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Explore the unexplored with DigitalGlobe`s GBDX

by Pubali Mukherjee

21st century is a digital world. Almost everything that is quantifiable leaves a digital trace. Although apparently it looks like it is invisible but in reality every day we are adding massive amounts of data to our data inventory all around the world. But very accurate knowledge is required to analyse this data and extract the underlying information and exactly that is where Big Data comes in. Big Data can give perspective on us and our society to understand our surroundings better, comprehend better and provide a scalable and sustainable solution to a lot of challenging issues around the world. Satellite imagery is no exception when it comes to massive amounts of data yet unexplored. Satellite imagery is not only pleasing to look at but underneath those picturesque scenarios lies huge information in the form of trillions of pixel information which human brain just cannot process.

DigitalGlobe (DG) has spent the last decade analysing satellite imagery and has the most advanced constellation of satellites which can image the Earth with unprecedented accuracy. It has been a motto in DG that in order to see a better world; we have to see the world better. DG`s imagery archive goes back to 15 years and it has massive amount of satellite data amounting to about 70 petabytes covering around 3,000,000 square kms of earth surface every day. DG`s customers can utilize the vast expanse of high resolution imagery to solve intricate problems by using GBDX, which is a cloud based robust platform where customers can find , extract information from DG`s inventory. A huge amount of satellite data has two major problems:

1. Data is difficult to acquire.

2. Infrastructure needed is difficult to support

GBDX platform addresses these issues. The users can create valuable customer solutions without the cost of owning data. The user can use pre-defined tools to analyse the data, or create a new algorithm to serve customized needs. In simple words it is a robust platform to extract information from imagery through application of a variety of algorithms, all these can be accessed through their APIs. The currently available algorithms are Land Use, Land cover, orthorectifying, car counting, atmospheric compensation and many others. If the user wants a different application, option of uploading customized algorithm is available but there is a very structured procedure for that. The whole GBDX platform runs in Amazon Web service (AWS) cloud platform which makes it easier to access and process the data. The platform supports three different types of APIs:

1. Rest API: It controls various elements of the platform like data discovery, staging of working sets, workflow orchestration etc. The platform supports JSON format and uses standard HTTP request methods: GET, POST, and DELETE.

2. Catalog API: It controls the search and discovery of data via 39 different attributes associated with each image. These attributes include standard image characteristics such as geographic location, cloud cover percentage, sensor type, seen angle and many others. Through the Catalog API, the user can quickly find the data set needed for further processing.

3. Workflow API: The Workflow API contains tools for managing imagery data and executing tasks against sets of data. Using the workflow the user can first find data through the use of the Catalog API, then assign the selected dataset to a working set, and then launch individual tasks/algorithms or a chained set of tasks/algorithms. The user can even upload new customized algorithms and integrate them with custom workflows running in tandem with DG.

4. Docker: GBDX relies on Docker for the deployment of algorithms and applications as tasks within the system. Developers who desire the ability to run algorithms at scale through the GBDX environment must containerize their capabilities into a standard, uniform interface through Docker.

Image courtesy:DigitalGlobe

   Image courtesy:DigitalGlobe

Docker is programmed to comfortably fit into the ecosystem of the Catalog APIs, Docker hub and the GBDX developer community.

DG is always there for its customers to give support

DG has a great team of developers, technology experts, and solution team working behind the desk to support and give its customers access to its decades of experience and knowledge building geospatial imagery applications.

Environment for the customer:

The GBDX platform enables developers and partners the ability to create workflows and algorithms that can be shared or sold. Currently the system supports a number of services from 3rd party partners.

                                             Image courtesy: DigitalGlobe

Advantages of using GBDX:

  1. It has a developer friendly pricing, enabling the creation of new products and services.
  2. Short term image data rental approach enabling project execution at a low cost.
  3. The user can choose from a broad selection of industry tools to advance product and project goals and thus enabling avenues for new passive revenue streams.

The following sets of images are a glimpse of the procedure:

The user has to create an account, with username and password credentials. This takes the user to a map based interface for search and discovery of operations.

In the Catalog API the user can submit geospatial queries by selection of the region (say Denver). After selection the Area of interest (AOI), the request is sent to the Catalog API to find any/all datasets. Search can be refined based on sensor type, filter, cloud cover, off nadir angle and many more.

Then a material list is created . A material list is a collection of data to be processed. Once the material set is in place , one can add this to the workspace. A large set of algorithms are available to apply on the dataset. Here is an example of road map tracker which detects and tracks the location of roads within the image.

The algorithm detects and tracks the location of roads within the image. The final result is an orthorectified, atmospherically compensated shapefile showing the location of roads.

The result is uploaded to a user specific S3 bucket into the GBD platform where the data can be downloaded or incorporated into other workflows for further analysis.

Use of GBDX is endless, a single account with GBDX can help the user in the finding solutions that can boost businesses, assist governments and save lives. Together with GBDX the user can solve customized problems  like where vegetation health has changed , where new construction sites has come up or where it might come up in future , ensuring security from natural disasters. What is really game changing is the ability to perform and compute at scale quickly, easily and efficiently.



SATPALDA is a privately owned company and a leading provider of satellite imagery and GeoSpatial services to the user community. Established in 2002, SATPALDA has successfully completed wide range of photogrammetric and Remote Sensing Projects.

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