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EO Research and Beyond

What RSS can do for supporting your EO Research, application or service
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RSS demos at EGU, Fringe and Multitemp 2017

After EGU 2017 last month in Vienna, RSS will attend both Fringe (Helsinki, 5-9 June) and Multitemp (Bruges, 27-29 June) conferences next month. RSS staff will be available during the poster sessions of both these events to answer your questions and provide demos of available tools and services. Furthermore, RSS staff will be pleased to gather your feedback (as user) and listen to your needs as well, in order to identify and collect new requirements. The focus of our presentations and demos will be on new solutions making easier Earth Observation data access and exploitation. 


The poster that will be presented at Fringe is titled ESA Research and Service Support: making easier Sentinel-1 data exploitation, while the one for Multitemp is titled ESA Research and Service Support for Multi-temporal and Multi-mission data processing. Although from different perspectives, both posters aim at clarifying how RSS solutions simplify the work for EO data users, whether they are scientists, algorithm developers, students, or service companies.


For what regards Fringe, in particular for Sentinel-1 data exploitation, the poster introduces RSS on-demand services, e.g. for data pre-processing, as well as to obtain TOPSAR interferometric products. These on-demand services are based on SNAP, an ESA open source software, and on SBAS, a CNR-IREA algorithm.


The paper for Multitemp is related to the exploitation of timeseries applied to two different processing campaigns, respectively requested by LIST and DLR. In the first case, LIST’s objective was the generation of global flood record and inundation maps of past flood events based on the ESA archive of SAR data, while DLR work was focused on urban growth monitoring and used global ENVISAT ASAR WSM data from 2002 to 2012.


Besides these posters, we will be pleased as well to present any other relevant aspect of the RSS service you might be interested in.


See you in Helsinki and Bruges! 


For more information 

RSS Portal: rssportal.esa.int 

Author's email: giancarlo.rivolta@esa.int 


New RSS Users: Start-ups, non-EO Projects, and Advanced Education

In the last couple of years new types of users have started to request RSS support. While historically RSS users belonged to the Earth Observation community (i.e. Research Centres or Service Companies), recently non-EO entities have peeped out to get a closer look at the EO data exploitation potential enabled by RSS and its tools, in terms of value added for their activities. 


For example, this year various Start-ups from ESA Business Incubation Centres have approached RSS to better understand the type of support they can rely on. With three of these Start-ups we have entered into more detailed discussions, and two of them have factually followed-up the preliminary discussions by providing their concrete requirements. None of them is an EO company: one company is in the agricultural business, the other in the energy management industry. The support is on-going and covers basic training, data and tools provisioning. 


Another example regarding new EO data user types, comes from the support provided by RSS to architecture related projects last year and this year. Initially, the support was limited to data and customised CloudToolbox provisioning, both needed for some workshops at UCL-Bartlett. Successively, the support was extended to an Architect Firm involved in urban and environmental requalification projects of various European sites, some of them achieved with good media resonance. In this second case, besides data and tools provisioning, the support included basic training (on data and tools) and customised optical data processing. Currently, RSS has resumed the support to UCL-Bartlett for new on-going workshops: among the other usual things (customised CloudToolboxes, data), the preparation of these activities included the “Train the trainer” service as well. 


Last but not least, RSS has been involved since the very beginning in the definition phase of the new Master’s Degree in Data Science offered by “La Sapienza” University of Rome, Italy. The consultation process involving various Big data stakeholders (including ESA RSS) started in Autumn 2014, and the course started the successive year. 



We are now discussing with the University of Rome La Sapienza to effectively plan the fulfilment of their requirements. According to the initial requirements, from the second semester of the current academic year (next February), RSS will contribute to the Earth Observation class of the Master’s Degree in Data Science by providing dataset and customised CloudToolboxes, as well as frontal lessons and laboratory exercises. 


In addition to those mentioned in this post, other non-EO entities have recently requested support from RSS. We expect the observed growing trend of this types of requests to continue and consolidate in the next years. 


For more information 

RSS Portal: rssportal.esa.int

Author's email: giancarlo.rivolta@esa.int


RSS Supported Seasonal Water Variations Analysis

The ESA Research & Service Support contributed to the analysis of Poyang Lake seasonal water variations by supporting the processing of Sentinel-1A products and making available the required computing resources (RSS CloudToolbox). Such analysis has been performed in the framework of the DRAGON Cooperation Programme. 

A total of 71 Sentinel-1A IW SLC products (relative orbit number 40) acquired from June 2015 to May 2016 have been processed with the Sentinel Application Platform (SNAP) to compute all the possible 12-day interferometric coherence maps. More than 318 GB of data were processed with a customised processing chain to produce the desired results.

