We'll soon know the location of almost every tree and building in Australia

Building heights in Melbourne CBD as described by Geoscape. Image: Supplied
  • Almost every tree and building has been mapped across 7.6 million square kilometres of Australia.
  • PSMA Australia expects to have captured more than 15 million buildings by the end of this year.
  • The Geoscape data set is the first time this type of location information has been married with data analytics.

Authorities have for the first time captured, using high-resolution satellite imagery, artificial intelligence and crowdsourcing, the location of almost every tree and building across 7.6 million square kilometres of Australia.

Geoscape, an analytics-ready data set created by PSMA Australia Limited, owned by all the governments of Australia, captures location-based insights for every address in the country.

This is the first time location information and data analytics — built by PSMA Australia and developed in conjunction with DigitalGlobe, the global leader in earth imagery — have been combined and made available in this way.

Geoscape combines advances in satellite imagery, machine learning and big data processing to create a digital representation of Australia’s built environment.

Crowdsourcing campaigns identified solar panels and swimming pools in satellite imagery. The crowd sourced data was then used to train artificial intelligence to recognise solar panels and swimming pools.

The information is built using 200 terabytes of satellite imagery collected by the constellation of satellites that are part of the DigitalGlobe platform.

Geoscape has three themes — buildings, trees and surface cover — and captures building footprints and heights, roof construction, surface cover, and tree heights.

“As consumers, we want to understand ourselves in context and access services where we are,” says Dan Paull, CEO of PSMA Australia.

“In business, the accelerated search for competitive advantage, for increased efficiency, productivity and innovation, relies on combining location data with other business data streams.”

It’s not just that consumers expect businesses of all kinds to provide relevant location information, or that businesses need to include geospatial data to make better decisions and improve customer experience. There’s also considerably more data to collect and process.

“We’re seeing the maturing of remote sensing and an abundance of earth observation satellites, meaning more location data is being produced than ever before,” Paull said.

“As human beings, we’re increasingly connected and mobile; with smartphones, tablets and wearables, more people than ever are capable of determining a position and interacting with location data.”

Building footprints in Brisbane CBD as captured by Geoscape. Image: supplied

Uses of the data include modelling the rollout of wi-fi and 5G telecommunications services, identifying building heights and trees that could impact the network.

Companies are also producing 2D and 3D models of cities, including simulation capabilities, to provide strategic insight for planners and development application processes.

They can simulate how decisions around planning rules, land use, transport and amenities affect the future functioning of the city and the environment.

The Geoscape data set currently contains more than 13 million buildings. Release 7, scheduled for early August, will have 14.5 million buildings. PSMA Australia expects to have captured more than 15 million buildings later this year.

“The data is so rich; there are so many possibilities,” says Dan Paull

“Developers can really dream up their own uses. An example might be a solar panel company determining which houses don’t have solar and which of those might suit it, or an online retailer determining if an address is genuine. But really, these are just the tip of the iceberg.”

Buildings with solar panels in Dubbo, New South Wales as captured by Geoscape. Image: supplied

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