Why Santa is the best candidate to utilize geospatial data?

Geospatial Data Santa(1)

Why Santa is the best candidate to utilize geospatial data?

The work santa performs each year is enormous. Giving presents in all seven continents to over 2 billion children is truly incredible. In making this feat possible, Santa should definitely utilize geospatial data in several ways to make his work more efficient! According to Finnish folklore, Santa lives in Korvatunturi (located in Lapland), so we felt almost obligated to give Santa some geospatial advice!

Critical systems with zero downtime?

Santa’s job is quite unique. His logistics division is working full time only once per year: during Christmas. So during that specific day it is crucially important to have your data ready and available for heavy loads. 

Let’s assume that Santa hosts all of his information about delivery addresses of children in open API. He really needs that data to be ready for all the elfs to check location data on the 24th of December. Availability must be 100% or otherwise millions of children will get their present delivered to wrong addresses or not delivered at all! During one second Santa’s elves and reindeers deliver  ~25 463 presents. During the whole 24th total of 2.2 billion kids get their presents delivered to them.

Let’s say that the availability of that server drops a mere percentage, down to 99%. That would mean the loss of over 33 million presents! So in this case the downtime of 1% during that day really affects a lot of people immediately! 

Google made a great summary (and sweet interactive games!) about Christmas to their “Santa tracker” webpage. During christmas you can actually track where Santa is moving in real time.

Integrations of supplier systems & standards

Making sure that your data is reliable and available might just not be enough always. You have to make sure that it is in an easily readable format. This is where standards jump in.

Santa should test before Christmas that all of his geospatial web services are validated for standards. Making sure that your geoserver is up to date with modern standards ensures that the data can be easily read by the users.

The standards can for example guide on what kind of metadata has to be included in the service description. Metadata in Santa’s geoserver could for example tell if the delivery location is hard to reach or how old the children are in that address.

Santa is definitely our dream customer

Updating and maintaining service that absolutely has to be 100% available and it has to handle huge loads isn’t a small feat. That is why Spatineo monitoring could solve many problems Santa faces with his geospatial web services. Performance testing could proof the services for heavy loads, and Monitor would enable Santa to get insights on his data: how did the elves use the data and what map tiles were used the most.

With this Christmas themed thought experiment, we wish happy holidays to all our readers! Hopefully your vacations go just a smooth as Santa’s geospatial web services with our assistance!

How to utilize STAC to load satellite images faster in web applications?

How to utilize STAC (SpatioTemporal Asset Catalog) to load satellite images faster in web application(2)

Spatineo was given an opportunity to participate in a project for Finnish Meteorological Institute (FMI) aiming to build a prototype catalog for Sentinel satellite images: FMI Sentinel catalog. The idea was to build a web based catalogue that would allow efficient and fast querying and downloading satellite images. In this case, the imagery is stored an AWS S3 compatible service. 

The catalogue was built using Radian Earth Foundation’s STAC (SpatioTemporal Asset Catalog) specification. STAC contains specification, which aims to “increase the interoperability of searching for satellite imagery” and other geospatial assets. STAC allows data providers to produce a simple machine readable catalogues of imagery in a flexible and light data format. Data providers are able to add additional metadata and additional properties to the assets as they wish.

STAC implementation is formed of a STAC catalog and STAC items. A STAC item is a GeoJSON Feature containing additional fields including links to the assets. STAC items contains the geometry of the asset and can be used for example for selecting the correct satellite image from a map. STAC catalog is simple json that contains links to child STAC catalogs and/or STAC items. There are also STAC collections, which can be used to describe for example common properties of items without having to repeat the metadata on every item.


FMI Sentinel Catalogues Spatineo
FMI Sentinel Catalogue in action

In its simplest form, a STAC implementation can be a static catalog, which is basically set of json files on a server that link to one another and are therefore crawlable. The assets themselves can be on the same server or in another location, such as AWS S3 bucket or other HTTP server. The more tuned version is a catalog API, which is a RESTful API that is designed to mirror the static catalog. 

You can read more about STAC specification here.

In this project the catalog was developed to follow STAC version 0.7.0 and it was built to be static catalog. In addition to specification, child link fields contain additional field: dimension. Dimension is used to specify whether the child catalog specifies certain geographic location (geohash) or date (time). This makes it easy for applications to understand the structure of the catalogue and to find sub-catalogues that contain items for the current view and time span.

