The GEO Data Technology Workshop, hosted in Vienna by the UN Office for Outer Space Affairs from 23-25 April 2019, provided broad perspectives on the role that technology is playing in changing how Earth observations are used. Speakers provided a wide-ranging view of how these technologies are changing the way we work, highlighted the needs of the GEO community, provided an overview of commercial sector needs and applications, and spurred discussion on the social and legal impacts of new technologies.
Emerging from the Workshop we feel the cautious excitement of the GEO community in embracing new and evolving data technologies. While recognising the possibility for increased global impact of Earth observations from these technological advances, we acknowledge the challenges and risks involved and the need to be inclusive in accessing their benefits.
The GEO Secretariat thanks all participants, speakers, our hosts UNOOSA, and event sponsors Development Seed, European Space Imaging, Eversis, terraPulse and Sinergise for making this event possible.
Sessions 1 & 2: Setting the scene
What is the state of EO data technology today, and where is it going?
GEO Secretariat Director Gilberto Camara opened the first session of the Workshop by calling on the Earth science community to make all results reproducible, through open access to products, services, methods, code, models and source data.
New technologies are changing the way we do business. We need to develop and promote solutions that are not vendor-dependent, to ensure the playing field is not distorted towards a single vendor and to make our community more resilient to changes and policies in the commercial sector." - Gilberto Camara, GEO Secretariat
Camara highlighted the overarching challenge facing us all: how to provide food, water and energy for 9.4 billion people, avoid dangerous climate change, and protect our planet’s biodiversity? He pointed out that knowledge tells us about the limits of our planet, but action is based in how societies decide how to use our planet’s resources.
For Camara, the key to addressing our shared challenges with socially-robust results is trust - decision makers need to trust the sources of information and knowledge. Co-design and co-production is crucial, where the stakeholders themselves are involved in the design and production of the service/tools/knowledge.
Camara also noted that clouds are becoming the place to go for data, and allow the Earth science community to make data FAIR. He pointed out that during the first 15 years of GEO, the focus has been on open data, but that the future of GEO is focused on results based on open science.
Next, NASA’s Brian Killough presented on the CEOS Open Data Cube: lessons learned, and way forward. He stated that data is moving towards pre-processed availability on the cloud, and that all Landsat Analysis Ready Data will be available on the cloud within the next year.
Analysis Ready Data is no longer a desire but an expectation. We need to pre-process data and make it globally available in the cloud." - Brian Killough, NASA
Joost van Bemmelen of ESA opened a GEOSS Platform panel at #GEOdatatech, with additional speakers from MARUM (Christoph Waldmann), ESA / European Commission (Stefano Nativi) and FDGC (Ivan De Loatch) and CNR (Paolo Mazzetti). Van Bemmelen provided an overview of platform infrastructures, ecosystem, and governance.
The GEOSS platform is a connector between users & resource providers. We are working towards providing discovery, access and use capabilities for data information & knowledge." - Joost van Bemmelen, ESA
AtlantOS is using GEOSS to meet user needs and respond to requirements. The ocean science community (IOC) is working together with meteorological community (WMO) to harmonize procedures and adopt a more service oriented approach.” - Christoph Waldmann, MARUM
Nina Kickinger of UNOOSA presented the Space4Water Portal: a multi-stakeholder knowledge exchange platform that makes information on space-based solutions for water-related topics discoverable and filterable..
Lorant Czaran of UNFPA explained how GRID3 is using Earth observation data to develop high resolution demographic data that supports census processes and population-related SDG indicators (98 of 232).
Session 3: Data and Information Needs and Challenges for GEO Engagement Priorities
How can Earth observation data and technology advance global frameworks on climate, disasters and sustainable development?
Opening session 3, Bob Chen of UN SDSN and CIESIN asked the audience if evidence, metrics and data still matter. He argued that they do, and the GEO community’s efforts to improve data and indicators for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are crucially important.
Jean Ometto of Brazil's INPE called for temporal data series as critical for understanding what actions to take to address drivers of climate change (including land use change), and highlighted how the Paris Agreement can help minimize its long term impacts.
Adam Fysh of UNISDR explained how the Sendai Framework has expanded the scope of disaster risks we must consider and calls for an understanding of the systematic nature of risk.
