I’ve always been fascinated by the night sky. Standing in darkness and looking up at the moon, the stars and the constellations have always prompted big dreams and thoughts in me and in most people I know. In recent years I’ve watched for other objects reflecting back to me. The International Space Station (ISS) has become a common sight circling past us, and every few months I’ll stand outside to watch for the latest Space X satellite ‘train’ to sail by. Feats of engineering, physics…and location-based knowledge acquisition.
While gathering location analytics and geospatial data is nothing new, the various ways, speed and clarity of this information has intensified in recent years. We are in the midst of transformational change in the way we measure, monitor, analyze, and access location-based data.
In just a couple of decades we have gone from accessing location data from paper maps and surveys to an array of technologies including sensors, drones, remote cameras and satellites circling the earth at various altitudes. In addition this geospatial data, which was largely collected by governments and militaries with limited public access, is becoming more widely available through consumer products such as smart phones and vehicle on-board computers, and through commercial platforms and markets.
This is how 3D Planeta is able to access accurate 2D satellite and aerial images, process the data and produce near-time 3D visualization and change detection; through an ever-growing commercial marketplace.
The technological advances are very exciting but as with anything new, it raises questions, specifically related to our growing awareness of issues related to privacy and security. As image resolution and image capture frequency increases, governments, corporations and citizens will need to consider how we want to govern geospatial data collection, and our understanding and expectations of who will have access to it and how it can be used.
Here is the challenge we face: it will become increasingly difficult to regulate the wholesale protection of personally identifiable information in a world where geolocation data can pinpoint someone’s or something’s location and movements with increasing accuracy and timeliness.
A high fence may keep competitors from seeing your organization’s activities from the ground, but there’s nothing you can do if a series of commercial low-orbiting satellites are capturing aerial images of your operations. However, that same technology may give you greater insight into the potential location for new energy, agricultural or mining ventures; provide insurance companies with a better understanding of environmental and/or climate risks; and help public health agencies monitor viral migrations through a population.
As we develop 3D Planeta’s geospatial technologies, Tom and I along with our team are fortunate to be working alongside our region’s growing cybersecurity sector. This gives us the benefit of consulting and engaging with world-leading experts who think a lot about safety, security and privacy in this emerging knowledge era.
The geospatial and space technology sectors are enabling a growing number of us to explore space and the upper atmosphere. While we’re dreaming about what we can do up there, we owe it to ourselves to consider how we intend to use and govern the information our eyes in the sky send back down to earth.