Spire is a Silicon Valley start up company launched in early 2015 that uses a network of satellites to improve geospatial sensing in the areas where it is most lacking. They states that their satellites “listen to the ¾ of Earth neglected by traditional remote sensing.” Spire focuses specifically on the open-ocean and ship tracking, and on providing accurate up-to-date weather predictions.
For ship tracking Spire uses a technology called Automatic Identification System (AIS), which is required on shipping vessels under International Maritime Law. Spire’s improved satellite network allows for advanced tracking so that ships that would previously have gone days without having their signal picked up, can now be monitored up to multiple times an hour. Advancements in ship tracking are crucial in preventing illegal fishing, as vessels movements into protected zones can be more easily monitored. Additionally, the satellite network allows for improvements in tracking the shipping trade, with over 80% of ocean trade routes ignored by traditional remote sensing, to ensure safe passage and protection for the economic interests of seafarers and traders by tracing assets from shore to shore.
Spire makes crucial strides in closing the weather data gap to provide more accurate forecasts. Most of the U.S.’s weather predictions are provided by government weather satellites, but production delays and active decommissioning of these satellites have impeded our ability to monitor our weather to the extent that the U.S. Government Accountability Office has declared the gap in weather data as a high risk to the country. Spire’s network of GPS Radio Occultation satellites use algorithms to pick up signals on temperature, pressure, and humidity and close the weather data gap, which is crucial in ensuring a proper and timely response to hurricanes and other extreme weather warnings. Spire’s satellites also log an immense amount of weather data, which provides invaluable insight into climatic change and can shape future adaptation strategies.
Spire also launched the world’s first crowd-funded satellite, called Ardusat, which provides students with the tools for hands on STEM education in space and satellite science, conceived by CEO Peter Platzer and his team due to his belief in the importance of engaging students with geo-spatial technology.
The American Geographical Society reached out to Spire for a comment on their mission and vision and Nick Allain, the Head of Creative and Brand, was kind enough to provide the following statement:
“Today, our connected world is still quite small and limited to cities and towns. We’re headed towards a world that’s truly connected – where you can track a single phone from a factory China to delivery at your front door. The electric company that powers the Chinese factory will know exactly what the weather will be like 3 days in advance and will adjust their power mix between green and fossil fuels to provide the best price – ultimately resulting in lower prices for products globally. There are few limits to what will be affected by improved remote sensing. We started this endeavor because a worldwide lack of data threatens the world as we know it. Spire was created to provide a vastly different approach to data collection and analysis. Satellites just scratch the surface of what’s possible for data collection, fusion, and analysis.”
Written by: Christopher Ewell, AGS Intern on June 2, 2015