Los vigilantes de la playa desde el espacio

¿En qué playa te bañarás este verano gracias a la información proporcionada por los satélites?

Ahora que el verano se acerca, solo quedan unas pocas semanas para que podamos comenzar a disfrutar de la época de baño en el Mar Mediterráneo. Lo que mucha gente no imagina es que, a la vez que ponemos las chanclas y las toallas en la bolsa de la playa, los gobiernos locales y regionales europeos también se preparan para la temporada, poniendo en marcha procesos de observación de la tierra y diferentes modelos oceanográficos para hacer el seguimiento de nuestras playas.

Los gobiernos locales y regionales han empezado recientemente a tomar medidas para conocer la existencia de anomalías en el agua de sus costas. Poder detectar a tiempo elementos que pueden repercutir tanto en la calidad del agua como en la salud pública es fundamental para importantes sectores como el turismo y la pesca. Además, los estados están obligados a cumplir con directivas europeas que regulan la vigilancia, evaluación y gestión de la calidad de las aguas de baño.

Transparencia

Transparencia en el agua de las playas de Barcelona el 5 de julio de 2013. Cuanto más al norte más transparente.

La inmensidad del mar hace impensable una observación in-situ (a base de muestras) de la calidad del agua marítima de grandes extensiones de mar. Hacer esto requeriría invertir un gran esfuerzo a nivel personal y de medios. La mejor alternativa en cuanto a la observación de grandes superficies es a través de imágenes tomadas por satélites de observación de la tierra. A partir de una o varias imágenes proporcionadas por diferentes satélites es posible determinar el estado del agua en el Mediterráneo (y en cualquier otro mar u océano).

En Star2Earth disponemos de dos equipos de alto rendimiento dedicados al procesado de imágenes obtenidas por el satélite Aqua de la NASA. El cometido de estos dos equipos es simple: generar imágenes fácilmente interpretables del estado del agua para diferentes parámetros como pueden ser la transparencia, la temperatura del agua, la cantidad de clorofila presente o la materia en suspensión.

En Star2Earth llevamos ya tres años proporcionando este servicio al Ayuntamiento de Barcelona y de tal manera, durante la época de baño damos esta información sobre el estado del agua en las playas de Barcelona.

Materia en suspensión durante actuaciones en el puerto

Unas obras en el puerto repercutieron en la cantidad de materia en suspensión detectada por el satélite Aqua en el área cercana al puerto de Barcelona

Otra de las posibilidades que ofrece este sistema es poder visualizar rápidamente el impacto que tienen en el medio marino ciertas actuaciones realizadas en la costa. Un ejemplo de esto lo podemos encontrar en las imágenes de satélite obtenidas durante unas obras llevadas a cabo en el puerto de Barcelona en 2012 en las cuales se puede detectar una mayor presencia de materia en suspensión en el área cercana.

No solo las imágenes obtenidas a partir de satélite son útiles a las administraciones costeras. Al bañista le puede resultar útil visualizar fácilmente dónde se encuentra el agua más transparente o bien dónde el agua tiene una temperatura más adecuada a su gusto.

Por otro lado, uno de los últimos productos desarrollados en Star2Earth se basa en el desarrollo de modelos predictivos de presencia de medusas en la costa. El sistema de predicción se basa en un modelo discriminativo entrenado con datos obtenidos de satélite. En particular, dicho modelo se crea usando algoritmos de aprendizaje automático (Machine Learning en inglés). Una vez entrenado el modelo, el sistema proporciona una predicción con varios días de antelación. De todas maneras, de nuestros logros en la predicción de la llegada de medusas a las playas les hablará mi compañero Javi Marín en las próximas semanas.

Baywatch from space

What beach are you going to swim at this summer thanks to information provided by satellites?

As the summer draws near, in a few weeks we will be able to enjoy the bathing season in the Mediterranean Sea. What many people are unaware of is the fact that while we put our flip flops and towel in our beach bag, local and regional European governments are also getting ready for the season, setting up their monitoring processes based on Earth observation and oceanographic models.

