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Editorial Spring 2012

How we talk about our industry and the words we use to describe the products and services we offer has a profound importance. Several initiatives have recently highlighted the needs of our industry to speak a common language and to define some common standards. I believe that this reflects a maturing of the EO services sector, moving from R&D orientation to operational services.

The first instance came under the initiative with the Oil & Gas industries, OGEO, where representatives of the OGP (The International Oil and Gas Producers Association) are asking that certain products become industry recognised. For example, oil spill monitoring where, following the high profile Deepwater Horizon / Macondo disaster, several cross-industry projects are under way to assess how the O&G sector need to be able to react quickly when an emergency arises. The persons responsible for taking action need to quickly identify what services to call upon and have the confidence that these are qualified to respond to the crisis. EO service companies that are prepared with pre-qualified and recognised services will have an edge.

Secondly, when I was visiting recently with the World Bank, I learned that officers there have spent several days searching for companies that could supply certain product. The particular case was also in response to an emergency situation where time and effort was lost in searching rather than responding. The officers concerned needed a fast and reliable way to identify potential suppliers. This mandates a common language to define what products meet the customer requirements and a qualification process that gives the customer confidence that he will get what he expects.

The third example lies with the insurance industry sector. In a recent workshop that we organised with ESA, several companies were expressing their wish to have a single interface to help them find appropriate service providers. Here again companies want to be able to go straight to recognised and qualified suppliers of services. Whilst not necessarily an emergency, the time to respond is important in order that insurance companies can understand the situation and plan their actions.

All three examples are pointing to the need for the industry to express itself clearly using a common language and standard definitions. Once customers start asking for this then we should be ready to respond.

As a first step, we have produced a taxonomy for our market. We first felt the need for such a structured approach as we went to take eopages live. I have talked about eopages before and am excited about this tool to help potential customers find competent suppliers. We started to design eopages using lists of products and services coming from earlier studies. But we found that the market definitions coming from these earlier studies did not adequately represent the market as we know it. We therefore spent some time studying how other organisations and companies describe the EO Service market and generating a new breakdown and structure.

Since this must reflect both a client view and a supplier view we have generated both market and thematic structures and have linked them through the eo service. For example, an eo service to provide maps of floods would meet a number of client needs and therefore fits into several market sectors (insurance, emergency responders, etc). In a thematic view we include it under geohazards. This is not easy to describe in words and if you are interested to know more, please contact us for a copy of the document.

The taxonomy will not just be used for Eopages where eo service companies will present themselves, EARSC will shortly be starting to conduct a detailed survey into the geo-information services industry. In the next few months, we shall be contacting as many companies as we can identify to find out aspects of their business; revenues, employees, business model etc. One aspect will be to look at the business sectors they work in and the types of products they have to offer. We shall be using the taxonomy to structure these discussions and to present our findings.

In another project, EARSC has a working group looking at the problem of describing common products through a set of standards. A first step is to identify what already exists and much work has been done under the auspices of the ESA Value Adding element programme and the EC GMES programme. Various products and services have been developed and we seek to assemble the documents describing each of them into a single source. The basis for organising this is the taxonomy where we can take each of the services identified and place them into the market and thematic structures. We have designed and put in place the database. Now the group is working to assemble the documents.

Once we have this completed we can start to understand, with guidance from the customer in market segments, what needs to be done to ensure a common understanding that meets their needs.
This work will take some time. If you are interested, contact us. It is fundamental work, not in itself generating new business.

Nevertheless, it should provide a sound platform for the eo services sector by responding to our clients requests for recognised products and providing reassurance of an industry that is moving to meet operational needs.

Best wishes,
Geoff Sawyer,
EARSC Secretary General

Eomag_Editorial, Issue29_Spring-2012.pdf
Eomag!_Issue 29_Spring 2012.pdf