These are uncharted waters. Epidemics, industrial accidents, plant blights, and even droughts can't be modelled in the same way as other hazards. Exposure growth is making a farce of traditional return periods and vulnerability is barely understood from a risk data perspective.” -Adam Fysh, UNISDR
UNISDR is the secretariat of a new initiative known as the Global Risk Assessment Framework (GRAF) that will seek to both grapple with those challenges and come to terms with the uncertainty native to such an understanding. GRAF is open, collaborative, transparent & practical.
Session 4: Data and Information Needs and Challenges for GEO Work Programme Activities
What are the key data and information needs of GEO Work Programme activities?
Julia Wagemann of ECMWF opened the session with a presentation on the GEO Global Water Sustainability Initiative (GEOGLOWS) Streamflow Forecasting activities, inviting data and data technology providers to join GEOGLOWS in helping countries and communities around the world meet streamflow forecasting needs.
Next was CNR’s Sergio Cinnirella. who spoke on behalf of GEO’s Global Observation System for Mercury (GOS4M).
GEO can provide strong support for the implementation of international policies like the Minamata Convention and the Stockholm Convention by strengthening its knowledge platform." - Sergio Cinnirella, CNR
Representing Flagship initiative GEO Biodiversity Observation Network (GEO BON), Laetitia Navarro of iDiv on GEO Work Programme data and information needs.
There are many challenges to biodiversity monitoring, but the potential and relevance for society outweigh them. Open workflows that integrate open data will be key to track our progress towards biodiversity conservation.” - Laetitia Navarro, iDiv
Steven Greb of the University of Wisconsin Madison and GEO Aquawatch says it's an exciting time for the water quality and remote sensing communities, but there are growing pains and tough issues to address in the coming years, including around validation, interoperability and standardization.
Antje Hecheltjen of Germany's GIZ presented progress on the GEO Land Degradation Neutrality initiative, and called for consistency and integration across Earth observation solutions that help countries more easily find and use the data and services they need.
Speaking for GEO Blue Planet, NOAA’s Paul DiGiacomo called for better coordination of ocean data.
As we enter the Blue Economy era & better understand the critical role of oceans for society, there is a tremendous opportunity to leverage disparate data sources & get more value out of them. We are at the beginning of that journey."- Paul DiGiacomo, NOAA
Session 5: In situ Earth observations
What are the needs and challenges of handling in situ data, and what should GEO’s role be with respect to in situ data management?
Opening day 2 of the Workshop was Mikko Strahlendorff of the Finnish Meteorological Institute speaking on Improvements on Data Providers metadata for search engines, followed by Bartolomeo Ventura of Eurac Research on in-situ data workflow using OGC Sensor Web Enablement (SWE).
Finding and accessing in situ data is not always easy. Many data sets are not online. A service to ease the publishing burden for small data providers would be helpful. The ultimate goal is to be able to find the data and be able to access it in small chunks. We need to go from complex to simple, and small in situ data providers need a service to facilitate this.” - Mikko Strahlendorff, Finnish Meteorological Institute
Earth observation data providers need to adopt standardization concepts to manage data and facilitate sharing. GEO has a role to play in pushing for this, to guarantee better interoperability between systems and services.” - Bartolomeo Ventura, EURAC
Next, Peter Hunter, University of Stirling spoke about the LIMNADES in situ water quality database, used for validation of water quality retrieval algorithms from satellite observations , while Rik van den Bosch of ISRIC spoke about Soil Organic Carbon (SOC) data.
Global monitoring of inland water quality from space is now feasible, but significant challenges remain for the in situ validation of these products.” - Peter Hunter, University of Stirling
“Funding for monitoring of global Soil Organic Carbon (SOC) is desperately needed to support Land Degradation Neutrality and climate change adaptation.” - Rik van den Bosch, ISRIC
Session 6: Satellite-based Earth observations
What are the opportunities and challenges facing the data community in relation to satellite-based Earth observation data and technology?
