Geospatial Data: The Digital Business Transformer

Daniel Schneiss

Posted by Daniel Schneiss on April 4, 2017

SVP, SAP HANA Platform & Databases

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Every March, the world’s largest IT event CeBIT showcases the latest technology innovations. The SAP “chancellor demo” has become almost a tradition, and 2017 was no exception. With Japan, one of the world’s largest and most innovative economies, being the official partner country of the event, our demo was not only presented to Germany’s Chancellor Merkel, but also to Japan’s Prime Minister Abe – and it was powered by SAP HANA.

The demo this year focused on how data can help anticipate natural events and take necessary action where needed. It showed how the risk of landslides can be predicted: With publicly available geo data (e.g. from the European Space Agency) analyzed with the SAP HANA Earth Observation Analysis Service running on the SAP HANA platform, areas of risk can be identified and assessed. The results can help governing authorities and local emergency services to optimize rescue planning and even take preventive measures.

This showcase is a perfect example how Big Data and Machine Learning come together on the SAP HANA platform using geo-referenced data and spatial analytics. The SAP HANA Earth Observation Analysis Service enables continuous analyzation of mass earth observation data daily, in order to:

  • Interpret satellite pictures by applying deep learning algorithms,
  • Predict natural disasters and help manage the ramifications.

This mass data can be processed 24/7 in real-time thanks to SAP HANA’s unique computing power. Additionally, using SAP’s automated classification capability, satellite data can be sorted into categories like urban and agriculture areas to show which are affected most and where help is needed.

The example from this year’s CeBIT proves that SAP HANA is unlocking the value of geospatial data for our customers. Next to disaster management, other scenarios include the analysis of geo data for insurance companies, agriculture projects, smart city management, the entire retail sector and much more.

The groundwork for the recent innovation was laid out in 2016 when the partnership between SAP and the European Space Agency (ESA) was announced, facilitating access to a new field of business opportunities in the geospatial context. This was done by combining the power of SAP HANA with ESA’s accurate, timely, and easily accessible earth observation data, especially from the Copernicus program. Back during SAP TechEd Las Vegas, the first ESA showcase together with insurance provider Munich RE was presented, demonstrating how insurance companies can use data to foresee and control the impact of potential wildfire damage claims on their profits.

From there, we went to make SAP HANA’s Earth Observation Analysis Service accessible through the SAP Cloud Platform on the microservices ecosystem YaaS. Most recently, we added the service to the SAP API Business Hub. This cloud service allows users to analyze satellite imagery by making simple representational state transfer (REST) calls and provides a search mechanism for finding an image of interest to extract specific information such as an NDVI (Normalized Difference Vegetation Index). The service can be used to

  • Access Copernicus Sentinel-2 data
  • Browse through a catalog of historical and real-time satellite images
  • Get metadata about specific satellite images and filter them by time, space, and quality conditions
  • Calculate classic RGB images of specific satellite images
  • Calculate surface indices such as NDVI or NBR on-the-fly
  • Download georeferenced high-resolution images

But how will geospatial services, such as SAP HANA’s Earth Observation Analysis, transform businesses in the future?

Geospatial analysis brings together GIS, the system of record for maps, and ERP, the system of record for business data. This enables enterprises across all industries to streamline the processing of both enterprise and spatial data to their advantage, e.g. by improved decision-making based on increased location awareness. Customers such as Munich RE already experienced these advantages: “This new service from SAP, leveraging satellite data from ESA, allows us to accurately calculate costs and risks related to wildfires and even gain insights into the future probability of wildfires. This will help us to keep costs down for our clients”, said Andreas Siebert, head of Geospatial Solutions, Munich Re.

It is a long-standing fact that about 80% of all data is geo-referenced in some way. This is also true for enterprises, which always rely on some type of location data, reaching from addresses of their manufacturing plants to GPS locations of their logistical assets. Exposing this data to our analytical possibilities, businesses can benefit from an ocean of opportunities, such as insight into deep learning by combining geo-referenced data and for example sensor data (which increases steadily through the Internet of Things) have their machines learn new behavior based on the analytical findings.

To help our customers reach the depths of this ocean, we are continuously improving geospatial capabilities within our next product versions of SAP HANA. Improved validity concepts, new innovations and algorithms, and even better performance are just a few of these planned capability improvements. Ultimately, we want to make SAP HANA the Geodatabase of the future.

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