July 2015

Satellite Images Create Better Business

9 July 2015

In March, Dr Peter Woodgate chaired a panel discussion in Melbourne around the benefits and technological leaps of digital globes, and the practicalities and business opportunities of satellite imagery.

The following article is an extract from that panel discussion featuring Ching-Yu Hu, Co-Founder and Director of Marketing and Customer Relations with Skybox Imaging.

Skybox Imaging came out of a Stanford business plan class.

Ching-Yu, Dan Berkenstock, Julian Mann and John Fenwick wrote the business plan for Skybox as part of a graded course, with the idea to index the earth with the Google index and the internet.

Over five years, the Stanford graduates raised about US$100 million in venture capital financing, hired the smartest people they knew and scaled from four to about 140 people.

“Our idea was to launch a constellation of imaging satellites that could take high resolution imagery and video – hourly over every spot on earth – to combine with a data platform to be able to process, store and index all the features of the world”.

Five years into the plan, Skybox launched its first satellite and took the first picture which turned out to be over Perth.

Skybox is not about selling imagery. It’s about selling the analytics to the people who need information daily to build their businesses ahead of the competition.

In the oil industry, with the consistent daily imaging of Saudi Arabia’s Ra's al Ju`aymah export terminal, data can be extracted. In oil storage tanks the roof goes up and down based on how much oil is stored. With day-on-day monitoring, Skybox can look at the shadows cast by the lids and use automatic calculations to determine how much oil is stored. This information has a ready market with oil traders and oil dependant companies.

From satellite imagery using high resolution, Skybox has turned still images into video which resulted in a world first high definition video from space.

For business there is information that can be taken from beyond imagery. There is velocity and directional images. For example, within the shipping industry by looking at the wake created by a ship, the weight of the ship can be calculated to determine if the ship is heaving or not which provides shipping companies with the ability to act before damage occurs.

And with the market demand and increasing number of start-ups launching into the market, will come new regulations to suit the burgeoning technology. As with all new technology, the power of what it can do is still unknown, especially as it becomes more timely and with higher resolution.
The journey of bettering business with images has just begun.

Further details about Skybox Imagery can be found here. Image and Video Credit: Skybox Imaging, Inc.

The Communication Nub

from Jessica Purbrick-Herbst

Keeping the spatial information network up-to-date on what’s happening here at CRCSI HQ and across our research program and commercialisation opportunities is the foundation of my activities.

The CRCSI has undergone some subtle changes to ease the process of discovery for new and existing participants and partners to be across the breadth of work undertaken by the CRCSI and its research partners; business development restructure to provide one-on-one connections with each partner in our network, online presence that highlights impact and commercialisation opportunities, and a broadening of communication through a range of platforms.

As we move towards a new entity in 2018, we will continue to highlight the progress of projects and importantly the opportunities for commercialisation and further investment.

With this in mind, the annual CRCSI conference – held in Melbourne from 25-27 November is themed Outcomes, Application, Adoption. A program outline is now available with invitations for registration occurring from August.

Our invitation-only conference for our partners, research community, participants and members is the once-a-year event that brings together the 400 individuals from across the globe who make up the research, investment and utilisation intellect of the CRCSI. Along with the opportunity to connect with the spatial industry’s best of the best, it's a chance to mix with the next generation of spatial leaders through our education program – 35 PhD and masters students.

This year there is an open invitation to CRCSI participants, partners and 43pl members to attend the afternoon session of the education day on Tuesday 25 November at RMIT to either be part of or listen to “The Pitch”. This unique occasion captures early stage ideas and the people who will lead the way.

If you are keen to learn more about The Pitch, please email me at jpurbrickherbst@crcsi.com.au with your interest.

From pitching to research ideas.

The new and improved research proposal templates are now available online.

To apply for funding, 43pl members, partners and participants are encouraged to explore the range of funding criteria in discussion with the relevant Program Managers before completing a research proposal. Additional questions can be directed to the Program Science Directors or Research Director Dr Phil Collier.

There are four templates to choose from depending on the project proposal cash requests. These are:

  • Major Project Proposal: use this template for cash requests over $50k and/or total project cost (cash + in kind) over $150k
  • Small Project Proposal: use this template for cash requests under $50k and total project cost (cash + in kind) under $150k
  • PhD-only Project Proposal: use this template for projects requesting funds for a PhD scholarship only
  • Exceptional Spatial Ideas: use this template for projects that expand the current scope and focus of the utilisation and application of spatial information. Cash requests up to $100k are available through this scheme.

We are particularly keen to receive proposals for exceptional spatial ideas. These proposals must support the exploration and validation of new ideas and opportunities in the spatial sciences, push the boundaries of current approaches, and challenge existing paradigms.

Applicants can be any CRCSI participant organisation (academic, private, government) or consortium of these organisations.