Brian Killough kicked off the satellite data session with a presentation on CEOS Infrastructure and Services for EO Data Provision:
The CEOS Working Group on Information Systems and Services (WGISS) is making great progress on discovery and access, future data architectures, and technology exploration for satellite data.” - Brian Killough, NASA
Andreia Siqueira of Geoscience Australia followed up with an overview of CEOS Analysis Ready Data for Land Surface Imaging:
Product Family Specification is a key step for CEOS Analysis Ready Data. We urge the GEO community to promote it.” - Andreia Siqueira, Geoscience Australia
Daniel Quintart of the European Commission presented Perspectives of the Copernicus Programme, telling the audience:
Copernicus is a huge provider of data and service information, and is keen to embrace cloud technology through the DIAS.” - Daniel Quintart of the European Commission
Günther Landgraf of ESA then presented his views on User-centric Collaboration Environments and Future Data Architectures:
Platforms are changing the way we work - it truly is an industrial revolution." - Günther Landgraf, ESA
Grega Milcinski of Sinergise spoke about Production of Analysis Ready Data:
Earth observation data has never been more accessible - and with Sentinel Hub anyone can build applications that exploit global satellite data. Let’s use these resources for the benefit of all people!” - Grega Milcinski, Sinergise
Session 7: Cloud computing for Big Earth observation data
What have we learned and where are we going in cloud computing for big Earth observation data?
Wolfgang Wagner of Vienna University of Technology spoke about the Earth Observation Data Centre and the role of the European Open Science Cloud:
You don't need to go to 'big IT' to process Sentinel data. Federated infrastructures and the European Open Science Cloud can do the job." - Wolfgang Wagner, TU Vienna
ECMWF’s Julia Wagemann then presented on the Climate Data Store, including lessons learned, next steps and results from their user requirement survey.
I hope that in 20 years no user needs to download data anymore. Cloud computing offers the technological capacities. Now, we have to work hard to bring users, data and cloud services together in a sustainable and centralized way" - Julia Wagemann, ECMWF
Matthias Mohr, University of Münster gave a well-received overview of Spatio Temporal Assets Catalogs (STAC):
We want data providers & researchers to publish spatio-temporal data with STAC specification so users can discover all datasets available worldwide through their preferred search engine. With STAC we lay out a foundation for that." Matthias Mohr, University of Muenster
Edzer Pebesma, also of the University of Münster, presented on Challenges in interoperability and harmonization in Cloud Computing for Earth observation:
Interoperability across Earth observation cloud platforms is currently missing, and that is bad for open science. ESA’s Open EO is working on this!" - Edzer Pebesma, University of Muenster
Aimee Barciauskas of Development Seed developed her presentation on Earth Science on the Cloud, providing real world examples of EO applications for impact.
GEO partners are working on Open Science platforms for new era in Earth Science through collaborative workspaces, access to cloud resources with archived data, new spatial & temporal research scales & unprecedented ability to reproduce results." - Aimee Barciauskas, Development Seed
Session 8: GEOSS-related technologies
What technologies should the GEO community leverage to accomplish its mandate and vision?
Gilberto Ribeiro (INPE) and GEO's Rik Baeyens & Paola De Salvo presented the concept for the future GEO Knowledge Hub as "a scalable digital repository to facilitate the discovery, access and reuse of reproducible knowledge and Earth observation solutions that tackle societal challenges."
The Knowledge Hub development will be coordinated by the GEO Secretariat in close collaboration with GEO Flagships and Initiatives and the GEOSS Platform Operations Team. It will consist of curated knowledge resources, including data, code, models, tools, algorithms, videos and output data and products, all linked to ensure reproducible results. Users will be able to discover, access and re-use knowldge resources and related EO datasets from authoritative sources.
Ivan De Loatch, representing GEOSS Evolve, spoke on the evolution of GEOSS throughout the years and into the future.
GEOSS Evolve is a critical process to ensure that GEOSS maintains its relevance, taking on board the most advanced technologies to support its users, and in keeping with the GEO principles." - Ivan DeLoatch, FGDC
Covering ESA’s Geohazard Thematic Exploitation Platform (TEP) was Pedro Gonçalves of TerraDue. The Geohazards Exploitation Platform allows both on demand processing for specific user needs and systematic processing to address common information needs of the geohazards community as a whole, as well as massive processing on the Cloud. To exploit the geo-information generated, the Platform leverages open APIs for the integration of interactive processing and post-processing services and enables users to exploit and share satellite-based measurements, improving the understanding and investigation of hazards.
