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Cloud Computing, Data Policy on Track to ‘Democratize’ Satellite Mapping.

South Dakota State University (03/24/11)

New U.S. Geological Survey data policies and advances in cloud computing are leading to the democratization of satellite mapping, which could lead to wider access to information about the earth through platforms such as the Google Earth Engine. “This is an incredible advantage in terms of generating the value-added products that we create for quantifying deforestation, natural hazards, cropland area, urbanization, you name it,” says South Dakota State University (SDSU) professor Matt Hansen. He says free satellite images, coupled with the cloud computing capability offered by Google and similar organizations, is making it possible for ordinary users to analyze satellite imagery without costly hardware. Hansen and SDSU postdoctoral researcher Peter Potapov collaborated with Google to help process more than 50,000 images in order to generate a detailed map of Mexico to demonstrate the technology’s potential. Enhanced publicly available processing tools will democratize satellite data processing as more people become engaged in working with the data. However, Hansen notes that this will entail greater collaboration between academics, government scientists, and private industry in processing and characterizing the satellite data sets.

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