Geospatial Awakening in Global Supply Chains with Nathan Eaton and Denise Pearl

This week, Googler Denise Pearl and NGIS Executive Director Nathan Eaton join hosts Alexandrina Garcia-Verdin and Donna Schut to talk about how modern technology and data collection can significantly enhance environmental protection practices.

Denise starts the show with a thorough explanation of geospatial awakening and how Google is making its backend geo services like Google Earth Engine more usable for Google Cloud customers. With better data, easier access, and substantially more cloud compute power, companies are awakening to the possibilities of geospatial driven projects that analyze not just text but photographic data as well. Thousands of satellites collect information about Earth every day, and companies are realizing just how much of this data is available for their own sustainability, geo-centric, and location-based projects. Geospatial, Nathan explains, can help combine layers of text and photo data based on one location for a richer, more robust view of a particular location in real time.

As a geospatial partner with Google for a decade, NGIS has had experience using Earth Engine, Google Maps, and more to help Google Cloud customers use this data in meaningful ways. Because most projects involve analyzing locations as they change over time, companies need massive storage and processing power for their data. This is only made possible with the recent advances in infrastructure afforded by the cloud. With these amazing advances in technology, Denise and Nathan are seeing more and more exciting use cases. Companies are taking this data and making meaningful decisions for their future and the future of the planet. Sustainability goals like limiting deforestation in the supply chain can be made and measured. Climate change models can be created and applied. And all of this can be done quickly.

Nathan and Denise talk about TraceMark, the sustainable sourcing solution built by NGIS and made to integrate flexibly with customer projects. Consumers are increasingly aware of their affect on the environment and are pushing for change. With TraceMark, companies are able to see the environmental impact of their supply chain partners and make changes in line with customer values. These decisions can influence the growth of the company as well, as suppliers are vetted and chosen based on sustainability and availability. We hear about the building of TraceMark and the challenges the team overcame. Denise runs through some features of the software and how users can take advantage of them. Our guests give some great tips for organizations to get started with their data-driven sustainability goals, and Nathan talks about what’s next with NGIS and TraceMark.

Nathan Eaton

As Executive Director at NGIS, Nathan has worked with hundreds of clients to deliver fit for purpose, innovative solutions. Nathan leads our GIS capabilities and stakeholder management including consulting with a range of large multinational companies and federal government departments. Most recently, Nathan has led the development, build and launch of TraceMark, a SaaS sustainable sourcing solution from NGIS, Google Cloud and partners Planet and CARTO.

Denise Pearl

Denise Pearl leads strategic ISV efforts for Google Cloud’s Geospatial, Earth Observation and Sustainability vertical. Her primary focus is to align engineering, marketing and sales teams within Google around the issues that matter to enterprise customers and government agencies enabling the use of technology to better solve sustainability challenges communities face across the globe.

Cool things of the week
  • Planet and People AI Series videos
  • Planet and People AI: Mapping carbon pollution globally with satellites video
  • Geobeam site
  • GCP Podcast Episode 282: Geospatial Cloud and Earth Engine with Chad Jennings and Joel Conkling podcast
  • Google Earth Engine site
  • NGIS site
  • NGIS and TraceMark site
  • TraceMark site
  • EO Data Science site
  • EO Data Science GEE Impact site
  • The technology and climate science helping CPG brands with sustainable sourcing blog
  • Adopting real-world sustainability solutions with Google Cloud’s ecosystem blog
  • Achieve Your Sustainability Goals with the Google Cloud Ecosystem site
  • The data-driven path to real-world sustainability solutions whitepaper
  • It takes an ecosystem: How the Google Cloud Partner Initiative speeds the transition to enterprise sustainability article
  • Google Cloud Sustainability Summit site
  • BigQuery site
What’s something cool you’re working on?

Dana is focusing on geospatial analytics, helping customers achieve their sustainability goals. She’s building solutions that solve repeatable problems.

AGV is getting ready for the Cloud Sustainability Summit on June 28th.

[MUSIC PLAYING] AGV: Hi, and welcome to episode number 303 of the weekly Google Cloud Platform Podcast. I'm AGV. I'm a Cloud Sustainability Developer Relations Engineer. And today, I'm here with my colleague, Donna, who's a Solutions Manager in Data Analytics Geospatial and AI, who's co-hosting with me today. So in this episode, I'm really excited for the conversation we have this week with Denise Pearl, who manages sustainability and Geo-ISV partnerships at Google. We also have Nathan Eaton, who's Director at NGIS which is a geospatial and sustainability technology partner of Google.

So in this conversation, we'll dive into cool topics such as why is geospatial data important for supporting sustainable and resilient supply chains in all industries, as well as the opportunities all organizations now have with the use of processing satellite data with cloud computing and AI, such as cost, speed, and depth of insights for decision-making. I'm ready to dive in. But first, just wanted to share about the cool things of the week.


So my cool thing of the week is that I got to launch another developer episode for our People and Planet AI series. This one talks about an AI project sponsored by called Climate TRACE, which helps monitor the source and amount of carbon pollution emitted from organizations using satellite imagery and AI. In those eight minutes, we also show you how to get started with building an ML model that helps you identify if a coal plant is on or off, and begin your own carbon emissions tracking journey.

Another cool thing is, Donna's team is adding streaming capabilities to GeoBeam. For those of you who don't know GeoBeam, it's a cool tool that helps organizations ingest geospatial data into BigQuery at scale. A quick example is, ag tech organizations can use GeoBeam to ingest public geospatial data into BigQuery, and analyze crop conditions in order to improve their yield. All right. Well, let's go ahead and jump into our conversation with Denise and Nathan.


Hi, Denise and Nathan, thank you so much for being here. Mind sharing a bit about yourselves, and what do each of you do?

