Sep 21, 2022 - News

Crowdsourcing key to tracking global crises from Ukraine to climate change

Walruses seen through satellite imagery. Image courtesy of Maxar Technologies.
Walruses seen with satellite imagery. Image courtesy of Maxar Technologies.

The next player in documenting global crises is you.

Driving the news: Crowdsourced research and open technology are making it easier for citizen-scientists and activists to track the effects of climate change and fallout from natural disasters, panelists said Tuesday at a Denver Startup Week event.

Maxar Technologies in Westminster uses its satellite imagery as part of a project to count walrus populations and track their movements to new habitats in a warmer climate.

  • Other images it made public from the war in Ukraine have helped governments, media organizations and others document evidence of alleged Russian grain theft and war crimes.
  • And the company's images from hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico will help inform disaster response.

ColdQuanta, a quantum computing company in Boulder, is preparing to make its platforms available to the public this year so researchers and others can test applications and algorithms to solve complicated problems.

  • "Essentially the sky's the limit. Whatever you can imagine you can do, you can try to do," Max Perez, the company's vice president of research and security solutions, said during the panel discussion moderated by Axios Denver's John Frank.

Yes, but: Not all crowdsourced data is built the same. Kathryn Seitz, a senior director at Maxar, said teams are needed to curate and validate the data. "You don't want to rely 100% on the crowd," she said.

Of note: Both Colorado companies are engaged in helping the U.S. effort to boost Ukraine.

  • Maxar contracts with U.S. defense agencies to provide updated imagery on Russian movements, while ColdQuanta is battling electronic warfare that manipulates GPS signals by providing atomic clocks for communication systems.
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