Our planet is warming, and with it, earth systems at large are changing. We are getting snowfalls in places that we don’t usually observe. Temperatures beyond 40°C are being observed in locations that have never seen such temperatures historically. The widespread environmental degradation is converting acre large lakes into reclaimed land, with apartment complexes now susceptible to various flooding-related challenges. Trash mountains magically appear on the outskirts of major cities and grow to become multi-floored structures within years.
Parameters like temperature, water levels, and wind speed have a dynamic nature and they fluctuate and oscillate. It is these swings and movements that determine the habitability of any location across the globe. While these parameters have always fluctuated and oscillated, with global warming, climate change, and widespread environmental degradation, these fluctuations and oscillations have become much more frequent and intense than ever before directly having an impact on the habitability of various locations across the globe.
In 2019, information pertaining to our most precious resources - lakes, rivers, forests, and air via any search, query, database, visualization, or platform was not accessible to us and out of that tragedy, Blue Sky was born. Now as the human civilization, our society and economy, face the greatest danger ever, the irony lies in the fact that, while we as a society know everything on the technology and information side of things, we choose to remain ignorant about our environment and surroundings like the state of the Colorado River, Korattur Lake, Cumbum Forest Range, etc.
To solve this problem, we started pouring our technology resources into building our very own dream. A platform that could provide us with global climate information across time for all locations across the globe so that we can observe and draw insights in near real-time. We could actively monitor these metrics, hold various stakeholders accountable, and design appropriate plans, strategies and projects to save, conserve, or improve them. The key was to “know” about various “Spaces” across “Time”, aka to have robust Spatio-temporal data for any natural asset to take care of it adequately.
This is how SpaceTime™ - a digital twin of our planet was born.
SpaceTime as a concept was originally inspired by Albert Einstein. He developed this idea as part of his theory of relativity, as a mathematical model which fused the three dimensions of space and the one dimension of time into a single four-dimensional manifold.
The most well-known spacetime diagram came from Hermann Minkowski in 1908 in the form of two-dimensional graphs that depict events as happening in a universe consisting of two dimensions i.e., space and time. Over the years, spacetime diagrams and concepts advanced the field of the general theory of relativity and the relationship between mass and energy, allowing us to look into deeper space and understand far-reaching and complex objects like black holes.
We ventured on our quest in January 2019. My cofounder and I were living in Delhi, breathing toxic air, and hence we decided to simply know what is the air quality across different locations of our country. We aggregated all sorts of air quality monitors that we could access data from and built SpaceTime™ v1.
Fun fact! If you are an air quality monitoring company or a low-cost sensor network, you can simply plug in your data to SpaceTime™ and pop up on this public dashboard.
The problem, however, remained that India’s area is 3.3 million km2 and we could only access data from 376 monitors. This made us wonder if we could extract more granular air quality information from satellites. Turns out, we could!
Leveraging satellite data, we developed our second dataset and layered it on SpaceTime™. We were able to provide data for any location in India for 3 years and access air quality information at that location at a resolution of1 km2.
We went from 376 data points to 3.3 million data points.
Following this, the very obvious question that struck us was - where is this air pollution coming from? and what is the source of it? - There was a lot of conversation and debate around, whether it was coming from vehicles or power plants or stubble burning or construction. To this effect, we narrowed down on the most efficient way to monitor, measure, and calculate from satellites aka stubble burning. We started observing all fire events across India, from farms and forests, and calculating area burnt, emissions, and so on from them.
We started diving deeper into both farm fires aka stubble burning and forest fires aka wildfires. In this deep dive we started expanding and monitoring different types of biomass events, including, the intersection of farm fires and wildfires commonly observed in the Amazon, peatland fires in Indonesia, permafrost melting in Siberia, and raging wildfires in California, Australia, Greece. To visualize all of these, we expanded SpaceTime™ to the entire globe and started monitoring fire-related events across the planet.
In 3 years, we built a platform that allowed us to pour all our refined environmental and climate data that we crunched from satellites, ground sensors, and countless ancillary datasets on the internet, into a clean Spatio-temporal format.
Our success with SpaceTime™ and the countless challenges and hurdles that we faced, from putting the 3+ million points on a web dashboard to putting it out in a way that it does not hang or crash, to displaying point data, vector data, raster data; allowed us to dream a little bigger.
We decided that we will not stop here. We will put different forests on SpaceTime™ and count trees to actively monitor forestation, deforestation, and carbon sequestration. We will also put all the data pertaining to lakes on SpaceTime™ and monitor as they grow and shrink, if they are polluted or cleaned over time.
We have developed a digital twin of natural resources of the planet that was, up until now, unavailable but will prove critical to our life on this planet earth!
The road ahead
Our hope with SpaceTime™ is that over time it will visualize, display, and distribute a plethora of climate datasets across time. This information will not only help us in understanding the impact that these changes will have on our lives but also help us in solving for climate change to make a better and more sustainable planet for future generations.
In the meantime, please check out and explore SpaceTime™. You can login with your regular Google email ID, play around on the platform and let us know of any feedback. SpaceTime is an open visualisation platform for anyone to easily access our data. We work with a freemium model where the majority of the data is available on the open platform and only high resolution and granular data is being a paywall as our mission is to enable global climate action though accessible climate data to various stakeholders including journalists, data scientists, policy makers, risk analysts, financial analysts, CXOs, etc.
Democratizing climate data one dataset at a time.