MANILA, PHILIPPINES — Two teams from the Philippines, GiveSight and World MAQI, are selected by the United States space agency National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), European Space Agency (ESA), and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) as global finalists for the all-virtual, Earth Observation Dashboard Hackathon held last June 23-29. With 4,300+ participants from 132 countries and territories, the week-long event featured 233 projects to solve challenges related to the COVID-19 pandemic using data from the Earth Observing (EO) Dashboard, an interactive data resource giving policymakers and the public a unique tool to probe the impacts of pandemic-related restrictions implemented around the world through the lens of Earth observation satellites.
The Geo-Intelligent Visualization of Earth Systems in Graphical and Historical Timelines (GiveSIGHT) seeks to improve the current EO dashboard by highlighting significant changes of the COVID-19 pandemic through visualizations and guided insight for prospect users. The proposed dashboard is intended to visualize economic proxies through night lights, economic activities, and lockdown timeline in the Philippines.
The team is led by Gabriel Kristopher “Cricket” Soong, an electrical engineer and emerging technologies consultant, and members include software engineer Mark Barretto and Adamson University computer engineering students Angelica Mhay Salazar, Karl Adrian de Guzman, and Joshua Bungcaras.
Mobility over Air Quality Index
The Mobility over Air Quality Index (MAQI) is derived from the fusion of mobility statistics provided by Google with air pollutants like nitrogen dioxide (NO2) from Earth observations. While the COVID-19 pandemic initially led to decreased mobility and improved air quality, countries around the world have begun to lift their quarantine restrictions, triggering air pollution once again. Through MAQI, areas and communities with improved mobility and air quality may be identified and recognized.
The team is composed of space data researchers and hackathon veterans. Data analyst Dominic Vincent “Doc” Ligot and data engineer Mark Neil Pascual led the conceptualization and prototype development, while Michael Lance M. Domagas, a computer science Master’s student, reunited with his undergraduate thesis adviser, Arturo “Art” Caronongan III, an assistant professorial lecturer from De La Salle University, to do research and concept validation for MAQI.
Pinoy pride and ingenuity
In 2020, Art Caronongan’s team placed as global finalist in the NASA Space Apps COVID-19 Challenge for Snail Space, an app giving a “safe space” by providing mental care and comfort during times of social isolation brought by COVID-19 pandemic.
In 2019, Doc’s team developed Advanced Early Dengue Prediction and Exploration Service (Project AEDES) which used Earth observations for data-driven dengue detection and nowcasting, bagging the global award for the best use of data in the prestigious NASA International Space Apps Challenge. Since then, the initiative has garnered more accolades: recognized in 2020 by the Group on Earth Observations (GEO) for applying Earth observations towards the achievement of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), and more recently last May 2021, vetted and approved by the Digital Public Goods Alliance (DPGA), and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), as a Digital Public Good (DPG), putting the Philippines on the map as a DPG pathfinding pilot country.
A team from CirroLytix Research Services, a Philippine-based startup leading the charge in using big data for social impact founded by Doc, developed Global Impact Detection from Emitted Light, Onset of COVID-19, and Nitrogen Dioxide (GIDEON), a data portal that used satellite data and news feeds to measure economic and social impacts of lockdowns and pandemic interventions. In 2020, GIDEON also won the best use of data global award in the NASA Space Apps COVID-19 Challenge.
Cricket Soong and Mark Pascual are also from CirroLytix, and in late 2020 were Space Apps global nominees for Global Hazard Exposure and Resiliency Trends by Earth observation and Analysis Tools (Global HEARTBEAT), an interactive tool providing geo-located information on natural and human hazards surrounding communities within the Philippines and Canada.
Winners of both space hackathons are invited to visit NASA and partner agencies’ facilities but are responsible for covering their own costs. Although travel has been on hold since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, invitations shall resume once travel is deemed safe.
Michael Lance, a lead local organizer of Space Apps, appeals for support in recognizing these global winners and finalists, “Having both led and participated in these hackathons, I can attest to the world-class quality of our local innovators but sadly support for these innovators has been minimal. In the same way we Filipinos love to cheer our athletes and beauty queens who represent our country, I hope we can find value in supporting our Philippine technologists, who also bring our country pride through their innovation.”
EO dashboard hackathon winners shall be announced in early August 2021.