The images were calibrated in order to provide 3-band data combination (Sigma0_VV, Sigma0_VH and coherence) to create the final false colours sequence of images showing Poyang Lake water surface evolution. On such sequence of images is based the video available in the news about ESA-China Dragon Cooperation Programme recently published on the ESA website: ESA’s Dragon cooperation with China extended to 2020

Access the video


For more information 

RSS Portal: rssportal.esa.int

Author's email: giancarlo.rivolta@esa.int

RSS at Big Data from Space Conference 2016 in Tenerife

In March, RSS will be present at the Big Data from Space Conference 2016 in Tenerife, Canary Islands, Spain. We will contribute with a demo of the RSS service, a poster on our new cloud scaling engine prototype, and an oral presentation in the “Services and Apps” session, titled “Challenges and Achievements in Supporting Research and Service Development for Big Data”. 

Both the demo and the poster are scheduled on Day-1 (March 15th) between the afternoon Coffee Break and the Icebreaker, while the oral presentation is scheduled on Day-3 (March 17th) after the Lunch Break. 

This event in Tenerife aims at gathering researchers, engineers and users working in the Big Data from Space domain. Its objectives are: 


  • Identify priorities for research, technology development and innovation 
  • Widen competences and expertise of universities, research institutes, labs, SMEs and industrial actors 
  • Foster networking of experts and users towards better access and sharing of data, tools and resources 
  • Leverage innovation, spin-in and spin-off of technologies, and business development arising from research and industry progress 
  • Increase and promote the value stemming from the huge quantity of data made available nowadays (and in the future) 
  • Contribute to the EO innovation for Europe, as one of the main pillars for the Ground Segment evolution strategy 


Our demo will be focused on the presentation of the Research and Service Support services offering to interested EO data users the customised CloudToolbox service, besides the flexible processing on-demand service based on scalable grid/cloud resources. The former (CloudToolbox) is intended to support early algorithm development, when relatively limited datasets and resources are required. The latter is intended to ease the fine-tuning phase, when more resources are needed to run the algorithm in development on larger datasets, and could support processing on-demand and/or processing campaigns as well. 

If you are attending this great event in Tenerife next week, we warmly invite you to attend our demo as well, to ask as many questions as you want, and to pick-up the nice flyer describing our service (Research and Service Support: Simplify EO data exploitation). 

In the meantime, to have an idea of the RSS service, you can have a look at our e-poster “Research and Service Support: New Opportunities for EO Scientists” recently presented at the EO Science 2.0 Conference organised last year in ESRIN. 


For more information 

RSS Portal: rssportal.esa.int

Author's email: giancarlo.rivolta@esa.int


Earth Observation on your mobile device

Whoever has a mobile device can now have a closer look at the Sentinel missions’ world. In fact, the European Space Agency has recently published the ESA Sentinel App for iOS devices and plans to publish the Android version as well within a couple of months. This Mobile App allows users to visualize real time spacecraft tracking, get notified when satellites pass over the device location, see previous and next overpass time, go back in time to the latest downlink over the 3D globe, and access other interesting mission data. 

In 2016 other ESA Apps related to Earth Observation are expected. First, the Vegetation App, that will allow sharing of images (pictures taken by users) related to vegetation, and their association to the local Vegetation Index (NDVI) derived from satellite data, should be published in January in time for the Proba-V Symposium organised in Ghent, Belgium. Later in Q1, the BigData from Space Conference App will be published in view of BiDS’16 organised this year in Tenerife, Spain.  

RSS will be present at these conferences, both in Ghent and Tenerife, with some papers co-authored with WUR (land classification), KU Leuven (snow cover products comparison), and University of Rome La Sapienza (Data Science Master's Degree). Furthermore, as usual, RSS staff attending these conferences will provide to interested EO data users an overview of the ESA Research and Service Support service and live demos of the tools made available by the service itself.  

Later on in 2016, other Apps are planned. An EO Educational App, thought for high school teachers and students, should be published around mid-year. In the same period, a Near Real Time Image Viewing App should be published as well. Such App is expected to allow users to visualise optical satellite images (Landsat-8 and Sentinel-2 quick looks) as soon as they are provided by the ground segment. 

Further interesting Apps will be planned in the successive months. 

For more information 

RSS Portal: rssportal.esa.int

Author's email: giancarlo.rivolta@esa.int


Are you a researcher using EO data?

