With the many challenges facing our planet — societal, economic, environmental, and more — I was extremely proud to lead a team to design, architect, build, and release the UrtheCast Developer Platform to the market, which became publicly available and offered tools to help people solve global problems. I firmly believed that the key to the product offering would be a clean, human-centered design that elicited ease of use and the beautiful imagery would come through, so that the harder stuff like remote sensing models, computer vision, machine learning, and artificial intelligence became attainable.
Tools for understanding global change
What this beta platform did was open up access to a deep trove of Earth Observation data, at an unprecedented scale. Built by developers for developers, the UrtheCast platform made it easy for devs to build tools to monitor deforestation, refugee crises, environmental change, impacts of natural disasters, urban growth, natural resources, commodities trading, and much more.
Pulling satellite imagery from a variety of sensors at different resolutions, developers could leverage the growing suite of camera sensors — two ISS sensors and two stand-alone satellite sensors — in addition to third-party providers like NASA. Imagery, video, and metadata are extracted from all of these sources to provide developers with an increasingly rich archive. Our groundbreaking suite of Earth APIs, services, and tools all allowed for increased access to Earth Observation and geospatial data.
Follow world events
Areas of interest across the world could now be monitored programmatically, and at a global scale. Part of my vision (which still remains a vision), was to create AOIs that are much more alive using events and notifications much like a PubSub model but on an area on the planet that can be programmed against. This gives researchers, scientists, farmers, traders, policy makers, and others access to near realtime data streams about our Earth.
Free access was available for everyone, as were advanced developer subscription plans. These APIs were built on open, modern web standards, and there’s no need to be a geospatial expert to leverage the power of the platform to gain insights of the ever-changing planet.
Beta platform highlights
Search multi-mission, multi-sensor imagery archive
Track Areas of Interest (AOIs)
Subscribe to global events
Order and download imagery
Place imagery on any map
Render vegetation health, deforestation, water indices, and other analytics on-the-fly
Inspiration and a Call to Action for Innovation in Geospatial
A select group of innovators began to use the data and platform services, including the World Resource Institute, Global Forest Watch, the United Nations’ UNITAR, OmniEarth, and Riverside Research, among others. The platform remains an inspiration to me and many others in the industry to iterate, and advance the art of the possible for geospatial platforms.