EO Earth Observation Road Infrastructure Fire Forum

Earth Observation Application for Infrastructure Sector 

As the CEO and co-founder of Spottitt, a company that leverages Earth Observation (EO) data to provide actionable insights for various industries, I have seen first-hand the immense potential of EO for the Infrastructure Sector alongside the adoption challenges faced by infrastructure owners and operators.

Over the past 15+ months, I’ve also had the honor of being nominated the Fire Forum EO Evangelist for Infrastructure, championing the development and implementation of Earth Observation-based services for the benefit of our critical infrastructures such as roads, railways, bridges, power lines, pipelines and more.

The recently published FIRE Forum Infrastructure Roadmap provides a valuable resource for stakeholders in the sector. It identifies several areas where EO can be used to support infrastructure development, including asset management, environmental monitoring, and disaster response. It also highlights the need for increased collaboration between EO data providers, infrastructure stakeholders, and policymakers to ensure that EO is effectively integrated into the infrastructure decision-making processes.

Current State of EO Adoption Across the Infrastructure Sector

The infrastructure sector has indirectly used EO for many years but in the form of surveying, mapping, monitoring, and disaster response. However, recent advances in satellite technology, data analytics, and machine learning have opened up new opportunities for EO to support various stages of the infrastructure lifecycle, including planning, design, construction, and operation. For example, EO can be used to identify suitable locations for infrastructure development, monitor construction progress, and detect potential issues during operation. EO can also provide valuable insights into infrastructure development’s environmental and social impact.

Constraints to EO Adoption Across the Infrastructure Sector

Despite the potential benefits of EO, adoption across the infrastructure sector has been slow. 

One reason is a lack of awareness and understanding of EO among infrastructure stakeholders. Many infrastructure professionals are unfamiliar with what EO technology can and cannot deliver, who they should partner with and how to integrate the insights generated to support their work.

Another challenge is the lack of data standards and interoperability. Infrastructure stakeholders use a variety of data formats, standards and platforms not always offered by EO service providers.

The FIRE Forum roadmap addresses these challenges by calling for increased education and training programs for infrastructure professionals, as well as the development of data standards and interoperability frameworks to enable the integration of EO data with other data sources.

The last constraint to massive EO adoption is the cost of EO data, analytics and the integration required. The availability of EO data, both commercial and free and open source, has grown exponentially over the last few years, driving down price points, yet EO data is still perceived as terribly expensive. So once an infrastructure owner has done the easy part a clarified the cost of the EO data they would need, they then need to estimate the cost of developing the analytics and integrating them into their Business As Usual systems, and this cost and complexity present a real challenge for some infrastructure stakeholders. 

Opportunities for EO Across the Infrastructure Sector

There are many opportunities for EO from across the infrastructure life cycle. One of the most beneficial areas is asset operation and management. EO can be used to monitor the condition of infrastructure assets such as roads, bridges, and pipelines, allowing for predictive maintenance and reducing the risk of failure.

EO can also be used to support sustainable infrastructure development. By monitoring the impact of infrastructure on the environment, EO can help identify opportunities to reduce the environmental footprint of infrastructure projects.

Another application is making infrastructure more climate resilient. Due to climate change, infrastructures are increasingly exposed to conditions different to those they were originally designed for, such as extreme weather. Using EO data we can better understand the different climate conditions experienced by our clients’ assets and how that has changed over time. This information can help our clients better protect their critical assets from damage. 

One more opportunity for EO in infrastructure is the integration of EO data with other data sources such as geospatial data, sensor data, and social media data. This integration can provide a more comprehensive view of infrastructure performance and help identify areas for improvement.

Path to Massive Adoption of EO Across the Infrastructure Sector

Several actions need to be taken to facilitate massive adoption of EO in infrastructure. 

One of the most important actions is to increase awareness and understanding of EO among infrastructure stakeholders. This can be achieved through education and training programs, as well as outreach efforts to demonstrate the value of EO in infrastructure development.

Another action is to develop data standards and interoperability frameworks that enable the integration of EO data with other data sources. This can be achieved through collaboration between infrastructure stakeholders and EO data providers.

Finally, efforts need to be made to reduce the cost of EO data and analytics. This can be achieved through innovation in satellite technology and analytics, as well as the development of new business models that make EO data and analytics more accessible and affordable for infrastructure stakeholders.

EO has immense potential in infrastructure development, yet adoption in the sector is still in its early stages. 

By working together, we can unlock the full potential of EO in infrastructure development and build more sustainable and resilient infrastructure for the future.

The work done is part of the project co-financed by NCBR.

Spottitt Has Got You Covered

You do not need to identify, contact, negotiate and select satellite imagery providers, as it can be challenging, especially if you are new to the sector.

You do not need to hire and train machine learning and GIS specialists. We already have internally all required competencies and processes successfully operating for years.

Without a hustle, you get turnkey analytics from our cloud-based platform, which is highly customisable to your risk and asset management model.

Lucy Kennedy
Lucy Kennedy

Spottitt CEO and FIRE EO Evangelist for Infrastructure

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