DENISE: So my name is Denise Pearl, everyone. I am part of the Global Partner Ecosystem within Google Cloud. And my remit is to look after partners building solutions on Google Cloud primarily in the areas of Earth observation, geospatial, and sustainability. And I'm fortunate to work with amazing partners like NGIS,

NATHAN: Hi, my name is Nathan Eaton. So I'm a director at NGIS. We are a Google Premier Partner. And essentially, we're a team of geo-geeks. And we partner with organizations that want to deliver high impact, innovative geo-solutions, leveraging global leading technologies, such as Google.

AGV: Wonderful. Thank you. So today's chat is around geospatial awakening. And I think first step here is, let's try to understand really quickly what do we mean by geospatial awakening, and why is it important? Why are we talking about this today, Denise?

DENISE: I think for a while we've been known within Google for geo-related solutions, things like Google Earth, which a lot of people are familiar with. And we're starting now, AGV, to uncover some of the backend services that power things like Google Earth. And we're making those services available to our customers, and to our partners within Google Cloud.

And these solutions, one of them in particular, which you'll hear us talk about today is Google Earth Engine, which powers things like Google Earth. And for a long time, Google Earth Engine was primarily used by government agencies, or by researchers in educational institutions. The very nature of Earth Engine, which is incredibly technical, didn't make it conducive for normal IT professionals to log in and start to work with the data, or do queries, do insights.

But I think all of that is changing now, AGV. There's this spatial awakening, like you said, where there's more satellites than ever before taking pictures of the planet. That data is now being made available through hyperscalers, or through clouds. So you can actually get access to all of this data. And then you get the compute power of Cloud to be able to process the data.

So I think that this moment in time where you've got this huge influx of new data, the cloud services to make that data accessible to everyone, it's really affording people the opportunity to think about not just the text that we're used to reading about the planet, but now, seeing the pictures that go along with it. So in my mind, that's what we're talking about with spatial awakening. But Nathan might have a few more little tidbits to add there.

NATHAN: As usual, Denise, you're very much spot on. And as Denise was talking about, it's all about data. What we're finding in our work across a number of different sectors and industries is the desire for organizations to take a data-driven approach. And what does that mean?

Well, really, if you look at that firstly, it's to actually have access to more and more data from a variety of sources. And Denise mentioned some of these previously in terms of satellites. So there are literally thousands and thousands of satellites in orbit currently that are measuring the Earth. You put that together with billions and billions of IoT devices that are also measuring our world, and what you have then is enormous archives of data, archives that have not been available previously are expanding dramatically on a daily basis.

So we have this opportunity to use more and more data than ever before. And as I mentioned previously, it's really at the top of most large organizations is, how do they embrace a data-driven approach? Secondly, it's how do you get more value out of that data? So having access to all of this data is one part of the puzzle, but you need to know how you want to use it. And this for us, really represents both a challenge and an opportunity.

It is a challenge to actually take so much data, and be able to make sense of it, and to make it usable by the people in your business. But it's an opportunity to really embrace that data-driven approach. And as Denise really highlighted, Google is at the forefront of making this data accessible and usable by people. Going back to Google Earth and Google Maps, they've really been leading the charge with making this data available at scale.

And now what we're seeing is the opportunity to take some of this fantastic Google technology, and to leverage that for organizations that want to use it for their data, that want to use it in their workflows. So if you put those things together, it's really a tremendous opportunity in terms of the time that we have to be able to take that data and use it for organization. And then the one thing for geospatial in terms of the awakening part, what organizations that we are working with are really finding is, how much geospatial data is available that they can leverage.

So we talk about the IoT devices. We talk about Earth observations for satellites. Geospatial provides enormous data archives, whether it's climate change, environmental, transport related, there's so much data that's location based that organizations are looking to leverage. And then probably the last part, which we really find the value in is, how do you actually put all this data together? How do you link the data?

So geospatial is all about layering information, but it actually provides a mechanism for combining your data. So by understanding where information is, so whether it's looking at transport-related data, or satellite data, if you can actually use the location of that sensor as the key kind of join ID to bring all the data together, geospatial really provides you that framework to bring all of your data together, which other types of data won't necessarily provide.

DENISE: I think the critical thing that you just said there, just for the non super technical folks that might be listening. And we've talked about this quite a bit with our customers is like you said, there is a location, which I think some people might associate with something like an address, just a set of numbers, and a street or a route. But applying a picture of what's actually there, being able to see it. Street View has always been a great tool to actually go in and look at that location. I think what you're talking about there, that ability to join this physical address with these pictures of what's actually happening in real time on the ground is so transformational for our customers.

NATHAN: Yeah, I agree completely, Denise. We're working with organizations that have all of these data sets, and have never had a way to really integrate them previously. And if you go with that example of addresses, so we work with retail organizations, where they've got different patterns of distribution for their products, but haven't had a way to actually join them together previously.

And so your example there of even aggregating to address, or even postcode, or even local government area, that's really allowing them to get more from their data. And you're finding organizations are spending so much money on capturing and acquiring data. The challenge is then how do they make the most out of that investment?

DONNA: I think that's a great summary. NGIS is a partner of ours for Earth Engine, for Cloud, and for Maps, right, different technologies for different types of geospatial data. With nearly three decades of experience in the geospatial space, can you speak to the shift that you've seen with the advent of Cloud to solve spatial problems?

DENISE: Before we, Donna, let Nathan respond to that, which I'm so thrilled that you asked this question, I do want to just say upfront, I mentioned in my intro the remarkable set of partners that I get to support on Google Cloud. And the fact that we have a partner, NGIS, who for nearly a decade plus even with us has become a remarkable Google Earth Engine, Google Maps and Google Cloud partner to bring all of this together for our customers, that's a fairly unique set of skills, even within Cloud. So just wanted to take a moment to really thank NGIS for investing with us. And I think the output of some of the solutions that we'll talk about today is the fact of the culmination of all of these skills coming together, and leveraging the Google Cloud Services that you mentioned, Donna. So Nathan, maybe I'll let you speak a bit more about NGIS.

