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Earth and Space: Emphasis on Integration

By edito[email protected] - 28th November 2007 - 12:43

The interview of V.E. Gershenzon, ScanEx R&D Center General Director, was published on the Website of R&D CNews, Russian IT-Review (http://rnd.cnews.ru/tech/reviews/index_science.shtml?2007/11/06/273601.At the final stage of preparation for the 3d International Conference âEarth from Space - the Most Effective Solutionsâ, the companyâs head is summarizing the results of the geodata market development and dwells on the sector\'s prospects. The full text of the interview is published below.
Earth and Space: Emphasis on Integration Year 2007 witnessed rapid development of geography and geographic IT-systems building technique, radical revision of Russian legislation governing spatial data and emergence of brand new products and services. The important and to a certain extent ambiguous developments in the sector and their impact on the economic situation is discussed with a Russian expert in remote sensing systems Vladimir Gershenzon, the R&D Center ScanEx general director.R&D.Cnews. The year 2007 will certainly be remembered as a crucial one in the history of development of Russiaâs cartography and geography. What is your assessment of the yearâs developments? Vladimir Gershenzon. I agree â this year can be considered a trigger for most important changes in perception of geography in Russia. One of the significant events was the lifting of restrictions for public access to geodata regardless of their resolution factor, which is both a breakthrough and a symbolic event. Yet, it is only a beginning.The situation in the sector gives rise to concerns. Russian cartography is in malaise, and a rather grave one. The map development and especially map updating processes are neglected; Roskosmos (Federal Space Agency) and its programs, despite certain encouraging signs, gravitate towards old, centralized principles. The public-private partnership issues are often twisted around in real life.We are yet to see articulate legislative initiatives that would defend real rather than virtual interest of our country. Revision of legislation has begun, but the process can well recoil, as we know from history. I wish it does not happen. I wish that a critical mass of business and societyâs interests be accumulated. Domestic market should be protected, but on a civilized and competitive basis rather than an archaic prohibitive one.R&D.Cnews. Do you believe in a special role and place of geographical data in the IT space? Without high quality and reliable geographical products all of us can found ourselves in a situation where we are not âsensing the country beneath usâ (Osip Mandelshtam, as translated by A.S. Klein, ©?2005 â translatorâs note). It is especially dangerous when the government and administrative bodies find themselves in such situation â and today, they plainly lack objective, adequate and regularly updated information on the territories under their control and the processes that evolve there. The situation in Russia is both ironic and alarming â here you have a huge country with intense, rapid and complex processes fraught with many dangers and without par in history. Yet, we cannot manage them in a constructive way lacking their up-to-date geographical component. R&D.Cnews. Can one call a developed geographical infrastructure a feedback vehicle enabling the decision-makers to have a clear understanding of the impact of their decisions before this impact becomes irreversible?Certainly, but it is more than just feedback. Without reliable geographical information no stage of administration and control is feasible â neither monitoring nor analysis, neither forecasting nor prevention ⦠Take our largest monopolies, like Gazprom, Transneft and Russian Railways. How can one possibly manage facilities spattered all over the country without up-to-date and reliable geodata? How can one possibly monitor the work of subcontractors? How can one possibly carry out planning? How can one possibly coordinate oneâs activities with federal agencies and local government bodies and have them approved? No existing system can survive without feedback. What is more, such feedback should be of the right type and magnitude. R&D.Cnews. Six months ago ScanEx was the first company in Russia to offer high quality remote sensing data without restrictions as to resolution, which made it a key player on the Russian market. What is your assessment of the current developments on the geodata and, more specifically, remote sensing data markets?I appreciate your comment and would like to stress that we have been a key player before being the leading supplier of ground equipment for receiving and processing of remote sensing data such as Alisa SC and UniScan. We have built a commercial network that covered the entire territory of Russia and its neighbors. The network comprises centers in the Far East, Siberia and Moscow. This year, we have considerably enlarged the scope of products by offering high resolution data. For this reason we have welcomed revision of legislation and have been, indeed, the first in Russia to announce open sales of remote sensing data with up to 1m and even submeter resolution. Our position of principle has been that since such data is available to general public all over the world, it would have been ridiculous to make them closed for Russian users and Russian businesses because it would have made them lose competition. Currently, we offer an entire package of high resolution imagery from Eros A and Eros B, QuickBird, Ikonos, Formosat, Cartosat, â the programs that are able to supply high quality, high resolution and regularly updated information covering Russiaâs territory. The growth of sales was soon to follow. R&D.Cnews. What is your companyâs market share? To give a full answer to this question, one needs to take into account several aspects. The role of a supplier of earth remote sensing (RS) data, unlike that of sellers of, letâs say, mobile phones, is not limited to sales. We are actually a monopoly in terms of the ground segment. We are also a leader on the market of value added products, i.e. thematically processed RS data. So, one needs a comprehensive assessment that is not limited to expert