I ran into Matt Ball of Vector1Media last night in Waltham where Autodesk is hosting an event and he pointed me to an interview he has done recently with Rebecca Moore of Google about the Google Earth Engine, a prototype of which was demonstrated prior to COP15 in Copenhagen. The Google Earth Engine is a repository that brings together public Earth observation data (satellite imagery, terrain datasets, and vector data such as roads, borders, population centers, soil information, climate information) into a large georeferenced data repository. Google is working with the Group on Earth Observations , which is an international consortium of the world’s space agencies (NASA, JAXA in Japan, ESA in Europe, INPE in Brazil, and many others). It is expected that ultimately the Earth Engine will comprise many petabytes.
The goal is not only to provide public access to Earth observation data, but also to provide an application programming interface (API) to encourage developers outside of Google to develop applications that use the data in the repository. The Google Earth Engine will provide easy access to the data and a high performance computational platform for geoprocessing. One of the first application areas is forest monitoring. Tropical deforestation is happening at an increasing rate and reportedly contributes more to greenhouse gas emissions than all the emissions from transportation. Reducing tropical deforestation is considered the low-hanging fruit of addressing GHG emissions.