NATHAN: Yeah, thanks, Denise. And Donna, three decades certainly makes me feel as old as that sounds. I haven't been working for NGIS for all of those three decades, but we've certainly seen a significant transformation over the period that we've been working with geospatial. And so we are a dedicated geospatial company, and we really do focus on implementing innovative geospatial solutions, so we try and keep on the forefront. And part of that is certainly partnering with Google. So we're really privileged to have access to the Google team and the Google technology.

And as we mentioned before today, Google has been at the absolute forefront of geospatial. So when we're looking at the most significant advances in geospatial over the past three decades, it's Google. So Google Earth, Google Maps to start off with were absolutely game-changing. Now, we went from going to a party and trying to explain what geospatial is, to saying Google Maps and Google Earth, oh, and people get it straight away.

So it kind of changed the way that people perceive geospatial, and then has opened up the door for how people leverage geospatial in their organizations. And as Denise mentioned, it's that transition from consumer facing technology right through to now making that same technology available for organizations that want to embed that within their own workflows. I think that's been one of the most significant changes that we've seen over the last few decades with geospatial.

And as Denise also mentioned, I think we're right at that point now where you've got the availability of cloud technology, and the availability of so many data archives, and so much significant data archives that we now have the ability to put those two things together. And that really wasn't the case even five years ago. So as Denise mentioned, technology that Google has been working on such as Google Earth Engine, that has over 50 petabytes of data with over a petabyte growing every month, that wasn't available for commercial use even five years ago. So the ability to take products like that that provide the window through the geospatial data is certainly really new in terms of the overall geospatial landscape.

DENISE: I think that what you're really talking about there, even with these amazing Earth Engine type solutions, or examples that we had when Earth Engine was being used by government agencies, or by research institutions, Nathan, when we thought about people trying to do these geospatial type workloads outside of something like Earth Engine, which was powered by Cloud, they were constrained by infrastructure. Most of these geospatial questions, like you said, you do have to take advantage of this volume of data.

Because the question you're asking is about a location, but it's about the change in that location over time. So you really need a bunch of this data, right? And you need to be able to process it, so that you can see those changes. And I know, Nathan, you and I have talked quite a bit about the evolution of like deforestation globally. And Google Earth Engine has been a big part of that.

But you think about that, deforestation globally, and capturing all of that satellite imagery, and being able to process it so that you can understand over decades what is the change that's occurred. Without Cloud technology to power those analytics, you literally couldn't do it in the past with on-prem services, unless you were a government agency with huge access to infrastructure. So I think there's this pivot right now as people are moving to Cloud, and getting access to this data, they can now all of a sudden do analytics that were never possible before. So it's really, really different.

And I think the last point that I would make Nathan, and I think we'll probably cover this a little bit more in our conversation, is that when we're meeting with executives within organizations, they don't even know to ask this question yet. They don't even realize that they could put a picture with these places, right? They're so used to just getting these reports that are very text-based.

And I think when you start to even open the aperture a little bit, and show them that, hey, I could show you a picture of what's going on, or what has gone on for the last couple of decades across that particular location like you mentioned, their eyes just light up, Nathan. I've seen you give this presentation. And they say to you on more than one occasion, I had no idea that we could even do that. So really, really a game changer.

NATHAN: Yeah, great call, Denise. And what we're seeing there also, and you talked there about the transition to Cloud. And there's a couple of aspects to that. But one of the really exciting things that we're seeing that really joins in with that example you just gave there, Denise, is the ability for organizations to really fast track their use of geospatial data, to really go from zero to 100 in terms of accessing more data than they ever have previously, right through to delivering those insights that actually impact the business.

Previously using on-prem infrastructure as you talked about, there were so many barriers, and so much upfront investment required for organizations to start using geospatial technology in any enterprise sense. But now, we're seeing with true Cloud technology, and a Cloud native approach, these large organizations that have global supply chains, for example, are really being able to leapfrog, and go into being advanced users of geospatial without investing heavily in on-prem infrastructure, and spatial data infrastructure, they really get to short track a lot of those components that previously would have had to be required.

And even the transition to Cloud is really interesting, because a lot of the organizations that you mentioned, public sector previously, Denise, that have been really strong users of geospatial for decades, their transition to Cloud, many of them are not complete. They are looking at transitioning to Cloud infrastructure, and taking advantage of say, Compute Engine. But really, they're just migrating some of their workflows from on-prem, but those same workflows are being implemented in the Cloud.

And I think what we really see is the opportunity to take a truly Cloud native approach. So to actually go from what you were doing previously, but take advantage of serverless technology. And when you talked before around global deforestation, they're the type of challenges that we really see need that serverless approach to be able to scale. And it's really access the data, and the scale to be able to use that globally, that's where Cloud comes into it. We find that really exciting. So we're doing things now with clients that we couldn't do previously.

AGV: I think it's extremely beautiful to kind of break down how important it is that, thanks to having satellite data easily available now, all this data sharing, and the ability to use Cloud computing to be able to process all this data, store this data, get insights from it very quickly, we're very privileged. And it's a very exciting time to be able to leverage all of this. Now, I know you already started talking about what are some of the insights people are finding, organizations are finding in all of this. But can we just zoom in if you don't mind, just a little bit more on what are some of the specific trends or patterns that you see that really most excite people when you are having these discussions with customers.

