Op-ed | Big Data is gaining ground with Earth observation operators
Big Data is driving demand for Earth observation, creating new applications and changing traditional business models. As a disruptive innovation, it keeps changing the way OT data is used.
Technologies are no longer the only driver of innovation; it’s about how, with the combined innovations, the ecosystem matures quickly – and so do the solutions.
Big data players like AWS and Microsoft are stepping in. They not only host third-party data, but are increasingly becoming key partners and intermediaries needed to deliver near real-time information while reducing time. receiving data on the ground and providing on-the-fly preprocessing analysis.
AN UNPRECEDENTED CONJUNCTION OF TECHNICAL INNOVATIONS
What we call Big Data is an efficient way to collect, manage, process, store, distribute and access a huge and continuous flow of information that cannot be managed by humans. The main enablers are automated processing and virtualization.
BIG DATA PLAYERS BECOME ESSENTIAL
Thanks to new consumption models based on external cloud hosting capacities, GAFAM – short for American technology giants Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon and Microsoft – creates special links with EO operators.
Digital Globe (now Maxar) used a semi-trailer truck called Snowmobile in 2016 to move its entire 18-year, 100-petabyte image library to AWS-S3. This first step, called Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS), enabled a second step, Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) – a room allowing developers to create new tools and applications – then a third Data -as-a-Service (DaaS) to address end users.
Companies such as Airbus Defense and Space and Maxar have given their customers instant access to their entire library by leveraging the development of new services, with automated preprocessing images and online tools accessible through platforms. -Web forms such as Maxar’s GBDX (Geospatial Big Data Platform) hosted on AWS or Airbus’s OneAtlas platform hosted on Google Cloud. EO operators can concentrate on their core business – outsourcing certain hardware infrastructures and certain development tools – by providing information directly to their customers, by opening up new sources of revenue through business-to-consumer and by developing applications based on near real-time analysis. This integration created a more intricate business environment between EO operators and service providers like GAFAM.
To take a step forward, Maxar has been testing the AWS Ground Station service since October 2018 and now plans to use it with its next constellation WorldView Legion. The Ground Station-as-a-Service model matures with the announcement of Microsoft’s launch of Microsoft Azure Orbital.
Big Data is gaining ground throughout the value chain, from cloud computing to the ground segment. Incumbents as well as newcomers such as Capella Space and Iceye are also using GAFAM’s Big Data infrastructure to develop their business.
China is catching up: following on from this development initiated in the United States and followed by European initiatives such as Copernicus data and information access services, the future regional expansion of Big Data in EO should come from the tremendous expansion of the development of Chinese EO operators using the Chinese BATX ecosystem (BATX stands for Baidu, Alibaba, Tencent, Xiaomi – the four biggest tech companies in China). Regional development is fostered by concerns about security and sovereignty in data management, as most of the information collected from satellites is designed for security applications.
Alexis Conte is a senior consultant at Euroconsult where he focuses on a wide range of OE satellite and aerial applications. Previously, he worked for the French Ministry of Agriculture and obtained a master’s degree in applied geography from the University of the Sorbonne.
This article originally appeared in the April 19, 2021 issue of SpaceNews magazine.