INNOVATION January-February 2014
able to see a view of the planet similar to that which an astronaut or cosmonaut sees from the space station—a smoothly unfolding, ever-changing image. “Everything will be fluid for the user, but behind the scenes you need some serious performance,” Tyc says. “We’re rolling out infrastructure meant to handle monstrous amounts of data gathered by UrtheCast cameras but also imagery from other sources and data uploaded by users around the world. The system is sized to deal with petabytes of data—this means moving huge amounts of data around the world every day while providing a compelling, highly responsive experience for users.” The second camera, a professional level digital single reflex with a telescope for a lens, offers still more exciting possibilities. It is moveable, can be pointed at specific targets, and has been designed to capture high-resolution images representing areas of the Earth’s surface measuring 3.3 by 5 kilometres at a time. Furthermore, the objective is to track targets for up to 60 seconds, capturing high-resolution data that is processed to create very high-quality, 30 frames- per-second video products with ground pixel sizes of less than one metre. Viewers will be able to see objects moving, crowds surging, and events unfolding— enough to grasp the story of an event or a place, particularly when combined with other data available on the UrtheCast website. UrtheCast staff intends to direct this second camera to collect images of selected targets, which could range from major sporting events like the Olympics or the World Cup, to natural disasters such as erupting volcanos or tsunamis. Tyc says they will be able to create something in the range of 100 to 150 videos a day, although there are two constraints: the events must be occurring between latitudes 52 degrees north and 52 degrees south and must be happening during one of the ISS’s 15.5 passes per day. He anticipates that the company will receive requests to record events every day from individuals or organizations, which will be one source of revenue for UrtheCast. The technology may be dazzling and the possibilities nearly endless, but UrtheCast will have to generate significant revenues in order to deliver
returns to the investors who have pumped some $70 million into the venture. Tyc says there is a small but well-established market among governments and other large organizations like the United Nations that use Earth observation data to monitor weather systems, natural disasters, and environmental change, among other things. The company has also talked to a number of media organizations and some have expressed interest in acquiring material. The medium-resolution still camera, which is similar to the remote sensing cameras placed on satellites, will be of value to conservation organizations as well as individual scientists who study crop health, deforestation, and habitat loss. But the real opportunity lies in UrtheCast’s vision of creating a new web platform that provides many millions of users around the world with a fresh and compelling experience of events and places on planet Earth. App developers will be able to use UrtheCast imagery and videos, as well as data uploaded from other sources, to create thousands of new ways to use the data and display information buried within it. Above all, it will be available globally, it will be free for everyone with an internet connection, and it will create new ways to see how the world is changing which may mean new ways to participate in the stewardship of the planet.
Michael Feduk M.Eng., P.Eng. as a Senior Project Consultant. Northwest Hydraulic Consultants is pleased to welcome
Mike has over 30 years of experience in river engineering and bridge hydraulics on projects in Western Canada. Following a successful career with the BC and Alberta provincial governments, Mike will
strengthen NHC’s capabilities in these areas. We look forward to the opportunities that his experience will provide to our clients.
J AN UA R Y/ F E B R UA R Y 2 014
i n n o v a t i o n
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