NATHAN: Great question, AGV. And in terms of the integration of some of these geospatial workflows and capability into organizations, I think from an NGIS perspective, we're really fortunate, number one, to be partnering with Google, and having access to the best geo-technology. But secondly, we're actually working across a number of different sectors and industry verticals. So we're really lucky to be able to see how different organizations are using geospatial capability.

And what we're seeing really across the board, there are exemplars across each of those sectors and industries of organizations that are really taking the opportunity with Cloud native approach to geospatial, and Google technology in particular, to actually really deliver meaningful impact to their organizations. And some of the key areas that we're really seeing in terms of those delivery of outcomes for geospatial capability, one of the first ones is really around sustainability.

And you would see that many large organizations in particular, really do have sustainability as one of their key corporate pillars. It's just becoming a very strong focus of organizations that are looking to make sure that they're delivering on their commitments for their employees, but also for their shareholders and consumers in general. The challenge of sustainability for us really comes down to-- and this is Denise's term that I love-- is the first mile of sustainability.

It's really going beyond straight certification and ticking the box, right through to verification of your activities on the ground, and being able to analyze those in detail. And that for us comes down to to geospatial. It's the ability to leverage those thousands of satellites to actually monitor your footprint at scale, but then turning all of that data into the metrics that are important for organizations.

And we mentioned before the example of deforestation. So being able to quantify how many hectares of deforestation from a certain period is in your supply chain. So that type of question really requires access to Cloud Compute, and some of the capability that Denise and I have talked around today. Another area which we're involved with, but we're really excited about is how to use geospatial capability for environment and climate change analysis.

Now, the use of geospatial for environmental applications is nothing new. Environmental challenges are really geospatial in nature. But what is new is the ability to leverage more and more data about our changing Earth, and to be able to create those climate change models and scenarios at a pace never been available previously. And then once those models are available, to then apply that to your entire data archives.

So this whole area of accelerating the use of geospatial is something that we're really seeing organizations embrace. And they're architecting their solutions to be able to embrace their speed of change. So no longer accepting that it's going to take six to 12 months to re-architect an entire solution to take new findings from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. It's having those solutions available to run those models in near real time to get those answers that are meaningful for organizations.

And so whether it's sustainability, whether it's environment, whether it's climate change, we're also finding this need for the data-driven approach to accelerate, and to embed the geospatial capability is really extending across pretty much every sector that we're involved with, and every industry vertical. So whether it's agribusiness, whether it's transport, public sector, all the organizations that we're working with are trying to adopt a truly Cloud native approach to geospatial.

DONNA: One of the key areas of spatial intelligence that you mentioned is sustainability, which is a good segue way to the sustainable sourcing solution that you built, TraceMark. So can you share a bit about your motivation for building TraceMark?

DENISE: I might jump in there, Nathan, and talk a little bit about our journey here with TraceMark. So as we were talking to you guys, we mentioned that NGIS has been a critical partner for Google Cloud, and Geo, and Maps for a couple of years, actually, more than a decade now. So in a services capacity, NGIS was helping a lot of our customers build these geospatial workflows.

So they were showing up with their expertise, and their consultants, and helping customers with this cloud-native architecture. How do you actually build that out? And I think that some of the stories of what NGIS had been doing with customers started to make the front page, if you will. They were helping some of our largest CPG customers understand sustainable sourcing, that first mile footprint for raw materials.

So as people started reading this, I began to get calls about NGIS. And everybody said, you know, I want a little bit of that for my customer. But I think going back to what we initially talked about, this is still a pretty new space. And I think people realize that there's a lot of geospatial data out there.

I think people realize that you can do a lot more with it with Cloud Infrastructure. But you still have to know what you're doing. It's not something that everybody is skilled in to be able to leverage Earth observation, satellite imagery, or remote sensing data to inform things like a supply chain. And so like I said, observing some of the workflows that NGIS was building from a consulting capacity, Nathan and I actually brainstormed a little bit and wondered, could we SaaSify those workflows? Could we make the easy button, if you will, for some of these firms who really wanted to do what Nathan mentioned, but maybe didn't have the in-house skills to be able to accelerate deployment?

And so NGIS stepped up once again, deployed a bunch of engineers, and SaaSified some of these sustainable sourcing workflows. And we created TraceMark. Now, it's available on Google Cloud marketplace, which is fantastic. So other companies are now able to as Nathan mentioned, accelerate their path around sustainable sourcing.

I did also want to say one thing. I think that this sustainability conversation, when we first started, I do think the conversation was a little bit about things like deforestation, as it pertained to sourcing palm oil. A lot of companies use palm oil in their products that they create. And they wanted to be able to tell consumers, hey, the products that you are buying from us that leverage palm oil, we're doing it in a sustainable way.

Consumers are really driving a lot of these new behaviors. They want to be buying products from companies that are building sustainably. And so I think these CPG companies were starting to investigate their supply chains and saying, what do we really know? We have suppliers who, as Nathan mentioned, in the older time frame, would submit annually a written report in some cases, or a spreadsheet that says, hey, this is how I think I'm doing. It was their point of view about how they thought they were doing with sustainable sourcing.

There was very little path. If you're a CPG company and you source palm oil from 1,000 different suppliers, some big, some small all around the globe, how do you really go vet these inputs that you're getting from the suppliers? How do you know if what they're saying is true? Well, satellite imagery sort of changes the game there, right?

I can take a picture of the planet every day. And so now, instead of just defaulting to these words that again, a supplier is sending to me, or having the very expensive route of dispatching a ground crew to go investigate, I can now do something like TraceMark, where I can literally input my suppliers, and get this beautiful visualization about how those suppliers are doing. So I think that's remarkable.

So like I said, it started out with sustainability, but what's even more remarkable is this is now a board-level conversation, because it isn't just about sustainability. It's about availability. If you are a CPG company that makes numerous products that are dependent on palm oil, and you are starting to find out with this new supply chain analysis that you may risk not having palm oil available to you in the coming years, you have some thinking to do, right?

