Leveraging signals from space to monitor supply and demand post-COVID

A three month Sentinel-1 SAR composite over Singapore with lighter colors capturing activity on land and at sea, via Descartes Labs

The economic disruption induced by the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting raw materials and product flows worldwide. Freezes and disruptions at borders and ports are creating a strain on the way goods are produced, assembled, and delivered. The brunt is especially hard on non-digital native industries, such as shipping, retail, manufacturing, oil and gas, etc.

To tackle this challenge, geospatial analytics company Descartes Labs has launched a new tool that would use signals from space to estimate the recovery of supply, demand, distribution, and logistics on a global scale post-COVID.

The company says that its Economic Activity Signals (EAS) quick-start package would give businesses the ability to zero in on specific locations and monitor the demand and production across the supply chain. The core areas that EAS will focus on are:

  1. Mobility Activity: To track the movement of people in aggregate
  2. Commercial Activity: To track the pulse of production
  3. Maritime Activity: To track the flow of ocean transport
  4. Regional Pollution: To track pollution within political boundaries
Visual representations of economic activity signals. Left to right: mobility activity, maritime activity, commercial activity, and regional pollution activity

“Using location data, businesses will be able to stop guessing about the timing and impact of disruption and instead use our signals to make data-driven decisions about supply, production, and demand across key sourcing and distribution networks,” Mike Warren, CTO and Co-Founder of Descartes Labs, tells Geoawesomeness.

Mike stresses that having the correct forecasting tool will help business leaders shift from a “just in time” to a “just in case” mindset, allowing them to stay afloat in a continuously uncertain economy.

“By combining cutting-edge technology with geospatial data in order to monitor changes to the physical world, EAS builds a complete picture of daily activity around a diverse set of supply and demand networks. EAS will help businesses identify weak spots across their entire supply chain, offering visibility from tier 2 and 3 suppliers all the way to ports and warehouses,” he says.

This intel, the company hopes, will help business leaders answer questions such as:

  • Where’s the demand? When will it come back?
  • When should I restart hiring and ramp production?
  • When should I reopen my stores and how many staff members will I need?
  • Where is inventory being held up?
  • What are my competitors doing? How is my market share shifting?
Ishveena is a geospatial enthusiast and a freelance technology writer who has been named among Geospatial World's 50 Risings Stars 2021. With 13 years of mainstream journalism and digital content writing experience, Ishveena is passionate about bringing to the fore the value of location technology to the economy and society. Her clients include GIS corporations, proptech companies, fintech leaders, and some of the world's top drone manufacturers and service providers.


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