Local and regional governments have recently begun to take measures to identify anomalies in water along their shores. Detecting anomalies that may affect both water quality and public health is essential for important sectors such as tourism and fishing. In addition, European Member States are required to accomplish with different European directives on the monitoring, assessment and management of bathing water quality.

Transparencia

Barcelona’s water transparency on 5th July 2013. Water was more transparent at the north of the city.

The immensity of the sea makes in-situ observation (i.e. getting samples far out at sea) impractical for large extensions of water. Doing this would require a huge human and monetary effort. The best alternative for the observation of big land and water extensions is using images taken by Earth Observation satellites. Using one or different images provided by satellites is a much better choice to determine the water state in the Mediterranean Sea (and in any other sea or ocean around the globe!).

At Star2Earth we have set up two high-performance computers dedicated exclusively to the processing of images obtained by NASA’s Aqua satellite. The main goal of these two computers is simple: to generate descriptive images of the water’s status for different parameters such as transparency, water temperature, the amount of chlorophyll present or the amount of suspended matter.

Star2Earth has been providing this service to the City of Barcelona during the past 3 bathing seasons, generating descriptive images of the state of the water along the city’s beaches.

Materia en suspensión durante actuaciones en el puerto

Different works performed in the Barcelona’s port caused an increment of the suspended matter nearby.

Another possibility offered by this system is to quickly view the impact certain that certain man-made actions undertaken on the coast can have on the marine environment. An example of this can be found in the satellite images obtained while construction work was carried out in the port of Barcelona in 2012. During this event we could detect a larger concentration of suspended matter in the area nearby the harbour (the intense green at the bottom of the picture shown here).

The images obtained from satellites are not only useful to coastal authorities. The citizen wanting to go for a swim can easily visualize useful information about the most transparent water or even where the water’s temperature is more pleasant.

Finally, one of the latest products produced by the Star2Earth business unit is based on the development of predictive models for the presence of jellyfish on the coast. The prediction is based on a discriminative model trained with data obtained from satellites. In particular, the model is based on machine learning algorithms. Once trained, the system provides a forecast of jellyfish arrival to the beaches several days in advance. Anyway, our achievements in the prediction of the presence of jellyfish in the Mediterranean beaches will be explained extensively by my colleague Javier Marín in his blog post coming in a few weeks.

SmartIrrigation’s Beetle Box helps to optimise water use in hydroponic raspberry plantations

Raspberries are grown in many parts of the world with annual production estimated at 411,000 tonnes [1]. This temperature sensitive fruit has historically been produced in the cooler northern-European countries. However, this trend is changing since raspberry production is increasing in warmer climates countries such as Spain or Portugal thanks to year-round productions in greenhouses.

MadreFrutaBlog1

Madre Fruta is an organisation of horticultural producers from the Algarve Region, in Portugal. Created in 1996, Madre Fruta works with 32 raspberry, blackberry and strawberry producers, helping them in their production processes as well as dealing with the sales, packaging and conservation of the produce once it is harvested.

One of the major benefits of growing berries hydroponically in a greenhouse as Madre Fruta does, aside from the magnificent taste, is that they can be grown lifted off the ground. This has proven to be a great benefit to commercial growers as the picking rate is much faster, less labour-intensive and the cultivation of the plants is easier in general.

The business challenge

With the objective of knowing the substrate moisture levels in the pots in real time, Madre Fruta deployed an integrated sensor network to gather information about their plants and to control irrigation treatments more precisely. There was a need to include sensors in some representative pots in order to “see and feel” which amount of water was staying in the pots and consequently what amount was being leached out and wasted.

Being able to control irrigation could allow Madre Fruta to optimise water levels in pots maintaining the desired level of humidity at all times. These were the initial conditions that the Star2Earth team found, and as far as Madre Fruta was concerned, none of the solutions available on the market gave the possibility of having very frequent readings (every minute)- a fundamental requirement they needed to be met.

The Solution

The Beetle SmartIrrigation boxes offered by Star2Earth were the solution chosen to solve this problem.

IMG_20130529_162021

The solution deployed included 10 sensors installed in different pots located in the greenhouse. These sensors provided periodic measurements of electrical conductivity and soil moisture, which could be seen, analysed and even downloaded from the AQUA user Interface for advanced use.

