If 2020 was the year the world stayed home, 2021 is the year we got moving again, but in different ways and much of that thanks to earth observation technology.
In the past year, the team and I at 3D Planeta attended business events around the world, forged partnerships via digital handshakes, and watched in real-time events unfold in minute detail from just about every corner of the earth, all from our desks in Fredericton.
Here are the four earth observation trends I’ve noted from this year of living and working in our new space age.
Access: It’s not just for VIPs
The sky above us is getting crowded. Growth in the commercial satellites market continued this year, with companies from established players to fast-moving start-ups launching a record number of payloads into space to monitor and record activities on earth. As with any new commercial sector as supply rises, costs fall, increasing access to new technologies. Earth observation technology is no longer just the domain of governments and national defense forces; it is accessible to all of us – for a price. The entry-level price is a digital device (laptop, desktop, smartphone, or tablet) and an Internet connection. With that you can access free earth observation data, such as your phone’s map app, but that is just the beginning of what we can observe and analyze. We can now stack layers of spatial data to create visualizations of any place on earth.
Speed: See the full field of play faster
More earth observation hardware in space means more images are being produced and that will cause a seismic shift in how and where people live, work and explore. Even though I lead an earth observation start-up, I still marvel at the volume and quality of data available and the speed with which we can access it. My co-founder Tom Batty often uses the expression ‘decision dominance’ to describe the shift in decision-making capabilities this flood of new data and images is beginning to enable. Simply put, the faster high-quality earth images come into view, the faster high-quality decisions can be made and executed, giving a distinct and possibly insurmountable advantage to those who have access to up-to-date earth observation images.
Choice: Thread the needle in the data haystack
In 2021 we saw the metaverse come into view: the fusing of publicly-held spatial technology with all that earth observation data being produced and amassed by the cumulative output of commercial satellites, drones, and aerial footage. Earth observation technology is entering a new phase in its development and questions about its commercialization have naturally followed. I experienced this in real-time. As I spoke at investor conferences and virtual trade shows I heard about the shift in fall 2021. I no longer need to explain how earth observation technology works, I need to explain what it produces. Investors want to dig deeper into what actionable insights and outcomes can be extracted from the data, specifically the role of artificial intelligence and machine learning to sort through the breadth and depth of space-based data to assist people in making faster, smarter decisions on earth.
Value: A wealth of new knowledge creates new pathways
The space technology sector isn’t the scrappy outsider anymore. While commercial space travel may have grabbed the headlines, the sector is far more diversified with its established players, billions in private investment, and a start-up community with global reach. Where shall we go from here? What value shall we in the earth observation industry bring to the world? In 2021, the financial markets gave us a clue as both public and private sources accelerated the shift to net-zero investments. But climate isn’t the only area where earth observation data can play. It can contribute to addressing sustainable development across a range of sectors, including infrastructure monitoring, conservation, agriculture, urban planning, disaster management, and disease epidemiology.
Tom and I have long advocated that 3D Planeta is only as strong as the industries and communities we serve. We are building a high-growth technology start-up with purpose, which means we intend to support customers, investors and partners by increasing access, speed and choice to high-value earth observation data to solve some of the world’s biggest problems.
A new view of the earth in service to changing our world for the better.
See you in 2022.