Harnessing the power of space for disaster relief

This week at Space Symposium, The World Economic Forum Global Agenda Council on Space is demonstrating HelpNow, a project to improve safety, security and quality of life worldwide. Our CEO serves on of the Council on Space and DigitalGlobe is a proud contributor to this project.

In 2014, the Global Agenda Council on space published the book Bringing Space Down to Earth to explain how space-based technologies and services are crucial to face society’s greatest challenges. The project originated when the council was charged to translate the vision outlined in the book into real-life impact. For the past year I’ve represented DigitalGlobe on a project team led by Lockheed Martin to develop HelpNow, a humanitarian response platform enabled by space technology.

Why focus on humanitarian response? According to the United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction, disaster events have been responsible for $1.4 billion in damages, impacted 1.7 billion lives and caused over 700,000 deaths over the last 10 years.

HelpNow Screen CaptureHelpNow is an information exchange platform created to match resources to needs in the aftermath of crisis events enabled by space technology and open data. The platform was designed for 1) governments responsible for coordinating resource delivery, 2) relief organizations responsible for delivering resources to citizens, and 3) citizens who need help. The platform offers a simple interface that lets you 1) assess where there is need on the ground, 2) locate available resources to meet the need, and 3) match and route resources to the need.

Our project team is currently working to launch a generally available version of the platform and recruit a strong, diverse set of data partners by the fall. DigitalGlobe is committed to contribute imagery and Tomnod crowdsourced data that it makes available for public release, as it’s done in support of crisis event such as Typhoon Haiyan, the Ebola Crisis and the Nepal Earthquake, into the platform.

DigitalGlobe’s leadership in the world of Geospatial Big Data and deep learning will lead to additional contribution opportunities. Recently we blogged about how the Facebook Connectivity Lab is leveraging DigitalGlobe’s Geospatial Big Data initiative to determine population densities across vast rural areas in 20 developing nations to inform it’s connectivity strategy. This type of deep learning derived intelligence could be extremely valuable for disaster response. So as we continue to advance in this area, and start to run deep learning campaigns in support of crisis events, any intelligence we chose to make available for public release, would be published to the platform.

Our project continues to build momentum. We are now focused on finding an organization that will agree to house HelpNow on a permanent basis. We are excited about showcase opportunities such as Space Symposium which help us champion HelpNow and find it a permanent home.

For a demo of HelpNow this week at Space Symposium, visit the Lockheed Martin booth. Stay tuned for more details in the coming months. For more information please contact me at andre.kearns@digitalglobe.com.