Monday, March 14, 2011

An Immediate Need For Geo-Spatial and Remote Sensing.

According the the March 12th, 2011 Official Google Blog post "Post Earthquake Imagery of Japan," the giant search engine company Google is working with satellite imagery providers (including geospatial provider Geo-Eye) to get the latest available information from the areas affected most by the recent Japanese earthquake in order to assist and coordinate disaster relief activities.

Here is some interesting video coverage of the disaster from the ground.

The key to the Japanese recovery efforts starts with an inventory of the damage and satellites have become an invaluable aid to develop this efficiently and quickly without the need to rely on an existing infrastructure, which could be damaged or destroyed in the initial catastrophe.
Before and after shots of Japanese earthquake devastation..
Of course, the use of aerial or orbital photography to document earthquake damage goes back to at least the early years of the 20th century, when the city of San Francisco was photographed from a kite just weeks after the devastating 1906 earthquake.

A rare aerial photo of San Fransisco in 1906.
The real difference today is how the data can be collected in hours rather than weeks and then integrated into a complex set of geographic and spatially referenced data and information points that can guide relief efforts in real time.

But according to Dr. Bob Ryerson, an award winning Canadian scientist and expert in the growing field of remote sensing and geospatial imagery, disaster relief is not the only area where this technology can be useful.

He's even written a book about the applications, titled "Why "Where" Matters" which focuses on what he calls a "new economic era" which he feels is driven by and dependent on "geo-spatial or geographic information."

According to Ryerson and his co-author, Dr. Stan Aronoff:
... today individuals, businesses and governments at all levels can now make geo-decisions based on better information that is more easily accessible than at any time in history. Not only do we all have access to the data, we also have ready access to the low or no cost tools that enable the non-specialist to use that data. Anyone capable of accessing and using the internet can access and use geospatial information relevant to themselves, their community, business, country or global  environment. 
That might sound complex at first glance but Dr. Ryerson breaks it down into small, easily digestible bite sized pieces by suggesting that pretty much every organization that collects data will benefit by knowing where the data came from and how that data fits into the bigger picture.

For example, Toy's R Us will benefit from knowing where families with school age children are located. Robinson's will benefit from access to census information showing where it's clothing buyers live and how they dress within specific geographical locations.

Dr. Bob Ryerson.
Among the areas Dr. Ryerson feels are ripe for  revolution are the monitoring of environmental processes, management of strategic commodities including crops, grazing lands and water, policing and security, infrastructure renewal, community planning, economic development and service delivery (including business development, marketing and risk assessment).

Even Canadian Space Agency (CSA) President Steve MacLean has come out and said that data obtained about the Earth from space "now has the precision to contribute meaningfully to Earth based activities" such as resource tracking, mining, farming and industry. MacLean made the comment during his keynote address at the University of Toronto Space Program according to the March 2nd, 2011 article "Growth in Space Utilization to Benefit Canadians."

Dr. Ryerson thinks that the growing geo-spatial industry is "surprisingly resilient" with Canadian players well placed to take advantage of the growing opportunities. As for his own prospects:
I've been in business since the 1970's and every time there is an economic downturn our business improves. Our best year was 2009. 
Here's looking at his continued success.

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