The mission to create a searchable database of Earth’s surface | Will Marshall

The mission to create a searchable database of Earth’s surface | Will Marshall


Four years ago, here at TED, I announced Planet’s Mission 1: to launch a fleet of satellites that would image
the entire Earth, every day, and to democratize access to it. The problem we were trying
to solve was simple. Satellite imagery you find online is old,
typically years old, yet human activity was happening
on days and weeks and months, and you can’t fix what you can’t see. We wanted to give people the tools
to see that change and take action. The beautiful Blue Marble image,
taken by the Apollo 17 astronauts in 1972 had helped humanity become aware
that we’re on a fragile planet. And we wanted to take it
to the next level, to give people the tools
to take action, to take care of it. Well, after many
Apollo projects of our own, launching the largest fleet
of satellites in human history, we have reached our target. Today, Planet images
the entire Earth, every single day. Mission accomplished. (Applause) Thank you. It’s taken 21 rocket launches — this animation makes it look
really simple — it was not. And we now have
over 200 satellites in orbit, downlinking their data to 31 ground
stations we built around the planet. In total, we get 1.5 million 29-megapixel
images of the Earth down each day. And on any one location
of the Earth’s surface, we now have on average
more than 500 images. A deep stack of data,
documenting immense change. And lots of people are using this imagery. Agricultural companies are using it
to improve farmers’ crop yields. Consumer-mapping companies are using it
to improve the maps you find online. Governments are using it
for border security or helping with disaster response
after floods and fires and earthquakes. And lots of NGOs are using it. So, for tracking
and stopping deforestation. Or helping to find the refugees
fleeing Myanmar. Or to track all the activities
in the ongoing crisis in Syria, holding all sides accountable. And today, I’m pleased
to announce Planet stories. Anyone can go online to planet.com open an account and see
all of our imagery online. It’s a bit like Google Earth,
except it’s up-to-date imagery, and you can see back through time. You can compare any two days and see the dramatic changes
that happen around our planet. Or you can create a time lapse
through the 500 images that we have and see that change
dramatically over time. And you can share these over social media. It’s pretty cool. (Applause) Thank you. We initially created this tool
for news journalists, who wanted to get unbiased information
about world events. But now we’ve opened it up
for anyone to use, for nonprofit or personal uses. And we hope it will give people the tools
to find and see the changes on the planet and take action. OK, so humanity now has this database
of information about the planet, changing over time. What’s our next mission, what’s Mission 2? In short, it’s space plus AI. What we’re doing
with artificial intelligence is finding the objects
in all the satellite images. The same AI tools that are used
to find cats in videos online can also be used to find
information on our pictures. So, imagine if you can say,
this is a ship, this is a tree, this is a car, this is a road,
this is a building, this is a truck. And if you could do that
for all of the millions of images coming down per day, then you basically create a database of all the sizable objects
on the planet, every day. And that database is searchable. So that’s exactly what we’re doing. Here’s a prototype, working on our API. This is Beijing. So, imagine if we wanted
to count the planes in the airport. We select the airport, and it finds the planes in today’s image, and finds the planes
in the whole stack of images before it, and then outputs this graph of all
the planes in Beijing airport over time. Of course, you could do this
for all the airports around the world. And let’s look here
in the port of Vancouver. So, we would do the same,
but this time we would look for vessels. So, we zoom in on Vancouver,
we select the area, and we search for ships. And it outputs where all the ships are. Now, imagine how useful this would be
to people in coast guards who are trying to track
and stop illegal fishing. See, legal fishing vessels transmit their locations
using AIS beacons. But we frequently find ships
that are not doing that. The pictures don’t lie. And so, coast guards could use that and go and find
those illegal fishing vessels. And soon we’ll add
not just ships and planes but all the other objects, and we can output data feeds of those locations
of all these objects over time that can be integrated digitally
from people’s work flows. In time, we could get
more sophisticated browsers that people pull in
from different sources. But ultimately, I can imagine us
abstracting out the imagery entirely and just having a queryable
interface to the Earth. Imagine if we could just ask, “Hey, how many houses
are there in Pakistan? Give me a plot of that versus time.” “How many trees are there in the Amazon and can you tell me the locations
of the trees that have been felled between this week and last week?” Wouldn’t that be great? Well, that’s what
we’re trying to go towards, and we call it “Queryable Earth.” So, Planet’s Mission 1 was
to image the whole planet every day and make it accessible. Planet’s Mission 2 is to index
all the objects on the planet over time and make it queryable. Let me leave you with an analogy. Google indexed what’s on the internet
and made it searchable. Well, we’re indexing what’s on the Earth
and making it searchable. Thank you very much. (Applause)

Danny Hutson

100 thoughts on “The mission to create a searchable database of Earth’s surface | Will Marshall

  1. Yes… I looked at the website and the imagery and found it worthless. It did say when I signed up that it was a "evaluation" account and my resolution would be limited. They weren't kidding about it being limited. You can't make out anything. I had my hopes high but that was short lived.