Working together with the research community and industry, the Geohazards Exploitation Platform provides an application integration & data processing environment, using Earth observation to support geohazard risk management." - Pedro Gonçalves, TerraDue
Finally, Karine Ferreira of Brazil presented INPE's experience with Machine Learning using AWS to produce Land Use and Land Cover maps from satellite image time series.
Session 9: Special Session on Copernicus DIAS
What are the key DIAS features that can help the GEO community reach its goals?
Session 9 involved overviews of the 5 Copernicus Data and Information Access Services (DIAS), which speakers representing each of the systems.
OndaDIAS practically supports GEO’s mission and vision by enabling the community to create solutions to global challenges.” Mario D’Alessio, Serco
Copernicus DIAS are about data and value. Focus on what you do best with Sobloo services multi-source data access, cloud and a full developers environment at your fingertips." - Wendy Carrara, Capgemini
Presenting CREODIAS, Alex Cesarz and Maciej Krzyzanowski highlighted that they have created a system that is able to get information products from any service (Mercator, EUMETSAT and others), get the metadata, analyze, index and store it and show it to the users. The service enables users to order the data they want to see for their specific needs.
Through this open and flexible environment the data is available and ready at users fingertips - no more downloads.” - Alex Cesarz and Maciej Krzyzanowski, CloudFerro (CREODIAS)
Through Mundi Web Service, working with remote sensing data on the cloud is made easy for everybody, including for Analysis Ready Data (ARD) and Copernicus Sentinel ARD.” -Stephan Meißl, EOX
In today's Big Data era, downloading data & building archives is no longer feasible. The DIAS give you a quick start without headaches or large upfront infrastructure investments.” - Laia Romero, Mercator Ocean, and Michael Schick, EUMETSAT (WEkEO DIAS)
Session 10: Innovative approaches and societal impact
What technological innovations in Earth observations are positively impacting societies?
Speaking on AWS, Jed Sundwall stressed the importance of ARD and cloud environments to advance the adoption of Earth observations and data more generally for decision making:
Preparing Earth observation data for analysis in a cloud environment is important to enable its widespread use.” - Jed Sundwall, Amazon Web Services (AWS)
Trent Kershaw of Geoscience Australia presented Digital Earth Africa, a game-changing continental-scale Data Cube:
We invite the global GEO data community to contribute to #DEAfrica though providing application support for this important project.” - Trent Kershaw, Geoscience Australia
Chris Atherton (GEANT) and Andres Steijaert (SURFnet) presented the Open Clouds for Research Environments (OCRE) project - GEANT's response to the European Open Science Cloud. They noted that 70% of all global ESA Copernicus traffic travels across the GEANT network - 25 PB per day, and reminded the audience that the research and education communities are adapting to the changing needs of researchers in the context of GEO.
Esri's Steve Kopp presented africageoportal.com; a free Platform as a Service offering spatial data imagery and analysis for all of Africa - including access to the future Digital Earth Africa.
Mamoru Miyamoto (ICHARM) presented Japan DIAS, which enables satellite and in situ data integration for analysis of water-related disasters and their societal impacts, and is based on multi-stakeholder engagement.
Session 11: Innovation from Small Medium and Micro Enterprises
What innovations are we seeing from the commercial sector that support GEO’s mission?
EARSC's Emmanuel Pajot spoke about the European Earth Observation Online Services (eoMALL):
New solutions and delivery models used by SMEs are enhancing their capability to adapt to changing Earth observations landscapes according to their needs.” - Emmanuel Pajot, EARSC
Highlighting various innovative examples of applied Earth observation in urban areas, Betty Charalampopoulou, Geosystems Hellas presented case studies related to urban planning and sustainability, social development and more done in partnership with the Greek government and commercial sector.
EO data and services support sustainable cities and communities, and can have significant social impact, including for jobs, affordable housing, green areas and more." - Betty Charalampopoulou, Geosystems Hellas
Presenting on EO in Africa, views from Ethiopia, Ghana and South Africa were Tesfaye Korme of GeoSAS Consulting, Farmerline's Stephen Adusah, and GTI’s Jens Hiestermann.
