Australia is the sixth largest country in the world; its extension exceeds 7.6 billion square kilometers. With a project that combines cartography using high resolution images captured via satellite with digital data analysis, it has been possible to register virtually all the buildings and trees in the nation. Only in 2018, thanks to this initiative, has information been captured on more than 15 million buildings.
Never before had a plan of this kind been carried out, in which artificial intelligence has also intervened. Another novelty of the measure is that it has been developed through crowdsourcing, that is, the tasks necessary to reach the goal set have been made with an open collaboration, distributing tasks and actions among a large group of citizens who have been responsible for making what was traditionally the occupation of officials, employees or contractors.
Many of the tasks have been carried out based on open collaboration, distributing tasks and actions among a large group of citizens
The basis of this work is Geoscape, a broad set of data collected and prepared to be studied in detail by the company PSMA Australia Limited, owned by various state administrations. Equally, a prominent agent in this adventure is the American company DigitalGlobe, specialized in providing space photos and directing civil remote sensing operations. Those responsible for the map confess that it would have been impossible to reach this result without the conjugation of big data, machine learning and satellite communications.
Crowdsourcing campaigns have been used to identify in the photographs where certain facilities are located, such as solar panels and swimming pools. In this phase, artificial intelligence intervened, trained to understand the representations of the territory from multiple sources. The material handled by the machines has been generated using 200 terabyes of images collected by the constellation of satellites that are part of the DigitalGlobe platform. Surfaces, roofs, tree heights … None of this has escaped the scrutiny of the system.
The head of PSMA Australia, Dan Paull, highlights the benefits that "consumers" will obtain to know "the existing services in the place where they are". "In business," he continues, "location data help increase efficiency, productivity and innovation." However, there are other dimensions that this project covers, in which the power of "remote sensors" is not forgotten either.
For this purpose, the fact that people "are permanently online" with their smartphones, tablets and an increasing number of devices is positive. With this information, better decisions can be made for the future, for example, on the height of the houses and the situation of the trees to model the deployment of telecommunications services. Urban planners and governments are very well suited to the vision in two and three dimensions of cities to develop simulations with their proposals on land use, transport, etc.