Friday, June 3, 2011

Improving access to historical and new imagery

The use of geospatial information has exploded in the recent years, and the vision expressed by Jack Dangermond several years back “GIS is for Everyone” has come true. Consumer mapping is the new reality, and imagery is a key reason for this.

As a developer of software tools and solutions that enhance the ArcGIS platform, PCI Geomatics is working closely with Esri to make imagery more accessible to non remote sensing experts. Imagery, as the new basemap, provides that instant connection to geography. Anyone looking at imagery, especially high resolution, can make an immediate connection to the features they can see – their house, their car, their school, their neighbourhoods, community centre, etc.

Current operational satellite missions are many, and vary from coarse resolution (with large spatial coverage) to medium and high resolution (with decreasing spatial coverage). Spectral bands and sensor types are also many, ranging from multi-spectral sensors, hyperspectral sensors, and also Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) sensors. The latest trends are to operate satellite missions as constellations, as we have seen with RapidEye, and TerraSAR for example.

Consumer mapping applications have grown exponentially, but I cannot help to think that we are only scratching the surface. Stored away in the archives are incredible volumes of multi resolution, multi spectral, multi sensor, and multi temporal information from these earth observation sensors. What applications can be developed using this rich source of information? Finding out requires that imagery be accessible, and tools make discovering, accessing, analyzing, and disseminating/sharing information derived from imagery as easy as it is for hundreds of millions of people to download a geospatial application like Google Earth, or adopt the use of map based local search sites such as Google Maps, Bing, Yahoo Maps, or MapQuest.

Esri has made incredible advances in building a platform that enables sharing of geospatial information, deploying the infrastructure for hosting and sharing geospatial information, such as ArcGIS. Together with Esri, PCI Geomatics is working to develop easy to use tools and offer solutions that will allow users to tap into those rich sources of historical data mentioned above.

An oft overlooked, but critical step in extracting valuable information from these varied sources of imagery is pre-processing. PCI supports the Esri platform by offering automated means of co-registering raster layers to each other in a completely automated manner – vector layers can also be used as a reference – by bringing data into pixel perfect aligment using a well known environment (ArcGIS), non-remote sensing experts are empowered to discover applications of imagery that have not yet been created. Our extension, GeoImaging Tools for ArcGIS will help make this possible. We are also working to deploy our advanced, automated image processing technology to the cloud, making imagery accessibility and more importantly accurate analysis available on in a pervasive manner. And lastly, we are working to make SAR Analysis tools available for ArcGIS users, recognizing the increasing use and interest in Radar base Earth Observation information.

Terry Moloney
President and CEO, PCI Geomatics