A project example that used the Exceptional Spatial Ideas Scheme as a funding platform is Place as a vital sign of health. In collaboration with Curtin University this project examined patient record data held by general practitioners to identify and explore correlations between Type II Diabetes incidence and treatment outcomes and the physical location of patient populations.

Further details about the Exceptional Spatial Ideas Scheme, along with templates for the four research proposals can be downloaded here.

43pl Members, Partners and Participants

Pitching research ideas

Pitching research ideas to the CRCSI can occur at any time.

By using the research proposal templates and working with the relevant Program Manager, 43pl members, partners and participants can gain early access and lead the direction of the research process at the conceptual stage of the work. This is the most common entry point for organisations to get involved with the CRCSI research program.

There are times throughout the year when the CRCSI sends out expressions of interest for a particular piece of research, theme or idea generation workshop. This is another opportunity for 43pl members, partners and participants to get involved.

Midway or towards the completion of a project or research piece, the CRCSI works with the research team to identify a skills need or end-user requirement. Should there be a need for additional input, the CRCSI will directly approach or seek expressions of interest from 43pl members, partners and participants.

At the completion of the project there are opportunities for 43pl members, partners and participants to work with the CRCSI to commercialise the project output, gain access to intellectual property or invest in the further development of the technology.

Details of the research proposal template, from concept to funding can be found here and commercial opportunities and technology investment can be found here.

Initial enquires either at the beginning of a project or during the mid-term to completion stage should be directed to Dr Phil Collier, CRCSI Research Director, and the Program Managers and Science Directors are available to provide initial advice and feedback on conceptual ideas.

Success in Partnerships

VPAC Innovations

CRCSI partner and software developer VPAC Innovations recently claimed the 2015 iAwards Victoria prize for LandBlade in the Research and Development category. LandBlade is a web-based geospatial modelling tool which provides search capabilities for digital data including image-based, satellite, weather, geology, socio-economic and demographic.

The CRCSI worked collaboratively with the Victorian Government through the Land Capability Management (LCM) project to integrate the technology stack Epiphanee™ – a powerful spatial query and visual analytics tool that uses sophisticated privacy filters to maintain anonymity compliance behind LandBlade.

Ergon Energy

Using spatial intelligence and automated analytics designed to improve risk management, disaster response and safety performance, CRCSI partner Ergon Energy collected the International Edison Award for 2015.

Ergon Energy earned the International Edison Award for developing and implementing the innovative ROAMES Virtual World Asset Management System. With a highly dispersed network spanning varying climatic conditions, Ergon was challenged in managing the network’s safe interaction with the surrounding environment, including vegetation, ground levels, buildings and storms. To meet these challenges, Ergon developed the ROAMES Virtual World Asset Management System – a commercially attractive solution around spatial intelligence and automated analytics designed to improve risk management, disaster response and safety performance, while reducing costs and enhancing its customer service and value proposition.

A critical enabler for ROAMES is the Flight Assist System (FAS), which was created under the CRCSI by the Queensland University of Technology’s (QUT) Australian Research Centre for Aerospace Automation. Through optimisation of the flight management and planning for large-scale infrastructure aerial surveys, and the development of technology to deliver a system that laterally guides a survey aircraft along a predefined route, QUT and CRCSI created a cost effective solution to enable ROAMES to conduct aerial surveys using a LiDAR sensor mounted underneath the aircraft. This has resulted in a reduction in pilot workload to undertake the annual survey of 160 000 km of powerline assets, and an improved efficacy of data capture. This spatial data is then presented in an interactive, 3-D visualisation environment using Google Earth layers or through an existing client GIS system.

The ROAMES system allows infrastructure managers to investigate and monitor the condition and performance of the network in extremely high fidelity, all without the need to deploy workers in the field. This system improves safety and efficiency and lowers costs, all of which benefit customers.

“Ergon’s ROAMES system offers a cutting-edge solution to many of the challenges of managing the company’s transmission and distribution system, which spans across a vast and geographically harsh area,” said Edison Electric Institute President Tom Kuhn.

“This innovative technology will benefit customers and has the potential for broad application within and beyond the electric power industry. Ergon is truly deserving of the Edison Award.”

Additional reporting by Edison Electric Institute.

Australian Laureate Fellows

National Cancer Atlas and Spatial Temporal Modelling Project Leader Professor Kerrie Mengersen was awarded one of 15 Australian Laureate Fellows as announced by the Minister for Education and Training, the Hon. Christopher Pyne MP on 23 June.

Hosted by one of the CRCSI partners QUT, Professor Mengersen received $2.4 million to develop new techniques in evidence-based learning and decision-making in the big data era.

Big data has arrived, and with it a huge global demand for statistical knowledge and skills to analyse this data for improved learning and decision-making. This project will seek to address the need for statistical knowledge and skills to analyse big data by creating a step-change in knowledge in Bayesian statistics and translating this knowledge to real-world challenges in industry, environment and health.