Are you a researcher using EO data? This is the first question that appears in the new RSS e-poster (a short video clip) titled “Research and Service Support: New Opportunities for EO Scientists”, published on the EOScience2.0 YouTube Channel in view of the first EO Open Science 2.0 Conference organized by ESA/ESRIN. 

Our e-poster provides in less than 2 minutes a simple overview of the services offered by RSS to EO scientists. The storyboard is thought to inform an ideal audience composed of EO researchers that are looking for a cost-effective way to run their algorithm on datasets of considerable size, in relatively short period of time. The audience profile is summarized in three questions: 


  • Are you a researcher using EO data? 
  • Do you have algorithms to be run on huge datasets? 
  • Would you present your results at the next conference? 


People answering affirmatively to the above questions will probably find interesting that RSS not only makes available flexible and theoretically unlimited processing resources, but also and primarily the fact that RSS ensures the end-to-end governance of such resources together with the full ownership of the Research Support process



In other words, scientists using the RSS Service do not spend effort to directly interact with the IT layer (indeed that effort is provided by RSS), but on the contrary can focus exclusively on the scientific aspects. And this is where RSS delivers added value to the research process. 

As a matter of fact, according to our users the observed time saving for each research project supported by RSS can be in the range of several man-months, and such time saving frees resources that allow to further enhance the scientific productivity. 

Have a look at our e-poster “Research and Service Support: New Opportunities for EO Scientists”. 



For more information 

RSS Portal: rssportal.esa.int

Author's email: giancarlo.rivolta@esa.int


RSS at IEEE GR4S Summer School and at IGARSS 2015

This month RSS will be present at the IEEE GR4S Summer School in Pavia, Italy, and at IGARSS 2015 in Milan, Italy. 

Our contribution to the International Summer School on Data Fusion for Risk Mapping (July 23rd and 24th) will be focused on the presentation of the new Research and Service Support service offering to interested EO data users the customised CloudToolbox service, besides the standard flexible processing on-demand service based on scalable grid/cloud resources. 

The presentation of the RSS service will be given on day 1 to 50 international EO researchers, PhD and master students attending the GR4S Summer School. Furthermore, to concretely demonstrate how RSS can provide resources to EO data users, one of the tools used during the lessons (SENSUM EO Tools) has been integrated last week both in the RSS CloudToolbox and in the RSS G-POD environment. Both options will be demonstrated to the students during the hand-on session on day 2.

Regarding our contribution to IGARSS 2015, we will participate in the invited session “TU2.B2: Big SAR Data Tools, Applications, Experiences and Solutions II”, chaired by CNR-IREA. Our presentation is planned on July 28th from 11.50 to 12.10. The title of our paper is “ENABLING SAR DATA EXPLOITATION BY PROCESSING ON-DEMAND”.

If you pass by the ESA stand at IGARSS 2015 in Milan, although no further RSS demo is foreseen there, you can take a nice dark-blue flyer describing our service (Research and Service Support: Simplify EO data exploitation). In the same stand, on the 60” screen you can also follow a 3-minute videoclip introducing RSS (it is part of a longer ESA videoclip). 

For more information 

RSS Portal: rssportal.esa.int

Author's email: giancarlo.rivolta@esa.int


The RSS CloudToolbox service

Succeeding the experience of the SSEP CloudToolbox service provided by RSS to the Geohazard user community since April 2013, ESA recently decided to extend the CloudToolbox service to the entire EO data user community, in order to assess its suitability to support EO research and data exploitation. 

The extended RSS CloudToolbox service can provide authorised registered ESA EO-SSO users with customised virtual machines (VMs) hosted on an European cloud infrastructure. Such VMs are allowed to access ESA RSS data archives through high-speed network connection and can be equipped with resources (typically 1-4 CPUs, 1-8GB RAM and up to 1TB storage) aligned with the initial user requirements. 

Users have full control of their CloudToolboxes, which are typically provided with an initial credit of 100 hours of up time and can be powered on/off by the user according to the workplan. Furthermore, where needed resources can be temporarily increased to support more demanding processing requirements (e.g. up to 20 CPUs, up to 40GB RAM or up to 10TB storage). If authorised, the initial credit can be extended as well. 

The VMs are provided with pre-installed software supporting EO data exploitation, like Sentinel-1 Toolbox, NEST, BEAM, GAMMA, Matlab, etc. Additional software can be installed on request. 

Details on service access and usage are available in the CloudToolbox FAQ page.

The service is subject to ESA G-POD Terms and Conditions, Cloud Providers Terms and Conditions and CloudToolbox Service Conditions, as detailed in the Service Terms section of the RSS CloudToolbox wiki page. 

