Technology Merit: Climate Change Risk Modeling and Assessment

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Geoanalytics startup Orbital Insight for building land classification tools that can detect and measure different land types, such as fresh water reserves, forest and agricultural land, roads and buildings-and then layering the capability to automatically detect changes in land use. Such technology is critical for detecting climate change indicators such as loss of forest cover and decreases in water levels.

In a partnership with World Resources Institute, Orbital Insights built a land-use classification tool that can make out construction of new roads and buildings in previously forested areas-the first signs of deforestation-so that users can not only track deforestation but also predict it.

Orbital Insight has developed algorithms to count and measure cars, roads, airplanes, clouds, haze, freshwater lakes, agricultural fields and oil tanks to provide what it calls "cutting-edge insights about our changing world," according to the company. In addition to land classification and water reserves modeling, the firm's current suite of solutions include U.S. Retail Traffic-which provides almost real time estimates of sales for more than 90 major retailers by counting the cars in parking lots-and World Oil Storage Index-which estimates global oil levels by tracking the shadows cast by floating tank lids. Other solutions include monitoring crop yields and mapping poverty in partnership with the World Bank.