opinions - they are often speculative in nature. I would like to call for a disclosure of the structure of oneâs income and expenses to help general public form a more or less clear picture of what is the position of each company, its income distribution and investments structure. We would like to take the lead and will make public the performance and structure of our group of companies at the conference âEarth from Space - the Most Effective Solutionsâ. In general, on the satellite imagery market we are leading by wide margin.R&D.Cnews. It looks like ScanEx is the only company in Russia that offers an entire cycle of RS data processing, starting from their receipt from satellite and ending with delivery of thematically processed RS data to customers?It is absolutely true, with a proviso that the chains starts with a satellite⦠So far ScanEx does not have a satellite of oneâs own. R&D.Cnews. Are you planning to have one? We cannot do everything for our own account. We would be very happy if Russia asserted itself at least in the niche of RS data for education purposes. We stand ready to provide our support to this end! R&D.Cnews. You have noted that the situation in the geodata sector in Russia gives rise to concerns. What are, in your view, the outstanding problems that may curb the development of the sector? Are there any âsnagsâ?There certainly are. Any wrong legislation or regulation that does not encourage adaptation may put an end to development. The abandoning of old regulations and rules is not accompanied by enactment of new legislation. The âold guardâ officials are not interested in liberalization and are doing everything to sterilize the plain and clear initiatives of the government by their administrative interpretation. The principle of openness of geodata has become a true litmus test. Our position is based on the principle that everything that is not prohibited, is allowed. The national leaders have made more than one statement about complete openness of geodata. Why then their subordinates are undermining the decisions of their own superiors? We have taken a clear-cut position that conforms with the priorities announced by the government. If the development of geoinformatics in Russia is to be curbed, the result will be the loss of domestic market, its take-over by foreign companies that are able to offer finalized and user-friendly technological solutions.R&D.Cnews. How does the uneven and non-systemic nature of the sector development impact the sector and the nation?Earth satellite imagery may be likened to water that moves the mill. The end product is flour. The images are not an end product. But they can be used for making an end product. It is the products made out of the images that can meet the needs of a given sector of economy. If we in Russia fail to form a chain for development of such products we will not be able to compete with foreign producers, or even speak to them on an equal footing. We will be behind not only in the economy, but in defense, emergency prevention and emergency response. The more integrated geoinformation is developed, the more it benefits the country and the business, making the society more civilized. Only then decisions will fit the real life of the nation.All sectors based on natural resources, whose management is so critical for Russia, are tied to monitoring and optimum corporate management and sector administration. R&D.Cnews. ScanEx was the first in Russia to realize the significance of transition from the era of maps and GIS to geoportal era. It was the first to develop the product of the new era â the Kosmosnikmi portal. We see that the first try was successful. What expectations concerning the project did materialize and what did not? What is your view on the future for geoportals in Russia?I like this project very much. It is our favorite offspring. The project is gaining momentum in terms of quantity and quality. Our \'information factory\' processes thousands of terabytes per season. Geoportals for Russia is the best vehicle for access to geodata market. Different nations have different marketing and technological schemes for working with RS data. The U.S. and Europe pursue one approach, India â another one. Emerging markets, like China and Brazil, have to choose other approaches. R&D.Cnews. What about Russia? Russia is currently absent on the market.R&D.Cnews. Only fifty years have passed since we, and only we, were present in space. How did we manage to lose our position of world leader in RS data? In the time of analogue photographs Russia was to some extent present on the RS data market as a seller. Russia built archives of large amounts of data that have remained relevant up to now. But with technological breakthroughs, the world shifted to digital data, and suddenly we found ourselves on the margins. Essentially, we have lost entire decade. Our successes in other applications of space technology, as in satellite meteorology, have been rather moderate. Today, we do not have modern RS apparatuses in space, and the one that we have (Resource-DK) could have been used much more efficiently. We are lagging behind and therefore need to correctly identify our niche and position ourselves in a clear-cut way. It is not a simple task, but it can be accomplished through cooperation between the state and the business. There should be a common goal rather than tug-of-war. RS data is a special language, one of geographical space, and this space is inevitably common for all, it is global in nature. If we fail to describe our own space in a language that can be understood elsewhere, our language will become extinct. A geoportal is an example of a common language in the new era. R&D.Cnews. Russia so far is lacking its own geoportals, except for the Kosmosnimki. Does Russia need an official, government geoportal that could integrate all geodata?I am not sure that it needs to be a government one. Google Earth, for example, is a commercial portal. I believe that government should not participate in those sectors, where one can do without it. Do we need a federal targeted program of geoportals? I am not sure. Private business can do it better.R&D.Cnews. A commercial geoportal can integrate geodata without being a state-owned portal? Certainly, a public geoportal can perform such