The project Bayesian learning for decision making in the big data era, will also create capacity at national and international levels through the delivery of trained statistical analysts.

Spatial Maturity in Health

Australian researchers Dr Ori Gudes (Curtin University and CRCSI), Narelle Mullan (Curtin University and CRCSI) and Professor Tarun Weeramanthri (WA Department of Health and CRCSI) delved into spatial maturity in Western Australian health organisations. This pilot study – Spatial Maturity in a Health Agency – developed a framework and tool to evaluate the use of spatial technology at an organisational level.

Determining spatial maturity within an organisation (this is its capability to use spatial data to support operational and strategic functions) meant developing a four-stage research framework. The framework is the survey, group discussions, analysis and recommendations. See Figure 1.

Spatial maturity conceptual frameworkAlthough this pilot study focused on health, the framework is generic so that it can be used to benchmark, provide baseline and monitor progress of organisational spatial health.

"We hope this report will reinforce to readers that there is more to technology adoption than ‘cool tools’, that a generic framework is available to look at ‘capacity to use’, that mixed methods analysis can lead to critical organisational insights, and that we can thereby better realise the potential of spatial technology to contribute to better organisational performance", said research team members, Dr Ori Gudes, Narelle Mullan and Professor Tarun Weeramanthri.

Understanding organisational spatial maturity is relevant to businesses operating across a broad spectrum of sectors: from roads, transport, education, mining and energy, communications (mobile, internet), disaster relief and food security.

The insight from this report has provided valuable learnings into how people are using spatial information to make more strategic decisions and respond to operational activities.

The full report can be downloaded here.

Controlled Language Finds Results

A non-technical reference to making sense of ontologies and vocabularies

A controlled vocabulary is a way to insert an interpretive layer of semantics between the term entered by the user and the underlying database to better represent the original intention of the terms of the user. Ontologies are the study of what kinds of things exist or can exist in relation to other things.

In context of Program 3, it’s our ability to search the internet using common words or phrases to bring up results that only relate to our particular search.

Simply put, if I’m searching for coffee in Carlton, I only want to see results for coffee Carlton (Melbourne, Victoria, Australia) as it’s relevant to my location and my search.

By developing a controlled vocabulary we can insert an interpretation (or a layer) between my internet search [coffee in Carlton] and the database [google.com] it draws upon.

Sounds easy? Read on…

An environment scan of tools for ontologies and vocabularies

Ontologies represent ideas that guide the development of the semantic web to link ideas on the web. By understanding the different representations of ideas, the semantic web can derive meaning from the technologies of ontology which now have the beginnings of axioms and rules. These axioms and rules are facilitating the checking for compliance of the data being stored against the data representations within the different ontologies.

The term ontology is one that is used with various different meanings. At different points in time these different definitions can be contradictory.

Curtin University Research Fellow Dr David McMeekin has released a report on ontologies, vocabularies and various tools, an environment scan of tools for ontologies and vocabularies.

The search for words results in different uses and meanings. Over the internet this can produce the wide-ranging relevant to irrelevant return on any key word search. The use of a controlled vocabulary within computing terms will return a more relevant collection of information.

Dr McMeekin writes that a vocabulary has been considered a special type of ontology, and in many cases is simply a collection of URIs with a described meaning (semanticweb.org). An ontology is a way in which data can be represented and vocabularies are a type of data.

The term ontology is one that is used with various different meanings. At different points in time these different definitions can be contradictory – such as 40 different terms used as types of ontologies or at least ontological frameworks. With this number of terms often used in reference to ontologies it is quite understandable that there may be misunderstandings as well as misinformation about ontologies.

Validation of Dr McMeekin’s report findings was received recently by the global Geosemantics community through the Open Geospatial Consortium.

Capturing rules and building them into a semantic system is where a lot of the research is focusing at the moment. Further work on the semantic web includes the inferencing (deriving logical conclusions) about objects represented via the ontologies and the possibility of inferencing via multiple levels checking for dependencies.

Dr McMeekin's report is the first comprehensive compendium of tools in this area. A copy of the report can be downloaded here. To find out more about the work of Program 3.01 Semantic Web Technologies, click here.

Analysis of Land Movements in Christchurch

The work of Professor Chris Rizos (CRCSI Project Leader) at the University of New South Wales (UNSW) and Nic Donnelly (PhD student) at Land Information New Zealand (LINZ) is using the land movements of Christchurch (New Zealand) to provide reference for future positioning and mapping needs.

Project 1.02 is researching what the next generation of geodetic datums (or reference frames) for Australia and New Zealand need to look like to meet positioning and mapping needs in light of rapidly evolving technologies and user requirements.

