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Big Data Finds Its Space Featured

Big Data Finds Its Space Guillermo Ferla

In the era where every aspect of daily life is gadget-oriented, massive volumes of data emerge from different places. With this huge amount of data originating from different sources, there are many challenges in analyzing and studying it with traditional tools. This brings about big data solutions such as Hadoop. These tools have helped realize the applications of data. Companies using big data systems to improve operations, offer better consumer service, develop personalized campaigns for marketing and take other actions such as increasing revenue and profits. Businesses using this effectively have a higher competitive advantage over those that do not because they can make faster, informed decisions.

While the talk about big data has mostly dwelt on businesses, other industries have also adopted big data technologies to improve their decision-making capabilities. This will, in turn, create ample opportunities for the players in their respective industries to take advantage of the insights.

One of the areas where big data is being used is space exploration. Big data can help improve space exploration by increasing commercial satellite deployment speed, aiding communication and improving interplanetary missions. With the reduced cost of space launches made possible by the adoption of technology and democratization of the satellite market, specifically in the developed nations, orbital activity has increased. An example can be seen in the announced plans by various companies and space programs to launch more than 2,000 satellites to orbit by the end of this decade. Most of these satellites will collect data about the earth through numerous inbuilt applications. The observation of the earth means that images and videos taken in multi-spectral or 3D are collected.

Historically, the biggest challenge that has kept data from being used is the ability to transmit data collected from space back to earth. However, with the advancement of technology, it is now possible to use radio frequency to transmit data back to earth. This, however, is relatively slow. Despite the challenges, space exploration missions in deep space by NASA can send data in megabytes per second while the space explorer orbiting the earth can do the same but in gigabytes per second. While it may seem little that data transfer is slow, the cumulative amount of data after a few hours, days or months is massive.

Solving these problems requires innovation in critical components like data storage, processing and access. These components can only be made possible by involving technology in the gathering, storing, processing and retrieving of data. Big data from space exploration missions can be crunched using big data analytics. The increasing speed of data transmission from the skies, the rising number of space exploration missions and faster communication demands an approach that will solve the challenges and provide insights about the mission, which can help future explorations. Furthermore, data generated through analytics is critical for human life back on earth. Therefore, accuracy and speed of processing are crucial.

Storage and visualization of data

One of the latest storage initiatives for big data is the NASA Earth Exchange (NEX) platform, a collaboration between Amazon and NASA. This tool combines state-of-the-art supercomputing, earth system modelling and remote-sensing data. The system allows users to share, explore and analyze data sets, run and share modelling approaches and algorithms, and help collaborate between the new and existing projects and exchange workflows.

Visualization is another critical aspect of using geospatial data; regardless of the industry where you are, for example, farming, where you need to understand moisture content, rain patterns and others, the data from space can be used to identify patterns. For instance, big data is currently used to identify illegal logging and deforestation patterns, which helps combat it. This shows the importance of big data in space activities.

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Scott Koegler

Scott Koegler is Executive Editor for Big Data & Analytics Tech Brief

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