“A young company with a desire for BIG impact.”
By Nicole Oveisi
American Geographical Society (AGS) had the opportunity to sit down with Impact Observatory (IO) to learn about the innovative ways the new company is helping in the global fight against climate change. IO is a mission-driven technology company, bringing together AI-powered data, sustainability and environmental monitoring risk analysis to support governments, civil society, companies, and markets.
With the evolution of conservation over the next five years, and climate impacting all aspects of business and civil society, IO is leading the way in bringing science-driven technology to the public good, government, and commercial sectors. Dr. Steve Brumby, Co-founder and CEO/CTO, explained that environmental health is IO’s top priority, noting, “The world is changing and big decisions need to be made now. Business as usual can lead to a catastrophic future, so we need actionable data to guide climate mitigation efforts.”
This young but impactful company is bringing climate change mitigation to senior decision-makers, providing the toolsets needed to analyze environmental data. From restoring biodiversity to increasing food security, IO has the tools to affect positive change across the world. With very powerful AI algorithms and software tools, their products deliver on-demand insights that can be globally scaled. As Dr. Brumby puts it, “Folks are trying to save the planet… Impact Observatory provides the insights necessary to do that.”
Before starting IO, co-founders Dr. Brumby, Ms. Sam Hyde, and Mr. John Barabino worked together at the National Geographic Society where they built the world’s largest dataset of human-labeled pixels (over 1,000 times larger than the next dataset).The dataset that they helped create (and still use and advance at IO) teaches AI systems to turn satellite images directly into maps.
Although the data-driven company is barely a year old, technological feats from IO’s system have pioneered the way scalable climate action is understood. At the 2020 United Nations General Assembly Week, preliminary results were showcased while talks were held by a number of countries using IO’s system with the UN Biodiversity Lab. Their AI algorithms are assisting projects (including Costa Rica’s Mapping Hope initiative) to attain real-time pictures of the world–a capability that would expand their customers’ ability to support data-driven decision-making.
1st image: Alaska, U.S.; 2nd image: Central Luzon, Philippines
Impact Observatory’s AI-powered technologies transform geospatial land use, land cover and change data—anywhere on Earth—into fully automated and analysis-ready dashboards. The interactive visualizations accurately gauge science data from carbon emissions to climate risk. The above images show historical fire activity (top left), biodiversity intactness (top right) terrestrial carbon density (bottom left) and land cover (bottom right).
So, what does the future hold for this growing industry? There has been a noticeable uptick in the commercial data sector, with real breakthroughs coming from turning satellite data into insight. More companies could leverage the power of geospatial information but need the data and tools to provide that insight on-demand, and that is precisely what IO offers. As the geography discipline evolves, to really participate in the cutting edge of the field, Dr. Brumby strongly urges students to learn to code as it would “open the door to bring geographic data to a global level, while also introducing the spatial technologies at a local scale.”
As the U.S. rejoins the Paris Accords, IO recognizes that there is a major opportunity for the country to double down on its leadership role in the world in helping understand the risks and opportunities provided by climate change. For many U.S. government organizations that are now looking to understand, anticipate and plan for climate change, there is a real need for the type of data-driven insights that IO is hoping to bring to the market, and IO hopes to be a part of moving the U.S. forward in its leadership role.
We would like to thank Impact Observatory for advancing AGS’ mission in helping a variety of stakeholders to understand the importance of geographic knowledge and look forward to seeing IO’s mission come to fruition.
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