My mission as CEO and co-founder of Earth Blox is to widen accessibility to the power of satellite data and Earth Observation
The need for satellite data is global, expanding and transcends sector boundaries: it provides all decision-makers with timely intel on spatial-assets. Satellites and planetary-scale data now enable mapping of global changes, including deforestation, urban expansion and continental scale disasters, and modern instrumentation, which is either atmosphere, land or ocean-based reveal that we live on a rapidly-changing planet, leading to increased uncertainties and frequency of extreme events such as droughts, floods and pressure on natural resources.
To adapt and respond to these changes, planetary analyses are required and this is driving an explosive growth in Earth-observation missions. While cloud computing now enables rapid data processing, harnessing the power of global satellite data still requires either coding skills, know-how or a hefty budget.
My RSE Enterprise Fellowship funded the commercialisation of Earth Blox, a company that removes the barriers to the democratisation of global satellite data and intelligence. EarthBlox’s innovation leverages the power of cloud processing without the need for computer coding or high-level Earth-observation expertise. It enables the processing of Petabytes of planetary scale geospatial data and the creation and download of actionable insights with unprecedented power and ease. It is “Lego for EO data processing”, offering full flexibility for users: novice users rely on pre-built Earth Blox solutions with simple instructions (workflows); intermediate users customise these workflows for particular needs; and advanced users build entirely new workflows. Different users can exploit satellite data at the click-of-a-button, while allowing customisation on-par with expert users.
Adding value to Scotland
The RSE Enterprise Fellowship spearheaded the commercialisation of Earth Blox. Earth Blox is a cloud-based mapping software which democratises access to planetary scale satellite intelligence by removing the need for coding skills and deep domain expertise. With Earth Blox, anyone can create their own satellite data application. Being cloud-based means that it can be used anywhere and requires low bandwidth.
The economic and social impacts of Earth Blox are wide-ranging:
- Earth Blox makes satellite imagery accessible to everyone when boots-on-the-ground are not possible (Covid-19 travel restrictions a particular case-in-point). Space-data enables users to reach anywhere: making space-data accessible and easy-to-use is timely.
- By enabling more users of Earth-Observation data and empowering them to use advanced satellite data analytics, Earth Blox widens access to new stakeholders and facilitates an increased engagement with EO at all levels of decision making.
- By increasing usage and access, Earth Blox contributes to the Space and Satellite component of the Data-Driven Innovation (DDI) initiative, which is part of a £1.3bn Scottish Government investment over 10yrs to develop skills and innovation in, and around, Edinburgh.
- Nationally, Earth Blox contributes to two out of four of the UK Government’s Industrial Strategy Grand Challenges – Artificial Intelligence & Data and Clean Growth – by bringing Petabytes of satellite data to new users and simplifying access to algorithms.
- Through our direct links with global universities, Earth Blox already impacts on the education sector by enabling students’ engagement with EO data (despite Covid disruptions to lab-based teaching).
- The potential for social improvement in natural-resource-rich/expertise-poor, developing countries is particularly stringent. Through our direct work with GEO, Google, and UNEP, Earth Blox will reach 130 UN country teams to enhance national capacities to meet several Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEAs) by easing the integration of EO data into national strategies and early warning. These include: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (targets 1,11,13,15,16); the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030 (target G); Paris Agreement on Climate Change (Actions 1,2,3); the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands of International Importance; the Convention on Biological Diversity; and the UN Convention to Combat Desertification; the New Urban Agenda (UN-Habitat). In this line of work, Earth Blox has attracted strong interest from Google’s Geo4Good global community of 1600 delegates from over 100 countries. Google selected Earth Blox to lead two virtual meet up sessions with global participants incl. from the World Wildlife Fund, the FAO (Food & Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations), UNEP and the Alliance for Biodiversity Knowledge.
With its global reach, Earth Blox will strive in the years to come to raise Scotland’s profile and strengthen its connections with the world.
Being able to share this entrepreneurial experience with the other RSE Enterprise Fellows has also been priceless as the personal and professional challenges faced in starting a business are huge, which make the support and advice during this journey really important.
Advice for future recipients
Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall
If you really want it, put in the effort: success is 95% effort, 5% talent.
Leading Earth Blox: delivering satellite intelligence to all that need it.
Satellite data is nearly ubiquitous and can help better understand how the Earth is changing, improve decision making, inform policy and deliver emergency relief. With satellites, we can now monitor many of the physical, economic and social characteristics of the Earth. The power of satellite intelligence combined with artificial intelligence and machine learning is huge and continues to grow