First of all, I want to source sustainably, but hey, how long can I even source it for? And if I won't have access to palm oil in the future, what's the new ingredient? How do I continue to sustain my business?

If you read any of the reports out there, 51% of the value of most CPG companies is built into their growth. And so of course, sustainability is important, but availability is equally important. And so I think this solution that we built with TraceMark, like, I love what we're doing for sustainability, I love that we're helping the planet. I love that we're giving more information to consumers. But I also love that we've been able to help companies really understand that this isn't just a thought leadership conversation. It's an economic decision.

These are things that will influence how your company grows, the pricing of your products, how you actually reach out to consumers. So sorry, Nathan, but I love to talk about TraceMark. I think it's one of the most beautiful things I've ever seen built at Google Cloud. And I just wanted to let people know that I think you and I have seen in the conversations that we're having with customers that there is this natural balance now between achieving these sustainability goals, and helping the planet, but also helping companies understand how they're going to maintain their growth in the future.

NATHAN: Denise, that was absolutely perfect.

DENISE: Thank you, Nathan.

NATHAN: In terms of really showcasing what we're trying to achieve with TraceMark, and the word you use before to SaaSify it. And from a technical and implementation perspective, what we're really looking to do is to scale our work, to accelerate our work, and to deliver transparency and traceability for global supply chains.

And if you scratch the surface a little bit, what we're really doing is trying to package all of the Google geospatial goodness in a way that not only accelerates this adoption, but it also enables organizations to tailor it for their particular supply chain, their particular commodities, and their particular commitments as you said before. So really, we're trying to accelerate that journey of organizations to take a first mile data driven approach to sustainability. And what TraceMark and engagement with the broader Google ecosystem and marketplace allows us to do is to really scale that work. So to be able to work with more organizations, and to deliver more impact globally, which we're really excited about.

DONNA: That's very exciting and very impactful. I would love to dive a little deeper into the process of building it, and how you leverage geospatial capabilities. Would you be able to walk us through the process?

NATHAN: Absolutely, Donna. And so if we're looking at that process, there's a few different components to it. First of all, if we go back through the conversation today, what we're looking to enable is a data-driven approach to first mile sustainability. So the first part of it is really the data.

And what we get with Google technology, such as Google Earth Engine, BigQuery, and the broader Google ecosystem is an amazing amount of data that Google brings to the table. So it's being able to leverage the Google data, but it's also the ability to integrate that data with the customer data. And so customers will have data about their supply chains, and enormous data archives that they already have, and they've invested in significantly.

So it's combining the customer data with the Google data. And then also, any other third-party data that they're leveraging. So whether that's third-party data looking at social data, so whether it's forced labor, child labor, other social scores, organizations will typically have data archives that they've invested in. So it's those three components together. It's customer data, plus Google data, plus third-party data, but then putting it all together using the geospatial capability of Google.

That's at the heart of what we really tried to put together with TraceMark. But to do that, and as Denise mentioned previously, we're looking to accommodate different commodities, different supply chains. So we spent a lot of time working on the data models to be able to provide flexibility with how we bring the data from the customer through, and integrate it with these other third-party and Google data sets. So a lot of our time has really been spent on how do we mobilize that data component, Donna, to make that really effective for organizations.

And then another key part that we've really invested in is integration. So we don't want to have TraceMark as just a standalone application. We really see the value as when we can actually deliver sustainability metrics back into business systems, back into the ERP systems, whether it's looking at SAP integration or other business systems.

It's how do we take those key metrics for sustainability, such as hectares of deforestation across a supply chain in the certain area. It's how do we deliver that into the systems that are used for procurement, that are used for contract negotiation. It's being able to use all of this data together, but to then combine that data into the really specific metrics that need to be used by organizations, and delivering those to where they are used best.

So that integration is really key for us. And the integration is not just one way of pushing sustainability metrics out into the business, or even consumers as Denise mentioned before, it's how do we also bring data from other business systems back into TraceMark, so you're starting to look at sustainability through a lens of volume source from different areas, through the value of different commodities, and where they're coming from. So it's bringing all of those data sets together, and integrating them through effectively that we've really focused on.

And then the last component that I just wanted to highlight there is the ability to tailor TraceMark, so this is really a high value product that is really designed to fit specific capabilities and commitments for organizations. So we provide access to all of this data, all of this Google geospatial goodness. But then we want to provide the opportunity for organizations to really tailor the product to exactly what they need, so their specific commodities, their specific commitments. So we've really worked hard to make the deployment modular, so we can really tailor it to be truly high value, and fit for purpose for organizations that are looking to take a data-driven approach to sustainability.

DENISE: I love what you said there, Nathan, because having an application, a SaaS-based application available on Google Cloud marketplace where people can come subscribe to your application. As you mentioned, you created these amazing data ingestion tools to allow customers to basically bring some of their data to you, so that it helps inform these models. You've also on the back end, part of the reason why we've been so successful I think in this partnership, and anyone who's done any of these conversations with me before knows that I believe this is an ecosystem of ecosystems.

And so we are relying on other third-party data sets to contribute to this. And your existing relationships, Nathan, with folks like Planet, or Airbus, or Cardo, or these other tools I think allowed you when you built your own technology stack for the application of TraceMark. You could sort of help customers navigate bringing in some of the other available data that's out there, just streamline that process. I think one of the most remarkable agility, or like pivots that I've seen happen with TraceMark, we talked about supply chain, and different raw materials that people have been sourcing.

And we've had questions come up, Nathan, about I think one of the fun ones when I was on a recent call with a beauty company, and they were talking about how they source mica for their beauty products. This goes into a mining question right, Nathan, which NGIS has always done incredible work here. And I think that sometimes, the question, of course, is about availability and extraction whatever.