One of the greatest challenges for New Zealand’s national datum is the accurate modelling of earthquake-induced land movements. The 2010 and 2011 sequence of earthquakes in the Canterbury region of the South Island resulted in horizontal movements of several metres close to the Greendale Fault (Figure 1). Associated phenomena such as soil liquefaction also resulted in smaller, shallower movements that varied rapidly over short distances. The city of Christchurch was particularly impacted by this shallow movement. One of the consequences is that it has been difficult for surveyors in some parts of Christchurch to determine where the property boundaries as described on land titles are located.

1.02 fig 1 canterbury earthquakes

Figure 1: Tectonic movements near Christchurch

To better understand the nature and scope of this challenge, Project 1.02 partners LINZ and the UNSW have undertaken research to establish the extent of shallow ground movement in Christchurch. This has involved the analysis of about seven thousand cadastral and geodetic survey marks with observations both before and after the earthquakes.

The existing deformation models for the earthquakes were first enhanced to better reflect the observed tectonic movement in the Christchurch area. This meant that the overall tectonic signal could be removed so that the analysis could focus on the shallower, more localised movements which were of particular interest for this research due to their greater impact on property boundary location.

A number of filters and corrections were applied to the cadastral coordinates to account for various anomalies in those coordinates. For example, the cadastral data was corrected to account for the fact that post-earthquake surveys carried out before the geodetic control was updated, yet were still using pre-earthquake control coordinates. Once coordinate changes at survey marks had been determined, these were interpolated onto a grid from which shallow surface movement across the city could be visualised.

1.02 fig 2 shallow movementFigure 2: Shallow land movements in north-east Christchurch. Darker red indicates areas of greater movement. Blue dots represent the geodetic and cadastral marks used in the analysis

Professor Rizos and Nic Donnelly believe this is the first time that geodetic modelling techniques have been applied to cadastral data to determine land movements over a large area. 

Further details about this project can be found here.

Woody Vegetation Tools

Open source tools to monitor and map woody vegetation in Australian forests

Completed in May 2015, the Woody Vegetation Project (2.07) produced tools and procedures to auto-generate landscape level woody vegetation features, such as spatial layers, from field and remote sensing woody vegetation data. The metrics are assessed to inform carbon accounting, biodiversity and ecosystem health, and fire management.

State and federal land managers have a mandate to map and report on Australian native woody vegetation. The achievements of this project are the ability to characterise woody vegetation ecosystems with automated feature generation using ground, airborne and satellite image and ranging data.

The characterisation of woody vegetation ecosystems lead to the development of open source software and guidelines to assist sustainable land management in decision-making and monitoring, mapping and natural resource management activities.

Based on Australian eucalyptus forests, the software is relevant and usable in non-eucalypt forests in Australia along with eucalyptus forests globally.

To access to the software and guidelines, please click here. Full project details can be found here.

Team CRCSI on Tour

Where the CRCSI team has been

Geohealth in Sweden

In June, two of the CRCSI team headed to Sweden for the Future Position X (FPX) Geo-Life Region 2015 Roundtable. The three day event brought together 15 research leaders from Australia, Canada, China, UK, USA and Sweden including CRCSI CEO Dr Peter Woodgate and Health Program Manager Narelle Mullan.

The talks were characterised by openness and ambition to carry ideas into action as multi-country collaboration.

The Roundtable agenda involved an update on existing research collaborations, including the joint FPX-CRCSI Sensing City project. Emerging opportunities in the spatial sector were discussed and collectively members considered the potential impact of these opportunities on the long-term vision of the GeoLife Region research agenda.

Other issues under consideration included the geohealth ecosystem platform for data acquisition from test pilots and related smart city data.

A range of innovative research ideas was presented with particular focus on how mobile sensors can add value to existing health and environmental data sources. 

FTX ImageThe group will convene again in September.

A visit to Bangladesh

Rapid Spatial Analytics Program Manager, Dr Nathan Quadros spent a week in Bangladesh in June working with the Bangladesh Meteorological Division and the World Bank.
Nathan reflects on his trip.

“As most people would be aware, Bangladesh is one of the most susceptible countries in the world to coastal inundation and flooding. The Government of Bangladesh is now supporting the acquisition of better coastal topography and bathymetry for flood forecasting”.

Being monsoon season, Nathan wondered at the horrendous traffic that took four hours to travel eight kilometres, ironic given his meeting with key stakeholders to discuss concerns about flooding and data needs.

“It was fantastic to work on a critical project for the country, and to be supported by the World Bank”.

Now with the background visit complete, Nathan will work with the World Bank to develop a cost-effective strategy for acquiring coastal elevation in this low-lying, turbid delta.

Nathan’s previous work in coastal elevation resulted in the development of visualisation tools and training in coastal risk assessments in Vanuatu with project partner NGIS. This work also provided valuable emergency response information in the immediate days after Cyclone Pam.