By Nigel Jaffe
To many people, “geospatial data” may seem a difficult concept to define. Its potential applications, meanwhile, can be even more nebulous. Both questions are easier to tackle when you realize that geospatial data, far from being a niche concept, is actually everywhere. Put simply, it’s data that has to do with one or more particular spatial locations: buildings, forests, roads, oceans, and more generally, the topographic features of landscapes all over the globe. The ubiquity of geospatial data makes it useful and relevant in countless ways, and harnessing it effectively is an important skill for people and companies in a variety of industries. That’s where UP42 comes in.
Launched this year by aerospace giant Airbus, UP42 is a space tech startup that makes it their mission to provide easy access to geospatial data. Nikita Marwaha, a spokesperson for UP42, provided some insight into what that can look like on the level of individual customers: “By using UP42, people can easily access, understand, and create impact from information about the earth,” she said. “Customers can select the corner of the planet they are interested in, pick and choose between various tools to help them analyze the location, and gain insight quickly and easily.”
Not only does UP42’s straightforward interface make using geospatial data easier for all, it also democratizes the service by making data equally available for both big companies and individual people. “UP42 offers a way to do this without the need for large processing power, servers, IT specialists or developers,” Marwaha said. “All you need is an idea of what you want to find out or observe. This way, UP42 is opening up access to geospatial insights to individuals, companies, and organizations of all sizes.”
UP42 offers various data-processing algorithms to cater to the needs of users from diverse fields, and is continually adding more to appeal to as diverse a market as possible. Meanwhile, they are looking to add even further to a list of satellite data providers that includes the European Space Agency’s Sentinel Hub along with Airbus’s Pléiades satellite and OneAtlas platform. UP42 brings to a single venue these sources of geospatial data and the algorithms users need to make the most of them.
These tools translate to numerous real-world applications, Marwaha said: “For example, taking a look from above can help to see how much fertilizer needs to be used in the fields. Geospatial data also provides valuable information about the movement of ships in a port or the number of trees surrounding a rail track. Humanitarian efforts such as disaster relief are also supported by geospatial data— estimating risk, determining land coverage, and identifying safe zones are all ways to help through geospatial insights.”
UP42 is currently in beta ahead of their commercial launch next month. In the meantime, they have assembled a waiting list comprising companies of diverse sizes and backgrounds. “We are looking forward to helping many people use geospatial insights to create better products through our platform,” CEO Eli Tamanaha said. “Our hope is that by simplifying the access to and use of geospatial data, we will see bits and pieces of powerful geospatial data appear in creative, new applications.”