Beetle models are plugged into the electrical mains and therefore can take measurements very intensely (up to 60 measurements per hour). These probes are specifically designed for hydroponic agriculture and other cultivations where timeliness and accuracy are fundamental.

The Smartirrigation solution was seamlessly integrated into Madre Fruta’s daily procedures, since information can be accessed from any device with a web browser, such as a tablet or a mobile phone.

The AQUA user interface also allows users to configure alarms and reports that use SMS or e-mails to inform the growers of any anomalies detected, as compare to the expected irrigation patterns.

MadreFrutaBlog2

Key benefits

  • Irrigation water flow was adjusted to the plants’ real time needs.
  • The system contributed to increasing crop yields while optimizing consumption of water.
  • The SmartIrrigation web-based soil moisture information service was seamlessly integrated into Madre Fruta’s normal work procedures.

 

If you’d like to know more about the Beetle Box or any of our other models, please head over to the SmartIrrigation product description in our website here!

[1] White, John. Year-round raspberry production [online]. Practical Hydroponics and Greenhouses, No. 130, Apr 2013: 17-19. Availability here. ISSN: 1321-8727. [cited 21 May 14].

Welcome to the Star2Earth blog!

At Star2Earth we’re very proud to present the new and revamped website and blog we’ve been working on during the past months. Our main aim will be to present the products and services that we offer to our clients and into which we put so much work. In addition to this, we consider the blog a fundamental tool with which to share interesting information with you and introduce our own insight into the solutions that Earth Observation can provide.

Just in case you don’t know us, I’ll give you a brief overview of who we are. Star2Earth is a business unit within Starlab, an SME with offices in Barcelona (Spain) and Harwell (UK). Our main expertise lies in the use of satellite data to offer solutions where other sources of data do not reach. Therefore, the products and services we offer all include a smart mix of different data sources, where Earth Observation satellite data is always present.

The team is formed by an international group of people, with a variety of academic and professional backgrounds who thrive to meet our clients’ needs and improve our products and services on a daily basis. You’ll get to know the different members of the team in due time since they’ll all have their moment of stardom through their respective blog posts. We’re looking forward to making this a bilateral forum of communication, so please shoot any comments at us and we’ll be happy to answer.

Copyright: ESA–S. Corvaja, 2014

After this brief introduction, I’d like to tell you about one of the biggest milestones of our sector that took place on April 3rd and will definitely mark a new era for European Earth Observation: the launch of the first satellite of the Sentinel family from Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana.

To set this event in context, I’ll remind you of its recent history. This new series of satellites is the continuation of Envisat, the European Space Agency’s largest civilian Earth observation satellite put into space and which was in service from 2002 to 2012. Envisat provided essential data to develop a wide array of downstream services based on Earth Observation data. The range of applications it contributed to is breathtaking: atmospheric chemistry, ozone depletion, biological oceanography, ocean temperature and colour, wind waves, hydrology (humidity, floods), agriculture and arboriculture, natural hazards, digital elevation modelling (using interferometry), monitoring of maritime traffic, atmospheric dispersion modelling (pollution), cartography and study of snow and ice.

Copyright: ESA (2014)

Copyright: ESA (2014)

The Sentinel mission will take over from Envisat to meet the needs of the European Earth Observation programme called Copernicus (previously known as GMES). The Sentinel programme will be formed by a family of missions where each mission will be based on a constellation of two satellites orbiting 180º apart. As mentioned above, the first one launched (in April 2014) is Sentinel 1, which carries an advanced radar instrument to provide an all-weather, day-and-night supply of imagery of Earth’s surface. Its applications include the monitoring of sea-ice conditions for navigation, information on marine winds, waves and currents, and the detection of changes in land cover, as well as applications related to emergency response such as earthquakes, floods and oil spills, to name a few.

If you’re interested in the launch of Sentinel 1, there are many videos, photographs and explanations on the European Space Agency’s dedicated website. In any case, we’ll elaborate on the different missions that will complete the Sentinel family in future posts and mostly on how we’re looking forward to using the data to create value-added products and services.

Keep tuned for the next posts on the blog!