planted and ice sheets are melting.”

Moore, who was in Indonesia recently for a forest meeting in Palangkaraya, the capital of Central Kalimantan, says the program is now available on smartphones powered by Google’s Android operating system and made available in a pilot project to indigenous groups in the Amazon, Tanzania, Uganda and Mexico to monitor forests and support law enforcement.

“For example, an Indian chief in the Amazon, when he finds some indication of illegal activity in his area, will take out his Android smartphone to take pictures and a video, note the time and date, the GPS location, and submit it through the phone,” she says.

“Then it will automatically be put up on the [Google Earth Engine] map for others to see. So it’s strengthening local communities and giving them an important role in defending the forests. All kinds of information can be brought up on Google Earth Engine; it’s like having a dashboard for the planet.”

Source: Jakarta Globe