Easier access to open data without the IT overheads

– NextGEOSS, the European data hub and platform

Posted July 31st, 2019

By Vicky Lucas, Training & Development Manager of the IEA

It’s always productive to catch-up in person with colleagues distributed across Europe, so it was a pleasure to attend the lively and informative NextGEOSS summit in Lisbon.  The summit showcased our Horizon 2020 project which enables and simplifies the construction of Earth observation applications for research and business alike, with the ultimate goal of extending the use of satellite data.  NextGEOSS facilitates a smooth end-to-end service, from initial data access to compiling final results, including user management, scalable cloud deployment and analytics.

Vibrant mix of 27 environmental data groups

The NextGEOSS community is a vibrant mixture of 27 organisations, comprising a range of research establishments and commercial companies large and small, ably led by Deimos Engenharia of Portugal, an engineering company specialising in space software systems.  NextGEOSS seeks to further the use of Earth observation and address the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, and is a major contributer to GEO, the intergovernmental Group on Earth Observations. NextGEOSS is included in the ESA platform as part of its network of EO resources.

Live NextGEOSS training session

Gathering at the annual summits allows the Europe-wide project team to catch-up and to welcome new users and potential users.  Attending virtual meetings is the way we normally keep in touch but meeting in person is a welcome addition and always stimulating.  Having seen colleagues so many times in virtual meetings and webinars, it is sometimes difficult to recall whether you have met in person before.  And for me, running a live training session in Lisbon was a great way to spread the word on the evolving facilities that NextGEOSS offers in a practical and tangible way.

NextGEOSS is here to stay!

The summit is just one of the ways that NextGEOSS both strives to engage new audiences and to maintain applicability to the scientific and business worlds.  To ensure that NextGEOSS is a relevant and responsive system, a number of pilot applications – trials to test the system for particular sectors and / or challenges – are a vital component, presenting how they have used the different NextGEOSS platform services and the data hub.  These pilots are drawn from a range of societal challenges which can be addressed by satellite imagery, from territorial planning to solar PV assessments to habitat monitoring for biodiversity. The diverse potential applications and the responsiveness of NextGEOSS ensure its long-term future – NextGEOSS is here to stay!

Datasets stay private despite being used alongside open data

The benefits to the team behind each pilot is that NextGEOSS removes some of the barriers to efficiently serving their end-users, by hosting algorithms with scalable processing and enabling private datasets to remain private but be used alongside open Earth observation and other Copernicus or open data.

Bram Janssen, IT architect at VITO, presented on their NextGEOSS pilot application on agricultural monitoring.  VITO is an independent Belgian research organisation for cleantech and sustainable development.  It is the most resource-intensive of the pilots, making greatest use of cloud services to process Sentinel-2 satellite data for vegetation indices for crop monitoring in Belgium and Mali.  The high spatial resolution of Sentinel-2, of 10 to 20 metres, allows within-field variations of crops to be identified.  The VITO work includes in-situ agronomy measurements and weather data.  The service in development is to produce time series of Earth observation data and in-situ data, allowing users – such as farmers – to explore and view the time series without having to download the data.

Our data training reaches new, engaged audiences and builds capacity

Providing training is an integral part of NextGEOSS, another way to reach new audiences and build capacity to allow them to use NextGEOSS resources.  An afternoon was devoted to training, including hands-on and interactive use of parts of the hub and platform.  The topics highlighted key components of the project and were provided first-hand by the developers themselves and comprised:

The talks highlighted the ease of using NextGEOSS.  For example, Alaitz Zabala Torres, lecturer and GIS specialist of UAB introduced user feedback, the system by which users can rate and annotate datasets, including links to papers using that dataset. User feedback is an asset to the NextGEOSS project, providing valuable additional information on open datasets made available via the data catalogue.  Alaitz interactively showed that the user feedback facility can easily be added to a webpage.  Hervé Caumont, programme manager at Terradue, emphasised the flexible scaling and great user support provided by their cloud service, with the greatest challenge of cloud deployment having been found to ease the packaging of all software dependencies, such as software libraries from different versions of Python.  Hector Rodriguez, project engineer with Deimos Space, described the user management system, that access for end-users is part of the NextGEOSS solution and offers simple and secure control.

From air quality to landslides or energy – simplified access to open data

The summit brought together so many talented people and demonstrated that the expertise underlying NextGEOSS simplifies access to and inclusion of Earth observation and other open datasets.  The summit also showcased a range of fascinating and valuable pilot applications, from using satellite data for landslide susceptibility mapping, to investigating air pollution in megacities.  Most importantly, the summit clearly showed how NextGEOSS allows these pilot applications to most effectively serve their end-users, who may be local authorities, farmers, researchers or engineers at power utilities.

NextGEOSS solves the technological issues such as user authentication or scalable processing power, to free the pilots to best use their scientific expertise without that IT overhead. And it’s a very friendly community to work with too!  I’m looking forward to next year’s summit already.

To find more examples of pilot applications, check out the NextGEOSS website and get in touch if you would like to become a new pilot. To keep up to date with NextGEOSS activities follow us on Twitter @NextGEOSS

Ask how the IEA’s data training services can support your business, email info@the-iea.org

Watch this brief video to hear about NextGEOSS, including training, from internal and external users.

Call to action to join NextGEOSS www.nextgeoss.eu
Alaitz Zabala Torres pictured during her presentation to the 3rd NextGEOSS Summit in Lisbon, Portugal.
Alaitz Zabala Torres, lecturer and GIS specialist of Autonomous University of Barcelona.