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### Unleashing Satellite Data’s Hidden Potential with AI

Industry report calls for greater use of AI to extract untapped value from satellite data

There are around 1,200 satellites dedicated to Earth observation currently circling the planet, developed by private companies, which gather extensive data to monitor changes in the environment and economy. This sector, heavily reliant on government contracts linked to defense and intelligence, is now shifting its focus towards attracting climate-conscious clients who can harness space-derived data to generate value for both their enterprises and the environment.

A recent report from the World Economic Forum and Deloitte has underscored this transition, highlighting the industry’s endeavors to engage new users interested in climate applications. This shift was a prominent topic of discussion at the WEF meeting in Davos, Switzerland, held last week.

The World Economic Forum has consistently demonstrated interest in this domain, as evidenced by their 2021 publication, “Space for Net Zero,” which stresses the crucial role of satellites in understanding climate change.

At the Davos gathering, Brett Loubert, a partner at Deloitte overseeing the company’s space division, led a panel discussion on Earth observation satellites, delving into strategies for broadening the industry’s user base.

Entities in this sector are intensifying educational initiatives to educate businesses, non-profits, and other organizations about the varied applications of satellite data for monitoring assets such as forests and emissions. They are also exploring innovative approaches to harness artificial intelligence and machine learning for automated data analysis, with the goal of extracting maximum value from the data.

While the demand for conventional intelligence applications remains strong, there is an increasing need for data pertaining to climate, sustainability, precision agriculture, and ESG reporting standards. Companies are turning to satellite technology more and more to monitor greenhouse gas emissions, like carbon dioxide, and are investing in specialized tools to address specific use cases such as methane tracking.

To validate their ESG efforts, companies need reliable data to support their environmental, social, and governance performance assertions, ensuring transparency and credibility in their sustainability endeavors.

Although U.S. government agencies like NASA and NOAA provide extensive data resources free of charge, there is a growing call for more customized solutions that require private sector investments in advanced technologies.

In a bid to showcase commercial feasibility, operators of Earth observation satellites are introducing open platforms to facilitate access and underscore the business advantages. This strategic maneuver aligns with the industry’s overarching goal of broadening its customer base following significant investments in satellite and ground infrastructure.

The recent Earth observation market panel at the WEF forum stressed the importance of ongoing communication among data providers, users, and investors, acknowledging the potential for collaboration in propelling climate and sustainability initiatives forward.

As highlighted by Loubert, advancements in AI capabilities and computing power are poised to unlock new application possibilities, enabling business users to derive insights directly from the data. This progression mirrors the transformative impact of technologies like ChatGPT, paving the way for more user-friendly interfaces that empower a wider audience beyond data scientists.

In conclusion, while technological progress is reducing existing disparities, concerted collective action and increased investments are vital to realizing the full benefits necessary for achieving climate objectives, as outlined in the Deloitte report.

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Last modified: January 23, 2024
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