Why is Sentinel Hub Perfect for Earth Observation Hackathons?

Sabina Dolenc
Oct 15, 2018 · 7 min read

In recent years, hackathons have gained the interest of organizations worldwide and during their rise they have landed on our radar too. The idea of bringing talented people from different fields who have a passion and desire to positively impact the world using remote sensing, is present within our company as well. Besides, Sentinel Hub — the service for processing and distribution of satellite imagery — is just the perfect foundation for building added value applications. Imagine using a fully functional service and its unique capabilities and not wasting time on basic IT tasks. Sentinel Hub helps you bring your ideas to life allowing them to develop further and reach their full potential.

Hackathons are competitive challenges open to anyone and dedicated to creative problem solving. They represent an opportunity for innovative ideas, transforming them into new and exciting products. Some even use them to find and recruit digital tech talent. We can find many definitions on-line, but most of them are having several things in common: time limits, themes and prizes. But many see other opportunities as well.

Participating in Earth Observation hackathons gives you the chance to work with the best open data processing service out there. From here on we will try to demonstrate the reasons why and how to use the Sentinel Hub.

Satellite Data and Sentinel Hub

The usefulness of satellite data was proven already decades ago, although a significant growth of usage was recorded after NASA provided free access to Landsat imagery in 2008. Complementing Landsat, the ESA and its Copernicus program’s Sentinel-2 satellites provide an even bigger volume of data in higher spatial and temporal resolution.

Today, free and open data provided by space agencies around the world allow virtual access to anyone. But the standard way of managing this rapidly increasing volume of EO data is too cumbersome, complex, and slow, making its practicality questionable.

With Sentinel Hub, essentially any data you want is available within a matter of seconds. Anyone can go to Sentinel Playground and explore our planet from above, track changes from past days through decades, and even use this free information to protect their environment.

For more advanced use, we have developed another public showcase demo application: EO Browser, which allows you to compare, analyze and download the data. As simple as that!

At this point you might ask yourself what really makes Sentinel Hub so special. Although the satellite data is freely available, there are still many steps needed to get value out of it. Since you need to do the downloading, processing, storage and distribution, be prepared to spend a lot of time. The process requires IT resources as well, further increasing costs.

Here comes the real value of the Sentinel Hub. It provides seamless and immediate access to these data with most common processing steps applied (band math, clipping, mosaicking, time-series analysis, etc.). Using the Sentinel Hub service, application developers can finally focus on building the applications for the end users, and experts can use machine learning to find relevant information. All that without spending time on getting the data, but rather doing what they do best.

We are on the mission to become the best EO data source for application developers around the world.

Sentinel Hub at Hackathons

We believe that Sentinel Hub is perfect for bright-minded hackathon participants dealing with challenges to better understand Earth and space. It gives them a chance to create added value and start incubating good ideas, turning them into startups. Besides, with our support, projects started at hackathons can be easily transformed into actual products.

In the past we have supported many hackathons addressing real-world problems, including the NASA Space Apps Challenge, Copernicus Climathons, Space2Health hackathon and more. It is our pleasure to observe so many talented people in action and help them learn and create using Sentinel Hub services in a variety of challenges around the world.

It is also amazing to see what kind of applications can be developed in such a short time. Below are a few examples which were developed in just 24 hours at the biggest Slovenian students’ hackathon, DragonHack 2018, powered by Major League Hacking (MLH). Our workshop “Tackling petabytes of satellite data with 6 lines of code” was fully booked, and participants of our challenge “Best Earth Observation Hack” were getting our support during the whole event.

  • Solar Power estimator for predicting electricity generation from solar panels based on cloud coverage measured by satellites and geographical/physical data. (Team: Cloud Computing)
  • Application for exploration, analysis and comparison of Geo data through time. (Team: Geodata Analytics)
  • The location discovery platform with Amazon Echo integration, Sentinel Hub maps and a spinning LED globe using voice commands. (Team: Around the World in 80 Seconds)
  • Platform for raising awareness about endangered animal species and our impact on the problem with data analysis and visualizations, engaging users to make a change in the field of animal protection. (Team: Red Panda)
  • Web application to help farmers improve their harvest by recommending which plants are best suited for a selected area. It includes a prediction model, which lists the most appropriate plants for the given environment. (Team: AgroScore)
  • Application for gathering and presenting user’s emotional response to satellite images of natural disasters (before and after). (Team: MineTheMap)

What Kind of Apps Can be Developed with Sentinel Hub?

Practically all end user applications which would gain value from a 10m resolution satellite imagery and multi-spectral data updated every couple of days.

There are quite a few applications around the world in precision farming, security, land administration and environment monitoring. Some good examples of applications in agriculture are CLAAS CropView, SataMap and AeroView, and from the security domain the SecureWatch application.

Just to get an impression, among our users we can find organizations such as FAO, Global Forest Watch, Greenpeace, EU SatCen, European Maritime Safety Agency and similar.

Where and How to Start?

You will get the Sentinel Hub account at hackathon. But to get familiar with the service we provide a 30-day trial account for everyone at any time. You will be able to configure your workflow, expose it as an API and integrate it in 3rd party applications.

With Sentinel Hub, you can import Sentinel, Landsat and similar data seamlessly and effortlessly in your favourite GIS application by following our integration guides. Since the service supports powerful WMS features you will be able to configure Sentinel Hub WMS in QGIS and ArcGIS, or integrate the service with OpenLayers, Leaflet, Google Maps.

We also provide a Python package and example Jupyter Notebooks, which help machine learning experts incorporate Sentinel Hub services into their models. As a proof of concept we have shared the Sentinel Hub cloud detector for Sentinel-2 data.

In our API documentation, you will be able to find details about WMS, WMTS, WFS, and WCS requests, custom URL parameters, possible output formats, atmospheric corrections, custom evaluation script and more. For easier start of understanding the usage of Sentinel Hub WMS service, we have provided the already mentioned Sentinel Playground and EO Browser as open-source.

Hackathons Need Openness to be Successful

We believe that sharing open source applications is now more crucial than ever. We are entering the “new age of remote sensing”, where more and more will be handled by statistical processing and machine learning, rather than visual inspection. To speed up further development, we have chosen the most common platform — GitHub, where we established the Custom scripts repository (a more user-friendly view of the same is available here). We have migrated practically all of our EO products, along with some other popular methods, with the intention to add more as soon as we find some which look promising.

GitHub supports versioning, so scripts can evolve through time, an important feature allowing all of us to add even imperfect scripts. We would be delighted if other people, either our users or not, would contribute their knowledge.

Don’t Miss a Chance to Get Involved

To get involved yourself, share ideas and engage with open data and the best open data processing service out there, we invite you to join the NASA Space Apps Challenge on October 19–21, and various Copernicus hackathons in the coming months.

If you are organizing a hackathon using open satellite data (Sentinel, Landsat, MODIS, etc.) and you would like to use Sentinel Hub services, or you are one of the local organizers from mentioned hackathons, contact us for more information!

Hackathons today explore new technologies like Sentinel Hub, drive business innovation even further, source incubation programs, create potential startups, create solutions for social causes, and analyze data to make predictions. We are honored to be part of this story!

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Thanks to Miha Kadunc.

Sabina Dolenc

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Sentinel Hub Blog

Stories from the next generation satellite imagery platform