But I think a lot of people that are sourcing things like mica are starting to consider impact to water supply that's adjacent to these mines. They're starting to consider impact to Indigenous communities, which you guys have been working on forever, right, Nathan? So TraceMark, like you said, even though it's a SAS application, where they can bring their data, and you provide these amazing dashboards and updates every month, and can push out some insights to the customer, you also have built these modular widgets. Where hey, I can turn on something for, like you were saying, if I wanted to start working in a mining capacity, and I had specific questions to that. There are widgets or enablement modules within TraceMark that a customer can elect to enable with Google Cloud marketplace.

So just wanted to give some idea-- you were saying multiple verticals, but I wonder if that really translates for people. I know you've got another fun one, Nathan, where people are talking about again, minerals that might be required for things like batteries. And batteries are a big topic of conversation these days. So I just think you've got a lot going on across a lot of different verticals. And so people should understand that TraceMark was built for first mile supply chain, really understanding that raw material sourcing, and the impact that it has on the environment in general.

The last note I'll make on this, Nathan, the fact that we SaaSified this, and could give people access to these insights more rapidly, I think that a lot of the reporting that you and I were seeing before was really dependent on you mentioned the IPCC reports that say like, this is the condition that the world's going to be in in 30 or 50 years. But there are so many things that a tool like TraceMark can tell a customer to do today, which will positively impact these outputs, right?

So these long-term projections, they're only really as good as our inactivity really, because they assume that we're going to do nothing. But now, you basically bring something like TraceMark to the table where they can engage like you said, in their supply chain, start to make some remarkable decision-making that's going to change the trajectory.

So these tools, like you said, you need to have constant models being built, because every action they take is going to show an improvement for the planet. And those are the types of nuggets that they want to surface in their sustainability reports into their consumers. So just didn't want to go without adding a few more details there about what you actually did build in TraceMark, Nathan, because it's pretty remarkable.

NATHAN: Yeah, I think you just invented another new favorite phrase of mine, Denise, which is the ecosystem of ecosystems. And you're exactly right. So it is about bringing a massive amount of data together through that ecosystem. But the example that you then gave there again around IPCC, and those new findings, the sixth assessment was released this year. It's being able to take that, and then make that usable for an organization.

To go from a report that says, we predict 84 centimeter sea rise under a high scenario by 2100. But then being able to say, well, what does that for our business? And whether you're finance and insurance, and you need to look at your portfolio risk, and then analyze what that looks like under a higher scenario by 2100.

But then it's also looking at a very high scenario, what does that look like, and what impact would that have on our portfolio risk? So it's that ability to be really agile with the use of data now that we're really focused on with TraceMark. And it's really underpinned by Google Cloud native approach.

DONNA: I'd like echo what Denise said earlier, I think it's remarkable and also industry defining. I guess to come back a little bit to the process of building it, what are some of the challenges that you ran into, and how did you overcome them?

DENISE: Can I say one challenge, Nathan, before you talk about all the things that happen at NGIS? Donna, we had an incredible challenge to convince the people within Google that we could do this. I think that the idea that we could basically capture this workflow, lean on a partner that could tie all of these elements together, bring the ecosystem of ecosystems together, so from ideation to building it, to launching it on marketplace, to now having actual enterprise customers using this in their sustainability programs, this has been what, a nine-month period, Nathan.

And I think no one thought we could do it. So a big shout out, again. Thank you for the investment and time and energy that you made, truly remarkable. And the last point I'll make you guys, is that this has opened up an opportunity for other partners, and other companies that are looking to build solutions on Google Cloud.

It really showed them you know, what a founding member of our sustainability cohort could do leveraging our technology, and in what time frame. So now, as they start to evaluate what is their subject matter expertise, and how can they help in sustainability, they know it's possible to actually ideate something, and then build it in such a short time frame, and show measurable impact. That's the story of Google, aggregate data, make it helpful and useful for people, and then be able to track and measure what you actually did.

So internally, like I said, a little bit of a sales job. Maybe I'll give myself a small pat on the back, Nathan, because I really believed in this. But I think once we got the idea sold though, you took over. And I'm sure there are a few gotchas that you ran into on the NGIS side.

NATHAN: Give yourself a huge pat on the back, Denise. And so it has been quite a remarkable period, the last nine months as we've packaged up this capability and taking it to market. And then part of it was, how do we put the technology together effectively? I think in many ways, that was actually the easiest part, because we've got access to the great Google team, and the great Google technology.

In terms of challenges, the key thing is, how do you make this capability high value for organizations? So how do you clearly identify current state, where organizations are starting from in terms of their journey towards first mile sustainability. But then clearly identifying where they need to be. That's key.

And I mentioned before previously some of the old school ways of deploying geospatial, where there was so many barriers for implementing spatial data infrastructure doing on-prem infrastructure. There was so much that you needed to do before you got anywhere near the insights, that we're kind of changing now with the Google Cloud native approach. So being able to identify where you are now, not kind of worrying about the middle challenges at the start, but going, this is where we need to be. This is our commitment.

Is it deforestation free supply chain by 2023? Great. That's your commitment. And then we actually go, well, how do we tailor TraceMark to deliver those commitments for you, and monitor your progress towards those commitments? Providing that clarity up front is really where we like to invest time with our clients and partner with Google.

And that's really key, because this is a high touch, high impact solution TraceMark that needs to be tailored. So it's that transition from current state to desired future state that we're really focused on. I don't want to diminish some of the challenges that we will have with integration of data. So we absolutely provide the framework for how we can put all that data together.