Information derived from high resolution EO data has become a critical input to the planning, monitoring and evaluation of economic activities.” - Tesfaye Korme, GeoSAS Consulting, Ethiopia
It is extremely important to integrate EO-derived data into our workflows, to enable us to find valuable insights and empower our clients to make smarter business decisions.” - Stephen Adusah, Farmerline, Ghana
We're shifting how we do business in the EO sector, as we realize our value may lie further down the value chain than 5 years ago. It's exciting to have opportunities through GEO that help us support our clients." - Jens Hiestermann, GTI, South Africa
During the ensuing discussions, speakers were asked what one thing they would ask the GEO community do to support their work and social impact. Responses included increasing visibility of the good work that SMEs are doing, providing access to experts on EO data acquisition and processing, supporting and promoting partnerships between data players, agencies and users, providing a platform to promote existing tools and services, and making is clear what we need from the private sector to advance our own work.
Session 12: Data Ethics and Governance
What are the governance and institutional issues that should be considered in the transition to the digital economy?
Wrapping up the Data Technology Workshop was an important session on Data Ethics in the digital economy.
Opening the session was Foteini Zampati (GODAN), who argued that an ethical approach to data in the Digital Economy is necessary for privacy, security, data protection and IP. Zampati explained that data ethics was a branch of ethics that evaluated the potential for adverse effects from open data, trying to find the balance between empowerment and the principle to “do no harm.” She mentioned the Open Data Institute as a resource, which works with companies and governments to build an open, trustworthy data ecosystem where people can make better decisions using data while managing any harmful impacts.
Next were presentations by Tom Orrell, (DataReady and GPSDD), Kevin Pomfret (UNGGIM), Jean Dusart (European Commission) and Bob Chen (CIESIN / SDSN).
When it comes to the ‘digital economy revolution’, there are three buckets of governance and ethics challenges that exist: those that exacerbate or create inequalities; various forms of data misuse; and, the concentration of authority/control over data in the hands of a few. These three core areas of risk transcend the EO space and are common to all data types within the digital economy revolution. Ethics assessments conducted before any EO activities should identify potential risks around these three areas and suggest steps to mitigate against them." - Tom Orrell, DataReady and GPSDD
Kevin Pomfret pointed out that Nations’ Legal Frameworks Have a significant impact on the use of open data, with each layer of geospatial data being generally subject to a license: each with its own terms and conditions and increasingly unique legal regimes.
He provided an overview of the role of data sharing / license agreements, in terms of rights, responsibilities and the allocation of risk, and noted that open data is still subject to a license. Because of the various types of open data licenses, many of which are not easily compatible, it becomes difficult to integrate data subject to proprietary licences.
Licencing considerations, according to Pomfret, should include types of data, uses of data, IP rights, privacy, data quality / liability risks, national security and open records / FOIA.
Making data open is a policy issue, but using Open Data to build products and services is a legal one." - Kevin Pomfret (UNGGIM)
The EC is supporting the digital transformation of society through its Digital Single Market initiative, and recently released an innovative ethical & legal framework on Artificial Intelligence which could inspire GEO. It may be time to revise the GEO data sharing principles & develop an ethical and data governance framework to reflect the overwhelming technological changes that have affected Earth observation.” - Jean Dusart, European Commission
Bob Chen, Co-chair of the GEO Data Sharing Working Group, provided a convincing assessment of GEOSS Data Sharing Principles as being more advanced than the FAIR principles, which do not necessarily require data to be open. He argued that FAIR is intended for research data and services, and that it focuses on the mechanics. Because FAIR only requires that it be “Accessible by appropriate people, at an appropriate time, in an appropriate way”, and that “(Meta)data are released with a clear and accessible data usage license”, data is not necessarily open and license conditions and restrictions are unlikely to be compatible and interpretable by machines. Under FAIR, charges can be part of more restrictive licenses, with charges mediated by machines through open protocols. There is no limit on what can be charged. Finally, FAIR data only needs to be released on publication, and data producers control release time - therefore data is not released with minimum time delay.
GEO has developed a comprehensive set of Data Management and Data Sharing Principles and associated implementation guidelines, which addresses key areas such as preservation, verification, refresh, etc. not covered by FAIR.
GEO is way ahead of FAIR on data sharing." Bob Chen of CIESIN, UN SDSN and Co-chair of the GEO Data Sharing Working Group
Maddie West / GEO