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Digital platform provides access to Earth observation data

Large volumes of data about Earth are collected every day. Data that can greatly benefit society – especially in climate efforts. But it is expensive to store, process, and analyse data, and requires expertise. The Digital Earth Sweden platform brings together all these functions to make it easier for authorities, trade and industry, and universities to utilise this valuable data.

Every day, satellites orbiting the Earth generate a wealth of data on our planet, referred to as Earth Observation Data. This data has a wide range of important applications – from monitoring agriculture and water levels to information on weather and climate change over time. 

“The possibilities are virtually endless, you can’t even sum them up,” says Ann-Christin Uusitalo Eriksson, Business Development Strategist at RISE. “But much is linked to the climate, and with satellite images you can monitor trends over time.”

Several pilot projects

For Earth Observation Data to be utilised as the valuable resource it is, it needs to be efficiently stored, processed, and analysed using AI technology. In partnership with the Swedish National Space Agency, Luleå University of Technology, and AI Sweden, RISE has run the National Space Data Lab project to congregate this expertise in a single place, and several pilot projects have been carried out. Among other things, it has enabled drought trends in Mälardalen and changes in water levels and shorelines to be followed over time, and it has helped the Swedish Board of Agriculture to develop methods for monitoring pastures.

“The EU requires reports on land usage, for which annual field visits or airborne surveys have been necessary for many years,” explains Uusitalo Eriksson. “With satellite imagery, it will be both cheaper and more efficient. In the project in Mälardalen, we were able to follow the vegetation and compare it with previous years. If you follow trends over a really long time, climate change becomes very apparent.”

New platform lowers thresholds

In order for more operators to be able to use and benefit from Earth Observation Data, a platform called Digital Earth Sweden is now being established, and it will be used for research and innovation, the development of analytical methods, and providing access to space data over Sweden and the Baltic Sea. It combines information with expertise and coordination on automated data collection, data processing, quality assurance, analysis, and storage.

“The idea is to lower the thresholds for using Earth Observation Data by tailoring the information specifically to Sweden and the country’s geographical location,” says Uusitalo Eriksson.

Data from the European Space Agency is already open for anyone to use. By developing a platform tailored to Sweden, it will not be necessary for authorities and other operators to carry out the considerable and resource-consuming job of processing, structuring, quality assuring, and analysing – everything will instead be done in the shared platform.

“It’s more cost-effective and easier for an organisation to coordinate development work and make information and methods available to all Swedish operators needing satellite data,” says Uusitalo Eriksson.

Much is linked to the climate, and with satellite images you can monitor trends over time

Many potential users

The platform is under development, and the idea is that many different operators will be able to benefit from information from satellites. At present, many government agencies have a need for data from Copernicus, the European Union’s Earth Observation Programme: The Swedish Environmental Protection Agency, the Swedish Meteorological and Hydrological Institute, the Swedish Forest Agency, the Swedish Mapping, Cadastral and Land Registration Authority, county administrative boards, the Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency – the list goes on.

The vision for the platform is clear: a single system that takes advantage of synergies and provides great benefit to Sweden.

“The goal is to create business models and provide entryways so that industry and universities can use the platform,” says Uusitalo Eriksson. “For example, academia can have access in order to educate engineers and researchers.”

RISE builds expertise

RISE has extensive expertise when it comes to managing and analysing large amounts of data, and in recent years has been working to build expertise specifically related to space and Earth observation.

“We’re also very proficient in AI. This platform is needed to really get the most out of the AI methodology. We have now focused on building platforms, automating data collection, and building interfaces to make the information available. Once our AI researchers develop new analytical methods, the areas of application will grow exponentially for the benefit of decision-makers in both the public sector and trade and industry.”

Image: Stockholm, Sweden by NASA used under CC BY 2.0 / cropped and colorized from original

Ann-Christin Uusitalo Eriksson

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Ann-Christin Uusitalo Eriksson

Manager Business Development

+46 70 264 83 22

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