But with some of these global organizations, the challenge that they have with putting together their supply chain, they are significant. And once you look at their tier one, tier two, tier three suppliers, they're very complex networks in terms of all of their upstream and downstream connections through their supply chain. And if we're looking to provide a truly first mile approach, we need to trace all the way back to the footprint for the sourcing of raw materials. And that is a challenge.

So some of the work that we really do up front is to really map out the path for how we put that supply chain together for organizations. And once we've got that, the challenge is then well, how do we make the most of all the metrics that we're going to produce? And so that integration part that we touched on previously, we do spend a lot of time there in terms of where do we put these metrics that best suit your business.

And it's certainly not a one-size-fits all, but it's kind of here's a framework that will suit most organizations. And we tailor it at the end to make sure it's the highest value possible. So there are probably two of the key areas, Donna, in terms of really understanding that data, and putting the supply chain together, and then integrating the outcomes and the outputs of what we're doing from a sustainability perspective, so it becomes really high value for organizations.

DONNA: Yeah, and I think one follow up question there, you mentioned how you're working with customers, how you define their current state to the future state, that it goes beyond the technologies, right? So what else needs to happen from an organizational standpoint for customers to be able to operationalize geospatial solutions?

NATHAN: Great question, Donna. And I think Denise mentioned this before when she talked around showcasing capability that some of these organizations didn't really know was possible previously. So I think some of the early work that we do is, it's kind of taking a step back and showing the art of the possible, so to actually allow organizations to think big. And I know Google is amazing at working with organizations to take a 10x approach, so really trying to not worry about the barriers, and not worrying about the challenges, but really thinking about if we got this right, what could we do for our organization?

So it's that mindset that's really important, not coming with barriers, but coming with opportunities. And typically, the most success that we have when we partner with Google is with really progressive organizations that know they need to adopt a data-driven approach, and that are very open to partnering with Google and us to actually really make significant impact. And if you come with that mindset, and you kind of bring everyone together, I think that's when the magic really happens.

And just on that as well, when we're working with organizations, obviously, they know their business so much better than we do. So we're really looking to bring what they know about their business, combine it with what we know about the technology that could really transform the way that they address sustainability, and to package that all together into the solution.

DENISE: Nathan, I think just one follow up note to that. There is a difference in how some organizations are talking about and investing in solving this problem. And I think one of the lessons learned that we've had is, there are companies that would like to put out a green image, that would like to talk about how sustainable they are.

But when you actually meet with their teams, they're not investing. They're not trying to use some of these new data-driven approaches. They may just want some short-term fixes. And so I think one of the lessons learned is we've just been I think, fairly astute in the meetings that we've had with customers to understand from a C level or a board level, how committed are you to this? And what are you bringing to the table?

Because like you said, they understand their business far better than we do. We can bring technology, but they have to show up with the resources and the commitment to make it happen. And so I do think we've had the most success in organizations where we've seen them bring a committed team that is willing to think big, like you said. And then more importantly, that they realize this doesn't happen for free, and there is investment to be made.

We're making it more cost-effective and more efficient. But there are still investments to be made. So I think that's maybe one of the other-- it's not necessarily a development problem. But it's when you bring something new to market like this, and people haven't thought through how do I buy it, or how do I budget for it, it is a different part of the conversation. But one that-- now, that we've actually understood how to talk to companies about how this actually truly will benefit their business in the long-term, I think it's gotten a little bit easier. But just a point to bring up about some of these sustainability solutions that are hitting the market.

NATHAN: Yeah, and you're exactly right there, Denise. And really, as we've been engaging with organizations where we've had success is where organizations are really looking to make a meaningful impact. They're really looking to invest, that they understand their need to have the capability to address their significant commitments, and they want to go beyond certification all the way through to true verification. So they're not just looking to tick the box. They're actually looking to make meaningful impact, exactly as you said.

AGV: I didn't want to interrupt, but I'm extremely proud and honored by both of your work internally at Google, Denise, and externally, Nathan, in helping organizations wherever they are in their journey. It's a good call-out that every organization is on a unique journey, and there's no one-size-fits-all. But on top of the points you all made on Donna's beautiful question around the indirect work needed around organizational commitment, just to kind of pivot real quick from an operational standpoint, is there a first tiny baby step you advise for organizations to get started?

Is it identifying data sets? Is it understanding their goals or gaps in their data? Is it something else?

DENISE: Well, I think from my standpoint, AGV, like, we really have tried to simplify the process for people to get started with this. If you enable a platform like TraceMark in a SaaSified fashion, that's the benefit of SaaS really, is that people can take advantage of the solution, test it out, see if it meets their needs. But it isn't a 10-year custom code bill to satisfy a business problem.

SaaS enables people to go out and investigate solutions, see if it meets the criteria. If it does, they continue to invest and continue to subscribe. If it doesn't, they make a different decision. And so I would encourage people even with a baby step. As I mentioned to you. I think that there are some quick wins that you can get with TraceMark, where you can bring some basic supplier information to NGIS, align, as Nathan said, on what is most meaningful to you.

And they can configure a few different widgets for you in an MVP or POC via this platform. You can see if it works for you. You can see if it adds value. If it does, then you take it to the next step where you really engage in a full-scale production subscription. And like Nathan said, maybe some of these bigger integrations to SAP, or your other ERP systems. But I think in the short-term, that would be my answer. But, Nathan, again, I bring everything back to TraceMark. Maybe you have another suggestion.

NATHAN: No, that's spot on, Denise. And it's a really good question, AGV. And what we really focus on when we're engaging with organizations is not to kind of take a 12 or 24 month journey before you see value in something like TraceMark. It's spending the time to go and map current state to future state. And within that process, we absolutely identify some we call them low hanging fruit, so some quick wins that are really high value to an organization that we can implement effectively and up front.

