The Copernicus Masters is an international competition that awards prizes to developers who leverage Earth observation data to solve important commercial and social problems. We issued a call for submissions to the Planet Daily Change Challenge—a search for novel applications of Planet’s daily, global imaging capabilities. After an evaluation by a panel of multidisciplinary experts, we headed to Helsinki, Finland to join industry and institutional leaders at the “Space Oscars 2019”—the Awards Ceremony of the Copernicus Masters—to formally announce our winner, Green City Watch!
Green City Watch, a Dutch geoAI startup that specializes in urban ecological engineering, was initially introduced to Planet when developing their flagship product, Treetect, with the city of Santa Monica, California. To create an automated urban tree inventory with near real-time monitoring capabilities, Green City Watch needed Earth observation data with faster revisit rates to enable rapid content acquisition and intelligence. Planet’s satellites filled that gap, while Copernicus Sentinel-2 MSI was used to track the health of urban vegetation.
Shockingly, most cities, including Jakarta, Boston and Tokyo, do not have an up-to-date tree inventory, despite urban areas supporting over 55 percent of the world’s population. Instead of planting and maintaining more trees, new research shows cities are actually losing tree cover, just when they need it most.
After learning that the life expectancy of urban trees is just 13 years, while their rural counterparts can live up to 100 years or more, founders Nadinè Galle, Jim Groot and Chris van Diemen felt compelled to apply the latest advancements in Earth observation, machine learning and computer vision to the increasingly vital discipline of urban forestry. They set out to increase tree longevity, keep cool amid rising temperatures, reverse biodiversity loss and foster health and well-being in the process.
An up-to-date tree inventory can reveal the age, species, size, location and condition of each individual tree and act as a prerequisite in planning for and making sound management decisions. However, evidence shows on-the-ground surveys are notoriously expensive to conduct, difficult to maintain and are riddled with errors. They also fail to visualize up to 70 percent of privately-owned urban trees, which still offer significant community benefits.
Treetect can mitigate liabilities by tracking maintenance, justify budgets by visualizing impact of under-budgeting planting, offer maintenance and removal, and protect urban forests by identifying illegal tree removal and locating vacant planting areas. Additionally, it can lay the foundation for various initiatives that address everything from climate change to public health.
Green City Watch knows trees are just one—albeit a very important—part of the urban ecosystem. In the future, they aim to expand their product offering to map, assess and monitor all parts of the ecosystem: from lakes to creeks, from parks to gardens, from green roofs to green facades—to help shape the cities of the future. They’re already working with the city of Jakarta to score its green spaces on ecological, social and economic performance.
We’re excited to follow Green City Watch’s journey as they build meaningful urban forest monitoring solutions and connect with new customers and markets. Follow @planetlabs and @greencitywatch for more updates!