The OpenEO research project aims to make it easy to use Earth observation data from satellites to answer questions on land use, from environment and agriculture to biodiversity and ecology. Open source software plays a crucial role.
“We make all of our code publicly available as open source,” says Edzer Pebesma, Professor of Geoinformatics at the University of Münster. “That allows others to check the science in our methods. In addition, it lets them build upon our work.” Professor Pebesma and his colleagues hope this will encourage enough people to join the project to make its future services sustainable.
The three-year EU-funded project is almost halfway through, and the researchers are getting ready to publish a new version of the application programming interface. For each request, the API will automatically know when to use data gathered by LandSat, Sentinel, Copernicus or other satellites, and help users select the right level of detail. It will harmonise communication between data repositories, simplify the selection of parameters such as area, time period and satellite bands, and allow users to query the data regardless of their computing environment.
Analysing satellite data, mostly done through computer calculations, can become rather expensive. By making such queries easier there will be an increase in the number of questions, and that will bring down the prices charged by the data centres hosting the satellite data. “That means it becomes cheaper to repeat experiments, double-check calculations, or mix data from different satellites,” Professor Pebesma says. “That increases trust in the data and methods, which again will help create more demand.”
The first users of the OpenEO services will likely include other geoscientists, environmental agencies, and specialists working with land registries in the public sector. For them, the results will be decisions and actions that are supported by Earth observation information and services. However, the API can be used by anybody interested in using satellite data, including farmers, NGOs and journalists.