And then what we end up with is a process where we're delivering early and regular outcomes for organizations straight away. And this is really part of the SaaSify approach, but it's also tailoring that solution to the higher value outcomes for organizations. So we might find an organization might come and say, we're sourcing raw commodities from these four countries, these four provinces and districts. What is our inherent risk in terms of socials if we source from these areas, compared to surrounding areas that we could source from?

And we can implement that type of capability straight away within TraceMark, so you can get a view of some of your sourcing patterns, and some of your inherent risk from a social perspective. In other organizations that we'd be working with, they've looked to do visualization, and time change analysis. So if we're looking at providing temporal analysis of say, forest stocks over time, we can actually show using all of the data that Google Earth Engine makes available how forests have changed over time, how much of those forests have been harvested, how much have been degraded, how much are impacted by climate change. These are some of the things that we can bring to the table straight away with TraceMark.

And so what we really try to do there is just tailor all of this capability to those really specific high impact outcomes for organizations at the front. And doing that up front is just so important to show value to organizations, but also to bring organizations along for the journey. So we certainly don't want to go 12, 24 months before the business sees outcomes for their investment in sustainability, and the use of geospatial data. geospatial is such a great way to not only bring data together, but to communicate outcomes. So using a map-driven approach to really visually communicate sustainability is such a fantastic way for organizations to adopt a data-driven approach. So we like to present that as early as we can in the journey for organizations.

DONNA: So what's next for NGIS?

NATHAN: What's next? Well, as Denise mentioned before, it's been pretty full on nine months to get to where we are with TraceMark, which has just been brilliant. And what we're certainly focused on doing would TraceMark is to bring more and more capability into the product. And by that, what we're looking at is expanding from commodities, such as palm, through to extractive industries we talked around before, the mining example, and that Denise made, and how those sourcing of raw commodities linked through to say the beauty sector.

So we're really looking to keep continually expanding TraceMark to evolve the data model, but then to provide tailored capability for different industries and different approaches. So if we use TraceMark as the bundle of geospatial goodness, we want to keep building on that bundle to make it really high value for other applications. So that's certainly top of our mind.

And obviously, we're a Google geospatial partner as well, Donna, so we're very much focused with how do we transform more and more journeys for organizations that are really looking to do amazing things with geospatial? So we're certainly focused in supporting Google when they go to market, and just bringing more and more organizations onto the Google journey, and being able to leverage products such as Google Earth Engine, and BigQuery that are really just going to be game changers for organizations. So there's lots coming up, lots of really exciting times. And we're very fortunate to be in the tent with Google, and to be able to go to market, and take some of this fantastic technology to organizations.

DONNA: And likewise, we're excited to partner with you on this journey. So for our listeners, where can they go to learn more if they're excited about this, they want to read more about NGIS's work, more in this area, what would you recommend?

DENISE: So for me Donna, I think that we do have a sustainability summit happening within Google Cloud. It is the first sustainability summit that we've hosted. It'll be in June of this year, I think towards the end of the month. NGIS is a platinum sponsor for that event. And so they will have a particular session, which will be incorporated I think into the main content, where they'll have a 10-minute overview of one of the customers that they've been working with with TraceMark. So I think if you're interested in a few more details, that would be a good place to go.

We've also recently published a white paper and a blog about how this ecosystem of ecosystems is happening, and our founding partners like NGIS here on Google Cloud, making these sustainability solutions available to our customers. So those might be some good options for people who are looking to learn more. And then of course, Nathan, you guys have your website, which is dedicated to TraceMark.

NATHAN: Yep, And if you go to the NGIS website, or you follow any of the standard socials, so jumping on LinkedIn, you'll find a heap of content there regarding TraceMark, but also Google geospatial capability in general. So there's no shortage of content. And also the fantastic work that the Google team has done in putting together some great videos as well. So there's some great content available for TraceMark.

AGV: Well, thank you Nathan and Denise. We learned so many beautiful things from you today. And we appreciate your time. Also, shout out to my co-host, Donna, today for helping us navigate this wonderful conversation. Thank you both. Have a beautiful day.

DENISE: Thank you for having us. Thanks, Donna.

NATHAN: Thanks, Donna Thanks, AGV. Thanks, Denise.

DONNA: Thanks both.

AGV: Wow, that was a really beautiful episode, lots of amazing epiphanies for me personally. Some key takeaways were that we now have the ability to enrich our decisions with not only text-based data, but to also weave it in with geospatial data and sensor data on the ground to create rich pictures of any organization's operations. This ultimately helps support organizational sustainability commitments, and resiliency in operations, especially in sensitive ecosystems where palm oil is harvested, or precious minerals mined for example.

Another one is, wow, Google Earth Engine has over 50 petabytes of data with even more petabytes growing every single month. And this wasn't really available for commercial use even just five years ago. And finally, yes, even though public data and Cloud computing are helping with accessibility, you can also find incredible partners like NGIS who are subject matter experts in geospatial, and can help you get started wherever you are on your journey. Pretty cool stuff.

Okey dokey, so before we sign off, we would like to just share what we're working on lately. Donna had to step out for a bit, but she is focusing on geospatial analytics at this time, specifically by working with customers to achieve sustainability goals through geospatial Cloud, and is also building solutions that solve repeatable problems in close collaboration with the partner ecosystem. As for me, I'm gearing up for the Cloud Sustainability Summit launching on June 28. I have included a link for you all here.

I'm hoping to share our next People and Planet AI episode there as well that focuses on how to track changes on the Earth, such as crops, trees, water bodies, urban growth. Our intention is to help developers learn to leverage AI and Cloud tools for those types of problems, so we're also including a code sample. I've also linked our YouTube series here below.

Well, that's all from us this week. Thank you, community, for listening. We look forward to seeing you next week. Cheers.



Alexandrina Garcia-Verdin and Donna Schut

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