  2. This can be used for good, but is also very dangerous if you think about it.
    What about the secret army locations? Could this stop war-biases?

  3. Just tried it and its rubbish. Might be up to date but you can not Zoom in on an area as the resolution is terrible.

  4. This is great in theory, but it will be a nightmare for countries that want to remain private. I am sure it will be hit with remove this, and remove that requests. Also, it could be a treasure for countries at war or people that wants to do harm.

  5. Looks like the Pentagon's wet dream. The Chinese will love this for the South China Sea among other areas. Oh, and don't forget Vlad…

  6. Everybody chill out theres no way those satellites could take pictures precise enough to see one person precisely its 21 satellites for a random website not 21 macro versions of hubble there will be no need for the interventions of laws because theres no way this thing is entraving anyone's privacy

  7. wonderful crap we can see that the turds on top are walking on regular people . do these' Wise" demon's plan to help or revenue? €£$ won't they crap their diapers when they are exposed? @ lightupthecockroaches

  8. THERE IS A NEED FOR MISSION 1.5, because e.g. counting planes in airports is half useless since the photographs are only done once per day. The same plane can fly to several airports per day and thus get photographer twice (as the photographs of different locations are made in different time). This means that the number of satellites should be ideally increased 24 times, to provide hourly snapshots — ~5000 satellites are needed.

  9. TED, we already know that you have many warriors to send out before you actually show yourself. Come on, TED. Why can't you come out? We already know your name. We have much information on you already. It's only a matter of time before you choose to give up, and escape. And we already know where you'll go to escape. You cannot hide from us, we will find you. TED, show yourself.

  10. An interesting invention but also problematic regarding privacy. It's nice to be able to police things like overfishing, but most governments aren't very enthusiastic about military bases and other strategic locations showing up in these systems. Even their exclusion from the images is problematic because it gives away their location nevertheless. Also, monitoring traffic and concentrations of buildings might provide useful and interesting data, but that same data may also be used to calculate and plan attacks that would bring maximal devastation with best efficiency. It all boils down to who has access to all this data and how they choose to employ it. Data is power and potentially dangerous.

  11. I'm so frightened… Psychopath will try to control everyone. It's absolutely important to make laws for it and do the right thing.

  12. That is great, but I expect people using this inn a bad way unfortunately… I hope more will use it in a good way! Good luck!

  13. 👍🌸👍👍🌸👍🌸👍🌸👍🌸👍🌸👍🌸👍🌸👍🌸👍🌸👍🌸👍🌸👍🌸👍👍👍👍👍👍👍

  14. To all of the people worried about spying: You're already being spied on enough, in my opinion; That's not to say this comment's promoting spying…

  15. I signed up the last time I saw the ted talk. I use this tool to see snow conditions in mountains. It helped a lot for planning a safe hiking, thank you.

  16. Yeah i remember your video from 4 years ago. I cannot, i CANNOT believe you already did this? Holy smokes this is incredible!

  17. sorry but…i feel watched. is this okay? defenetly "u can't Change what u can't see" is true, but the second part is, in my opinien, going to further

  18. Sounds cool and all but if you go to the website and use it the current pictures are terrible and extremely blurry. They are so blurry you can’t differentiate between different buildings it’s terrible.

  19. I checked out the website and the images are horrible. Google Earth has much better images. Maybe I'm doing something wrong but on the maps I looked a Dallas TX and houses just look like blurs.

  20. Yeah… That's cool but new inventions are the norm and new problems are the humanity's Armageddon. First focus on the problems and then think to great the next generation vibrating walking dildo.

  21. One of the underlying assumptions behind this technology is that people are fundamentally good.
    I however I do not believe that people are good.
    If he believed that people were good then why does he give the examples of tracking illegal fisherman and the people/companies that are cutting down forests?
    It's like he assumes that humans are pretty much good, but need kept in check by the morally superior humans that use his companies' technology.
    Neighborhood watches are one thing, but morally superior anonymous internet troll vigilantes are a level too far.

  22. a searchable, daily updated database of all the objects on the earth… huh. all i could think was yeah, and i am one of those objects. gen3 will be realtime views of all of us, all the time, no more need for 'security' cameras everywhere.
    too creepy, glad i'm getting old.

  23. Military satellites probably use much higher resolution and therefore can – and probably already are – spying on people. Fantastic that the public can now see what irresponsible governments and companies are doing to our home planet, so we can take appropriate action

  24. index all the objects on the planet he says,next it will be a chip in you so you can be indexed and tracked via satellite probably say something like making it easier to find criminals or victims of crimes like kidnapping and murder or that it would cut down on slavery and the like.

  25. Blatant advertising on a very "non-open" website, that wants a huge amount of your personal information for a two week trial, pay-afterwards sign-up.

    Did not sign up. Sounded so promising, then that account creation happened.

    They are indeed like Google in that they want your info.

  26. On Planet.com he has video in which he says this service is built for businesses so they can be more competitive. He is a hypocrite, selling this to TED like it some gift to the gardians of nature while selling it to big biz so they can exploit nature more efficiently.

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