The service is free of charge for authorised EO data users and provides flexible and easily accessible processing resources.

We expect the RSS CloudToolbox service to complement existing RSS solutions and tools, and to enhance RSS support to the productivity of the EO data user community. 

Interested users are invited to contact eo-gpod@esa.int

For more information 

RSS Portal: rssportal.esa.int

Author's email: giancarlo.rivolta@esa.int 



RSS support to the SAR Community

In the past months RSS dedicated significant effort to enhance the support to the SAR community. On the algorithm development side, we have supported CNR-IREA to further develop and fine-tune the G-POD InSAR SBAS service based on the full chain of their P-SBAS DInSAR algorithm. 

Indeed, from November 10th, 2014, the InSAR SBAS service has been made available on G-POD to interested RSS users for processing SAR data from the ESA archives. The service requires dataset selection over a specific AOI together with parameters/thresholds setting, and allows unsupervised processing providing in output geocoded interferograms, mean deformation velocity maps and deformation time series. 

About 30 Computing Nodes are made available to support the SBAS processing, equally shared between ESA and CNR-IREA. In fact, a federated G-POD cluster of 15 Computing nodes has been set-up at CNR-IREA, and other 15 Computing nodes physically at ESRIN are dedicated to G-POD SBAS processing. 

Results of this activity have been presented at the “Big Data from Space” conference (BiDS) held in ESRIN from November 12th to 14th.

In November, the new Sentinel-1 toolbox has been integrated into G-POD. Furthermore, Near Real Time ingestion of Sentinel-1 data from the Scientific Data Hub (scihub.esa.int) into the G-POD catalogue has been also activated. Data made available via SciHub are therefore available to RSS users for G-POD processing as well. 

Interested users are invited to contact eo-gpod@esa.int

For more information 

RSS Portal: rssportal.esa.int

Author's email: giancarlo.rivolta@esa.int


RSS Customer Survey 2014

Last month we have offered to RSS registered users the opportunity to participate in the RSS Customer Survey 2014 to provide feedback on the RSS Service and share with us expectations and requirements for the coming period. 

The survey (by the way, it will be open until next Jun 30th) consists of 10 questions. I will share with you in this post the results of a few questions from the RSS survey, based on the feedback from 33 users. 


Question 1: The ESA Research and Service Support (RSS) service is modelled to support some steps of the Earth Observation research process, in particular those belonging to its core phase such as "EO data processing" and "Data Analysis support" (see "The 5-level RSS service model" for more details). To what extent you consider the current RSS service model adequate to fulfil your research requirements as an EO scientist? 

Result: On a scale from 1 to 5, almost 60% answered positively (4) or very positively (5) to this question, and another 27% answered 3. In total, almost 85% of the answers was non-negative or positive, while only three users answered 2 (we will verify directly with them how the service can be improved, of course considering their comments if available). One user marked 1, but specified that he does not use the RSS Service. Another user did not mark any score.

Free comments to this question range from “It is difficult to find out data or information on the web site” to “The ESA RSS service is perfect”. However, as said, we will go through each single answer and associated comments to identify and plan possible service enhancements. 

Question 2: One of the core steps of the EO research process is the data processing. ESA RSS service supports such step by means of the G-POD service that implies hand-in-hand cooperation between the scientist (or Principal Investigator) and RSS staff as described in the post "How long it takes to integrate an algorithm into G-POD". To what extent you consider adequate the G-POD service to understand and fulfil your processing requirements?

Result:  Same story as above. Only three users answered 2 and one user answered 1 (the same of Question 1). Other RSS users not acquainted with G-POD simply did not marked any score (3 out of 33). 

Question 4: We have entered the Sentinel era on April 3rd, 2014. With the launch of Sentinel-1 we have the opportunity to extend the period covered by global radar dataset (ERS, ASAR) stored in the RSS DataFarm and available to RSS users via the G-POD catalogue for on-demand processing. To what extent you are interested in timeseries processing involving ASAR/Sentinel-1 data over specific areas of interest?

Result: Here we have almost 88% of the answers marking 4 (6 out of 33) or 5 (23/33). Three people marked 2. One user did not mark any score.

Free comments to this question range from “A straightforward API to access data” to “I hope, we (researchers) can use Sentinel data freely and fast”. Also for this question and of course for all others as well, we will identify and plan possible service enhancements.

If you have not participated yet in the RSS Customer Survey 2014, you still have time until June 30th. Your feedback will help us to further improve the service that we provide to the Earth Observation research community. 

For more information 

RSS Portal: rssportal.esa.int

Author's email: giancarlo.rivolta@esa.int


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