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Improving Accessibility to Earth Observation Data

Richard Flemmings
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On the second episode of our new podcast, In-Orbit we were joined by Peter Beaumont from the Satellite Applications Catapult, Owen Hawkins from Earth-i, Richard Flemmings from 4 Earth Intelligence & Alexandre Lacoste from Element AI, to explore what we can see from space, and the roles Earth Observation and Artificial Intelligence play across industry; from monitoring bridges to supporting coffee farmers. Listen here

Richard, CTO of 4 Earth Intelligence, discusses how we can make the application of EO data more commonplace, and expands on the 4EI Heat Hazard Index explored in the episode.

Image: 4EI’s satellite derived heat hazard index over London – supplying space based data by postcode has broken down barriers to accessibility.


It is widely acknowledged within our industry that the opportunities for Applied Earth Intelligence  using satellite Earth Observation (EO) data are vast. The availability of data is constantly increasing as new satellites are launched, with ever-improving onboard sensor capabilities. Combining this data with evolutions in data science (in particular, relating to artificial intelligence and machine learning), presents a range of possibilities to use space data for the betterment of humans and the planet, monitoring and improving how humans interact with our environment.

We are witnessing growing uptake of EO technology as reported by organisations such as Euroconsult and Copernicus in their state of the market reports.  However, adoption of EO technology is not yet commonplace within many industries and market sectors.

We can resolve this by putting ourselves in the position of end users – by focusing on taking all of the complexity out of EO and data science and simplifying the outputs, we can answer real world questions. Simplification does not mean that the outputs become any less valuable. In fact, quite the opposite, as the data can be more readily understood and applied across a wider section of society, allowing change detection across a variety of variables.

At 4EI our product innovation hub focuses on improving accessibility through delivering complex and innovative data in easy-to-use ways. This involves a range of different offerings such as Heat Hazard, Air Quality, Object Detection and Country Intelligence Mapping.  Our Heat Hazard Index is a proven example of how we take complex data and put it into a user-friendly format.

We have statistically analysed an archive of satellite data to create an understanding of the impact that a heatwave event will have. The end result is a heat hazard score against every postcode in Great Britain. This is very easy to interpret for 2 reasons:

  • Firstly, outputting values as an index, with every location being allocated a value between 1 and 5, has allowed users to quickly understand where the impact of heat events will be felt the most. The local government in Lambeth (South West London) have used this information as part of an education campaign to citizens to help inform where the highest impacts of a heat wave event would be felt, and to mitigate against this with access to parks (green infrastructure is a powerful heat mitigator in urban environments).
  • Secondly, postcodes are a ubiquitous spatial unit, familiar throughout society. Without the need for geospatial software, users can query the data at any given location. Postcodes have also allowed our users to correlate heat with other key indicators. For example, Climate Ready Clyde (Glasgow City Region’s partnership for climate change adaptation) has been able to easily cross-reference our heat data against the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation to understand where the impacts of a heat event will be felt the most.

The value in an easily accessible and consumable data product is the ability to reach new users who have not previously been able to access and apply space data within their work. The 4EI Heat Hazard  data has demonstrated this as we have developed a user base cutting across government, urban planning, NGOs, health, insurance and property.

At 4EI we are constantly striving to develop this ethos of accessibility further with innovative and novel applications of space-based data. Get in touch to find out more about our wide-reaching work and plans for continued expansion of our products and services – rf@4earthintelligence.com