Google Cloud expands Earth Engine to help businesses and governments boost sustainability

Google Cloud expands Earth Engine to help businesses and governments boost sustainability

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Google Cloud is doing its bit to help big businesses become more sustainable, making its Earth Engine service available to enterprises and governments today.

Announced at the Google Cloud Sustainability Summit today, the tool is said to provide access to more than 70 petabytes of “analysis-ready geospatial data.”

Google Earth Engine is not a new product. In fact, it has been available for more than a decade, but until now access has been restricted to academia and the nonprofit world. Launched in 2010, Earth Engine is one of the world’s largest Earth observation catalogs, combining data from satellite imagery and other sources and continually updating itself to present a clear picture of the world’s surface.

This data can be analyzed using massive geospatial cloud computing resources to generate timely, accurate and high-resolution insights about the state of the Earth. In this way, organizations can keep themselves informed on all environmental matters — the world’s forests, ecosystems, water sources, agriculture and so on — and how they are evolving.

As Google Earth, Earth Engine and Outreach Director Rebecca Moore explained, Google is commercializing Earth Engine to cater to businesses that are increasingly prioritizing sustainability. She pointed out that businesses are under growing pressure from regulators, investors and customers to reduce their carbon emissions. Google, which feels this pressure itself, is responding by rolling out various tools and products to help organizations achieve their sustainability goals.

“We’re at a unique inflection point in our relationship with the planet,” Moore said. “We face existential climate threats — a growing crisis already manifesting in extreme weather events, coupled with the loss of nature resulting from human activities such as deforestation. With access to reliable, up-to-date insights on how our planet is changing, organizations will be better equipped to move their sustainability efforts forward.”

Google has been offering a commercial version of Earth Engine on a pilot basis to several companies since last year. They include the consumer chemical firm S.C. Johnson & Son Inc., which has been using Earth Engine to learn more about how mosquito populations are fluctuating in order to guide the development of its pest control products. By combining this information with billions of individual weather data points, it has developed a publicly available predictive model that forecasts where and when new mosquito populations will emerge.

Earth Engine will still be available to nonprofits, academic institutions and other researchers at no cost, Google said.

Google also announced various other initiatives to help companies make progress on lowering their carbon footprint. For instance, it has started sharing 24/7 carbon-free energy insights with Google Cloud customers via a new pilot program. The idea is that customers can see a clear picture of their electricity emissions profile and baseline their existing carbon-free energy score with their scope 2 carbon footprint — that is, indirect emissions associated with the purchase of electricity, steam, heat or cooling  in order to forecast and plan a more optimized energy portfolio, explained Justin Keeble, managing director of global sustainability at Google Cloud.

In addition, Google said it’s expanding its Carbon Sense suite, which can be used by cloud customers to measure their carbon emissions accurately.

Images: Google

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