function. However, Kosmosnimki is no a geoportal, unlike Yandex.Maps. Who prevents certain agencies from building servers on the basis of those platforms that Russian commercial entities can provide? They can be made absolutely secure, thanks to Intranet technologies. We do not overestimate our achievements or our capabilities. We are building something that can become a background for geoportals, the mosaics of satellite imagery. Under âgeoportal\' we mean marketplaces for exchange of geodata. One party is putting there something, the other party is retrieving something, the rules and protocols being known to both. Governmental or non-governmental supervision and monitoring that ensures data quality is possible, say, in the form of certification. Such certification needs not to be restrictive. A sign evidencing that certain data is certified and other is not, would be sufficient. The user will decide for oneself which geocontent to use, a certified or non-certified one, if for some reasons one is not obligated to use only certified data. Different schemes are possible. The most interesting aspect of the information revolution that would be debated at the conference âEarth from Space - the Most Effective Solutionsâ is Web 2.0, or User Generated Content. They will enable each user to build one\'s own geospatial information and exchange it with others. This will increase dramatically the âintensityâ of the geographical space that would do away with overlapping and closeness that is often typical for professional cartography and geodesy.R&D.Cnews. While Russia is thinking how to work with geodata, there is already a new generation of RS satellites abroad, like WorldView, etc. What are the prospects of applied space technology in our country â in the near future and in a longer term?There is a very hot competition in high resolution RS data, but all of these programs are being built on a commercial basis! Maybe, itâs better not to spend the countryâs budget funds on every program at one and the same time â from space radars to high resolution imagery? I believe that Russia has the capacity to occupy a respectable niche on the world market right now, through educational micro satellites, scientific research and meteorology. This niche will not replace defense programs or international alliances, but it is very important, especially for Russia. Even programs of open transfer of satellite data from Terra and Aqua satellites with up to 250 m resolution gave a huge impetus to the development of new technologies and principles, in real time. Essentially, it is an extension of the \'open skies\' concept to landscape management, ecology and education. The humanity needs such program. R&D.Cnews. What new and unexpected applications of space imagery did your company find out in 2007? We believe that rather than the company, it is our clients who should find such applications. We are not oracles. We are an R&D and IT company and as such can be instrumental, but no company in the world can possible invent all the variety of applications for satellite imagery. One of the examples is a geoportal. I was happy to learn, for example, that our Kosmosnimki.ru are used for finding locations for diving by our divers, which is quite an unusual application of satellite imagery. Another example: game wardens of the Kurgan Oblast managed to build an efficient and sustainable business and receive grants for protection of biodiversity having started to use satellite imagery for management. The images were used as an indicator and classifier for determining the geographic range of roedeerâs habitat, since young birch-trees are their main food, and young birch-trees are easily identified. There is even a relation between the volume of biomass and the population of roedeer. R&D.Cnews. The development of the sector and adaptation of new technology is unfeasible without forming a unified position within the expert community. What is your assessment of the results of the previous 2nd conferences âEarth from Space â the Most Effective Solutionsâ and what do you expect from the 3d one? This year the âEarth from Space â the Most Effective Solutionsâ Conference will take place in Vatutinki resort on December 4-6. The main issue to be discussed is the consolidation of the state and business in front of the serious challenges facing Russia. We also need broader international cooperation. In our view it is a prerequisite for the countryâs sustainable development. R&D.Cnews. How different will be the ranks of the conference participants in comparison with previous conferences?This year we are expecting the experts in allied subjects to be more amply represented. While previously, the main task was the selection of the most promising programs, operators, fields, solutions and processes, this task has been to a large extent accomplished. Today, the most urgent problems are integrated information geoservices in navigation and Internet, etc. The composition of members and players has already reflected these changes. We are calling everyone, and especially R&D.Cnews portal, for a more in-depth study and coverage of problems that are associated with integration. This year there will be many foreigners at the conference. It is quite symbolic that the International Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing (ISPRS) decided to participate and hold a special workshop within the framework of the conference. ISRPS is a huge international organization counting hundreds of thousands of members. It has 300 registered members from 42 countries. There will be representatives of the key players on the satellite imagery market â the U.S., Canada, India, France and Israel. Among the conference sponsors are ImageSat International N.V. (major sponsor), Telespazio/e-GEOS, Antrix Corporation Limited, European Space Imaging, Rakurs (official sponsors). The conference will be addressed by representatives of the Ministry of Natural Resources, EMERCOM, Ministry of Transportation, ZemCadastre, RosKosmos, Russian Academy of Sciences among others. The emphasis will be on integration. RS data above any barriers to information!Source: R&D CNews via ScanEx News site:http://www.scanex.com/en/news/News_Preview.asp?id=n5414115

Author: R&D CNews

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