FMI Sentinel catalog contains catalogs for Sentinel satellite images processed by FMI.  The somewhat simplified hierarchy of the catalog is:

root.json – root STAC catalog
  • dataset-S1.json – catalog for S1 images
      • dataset-S1-location-ug.json – catalog for S1 images in geohash ug
          • dataset-S1-location-ug-time-2017-08-01.json – catalog for S1 images for geohash ug and date 2017-08-01
              • 1_processed_20170801_15[…].json – STAC item for image
                  • VH-asset.tif – Cloud optimized GeoTIFF asset (VH polarisation)
                  • VV-asset.tif – Cloud optimized GeoTIFF asset (VV polarisation)
      • dataset-S1-location-uu.json
    • dataset-S3.json

In order to allow fast loading of remote sensing images in a web map framework, such as OpenLayers, the regular GeoTIFF images were processed to be cloud optimized GeoTIFFs (COGs). COG takes advantage of GeoTIFFs ability to organize pixels in particular ways and HTTP GET range requests that allow data to fetched within certain byte ranges. This fast loading of image in a certain zoom level and geographic extent.

    • With GDAL version above 3.1, you can do it whit
      gdalwarp src1.tif src2.tif out.tif -of COG
    • With lower GDAL versions, use
      gdal_translate src.tif out.tif -co TILED=YES -co COPY_SRC_OVERVIEWS=YES -co COMPRESS=LZW

If you are unsure whether your geoTIFF is cloud optimized or not, use this method to find out

By combining the simplicity and crawlability of STAC and speed of COGs it is possible to build easy-to-use (and -maintain) view and download services for satellite images. Go ahead and test FMI Sentinel catalog and other implementations of STAC catalogs. The code that produces the catalogue and the map application are also open source and available of github. In case you have further questions, don’t hesitate to shoot us a comment or an email!


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GIS Expo: Laying the foundations for Interoperable Geospatial data in Finland

Finnish GIS Expo has been thriving for 31 years now, and the event still brings the local geospatial community together annually. Climate Change and Interoperability were the big topics this year and Spatineo had a special part in this years expo!

Laying the foundations for Interoperable Geospatial

As most people in Finland already know, the geospatial sector has been shifting towards more interoperable dataflow and usage within the last few years. Finnish Geospatial Platform and Geospatial Policy Report (Paikkatietopoliittinen selonteko) have been few of the drivers towards effective usage of geospatial data. Several different presentations were held on these two, such as Sakari Jäppinen’s “Towards Digital Decision Making in Land Usage” and “Work together or Die” presentation from Antti Jakobsson.You can see some of the recordings from here.

We were also on the stage several times during the conference. First our very own Riitta Vaniala had a presentation about the Impact of geospatial data. The topic has been hot lately, and we have been working quite hard here at Spatineo to showcase the impact of open data. You can read and download the Impact whitepapers, of which Riitta’s presentation was based upon, from our Impact page.

Riitta is also hosting a webinar on the topic of Impact Assessment. You can register to the webinar for free.

Besides Riitta presenting at GIS Expo, Jaana Mäkelä took a strong stand at moderating panel discussions.

She was the main moderator in two major panel discussions. First being the “Future of Geospatial industry” on monday. Participants were Teemu Virtanen from Sitowise, Ville Alasalmi from Aalto University and Researcher Pyry Kettunen from NLS of Finland . Panel recording can be viewed from here.

One of the most important program numbers was Geospatial Grill, in which Jaana was the moderator and valued guests were literally grilled on the premise of how they are going to make geospatial data better and more available. 

The panelists were Antti Vertanen from the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, Sami Suomalainen from Emergency Response Centre Agency of Finland, Päivi Nerg from Ministry of Finance, Tommi Karttaavi from Association of Finnish Local and Regional Authorities, and Vesa Ilmarinen from Platform of Trust. 

We will not go down to the details on the discussions here, but summarizing everyone on the panel agreed that data should be even more available, and easily reachable. Private companies must be backing up the public sector, and innovation has to be formed in both private and public organisations.

One of the most delightful things in GIS Expo was seeing how people meet their old colleagues and friends. Most people have worked in several companies within the industry, and cooperation between organisations is common.

Huge thanks to everyone who made GIS Expo possible this year, and shoutout to everyone who visited our stand! We had great conversations with people there, and in case some of you want to keep those discussions going, don’t hesitate to contact us at your convenience.


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