Omanos Analytics is a company that is doing something that, most likely, most of us won’t have a clue about – they use satellite data about the planet (‘Earth observation data’, or simply ‘EO’) to understand changing conditions on land and sea. They work with communities and charities to help validate issues where environmental and social injustices have occurred.
They have, for example, used EO data to demonstrate the continued presence of oil spillages in the sea off the coast of Turkmenistan. The data and the interpretation that Celia and her team put together helped a non-governmental organisation lobby for improvements to the infrastructure in the area, aimed at helping reduce the environmental impact of the oil rigs and pipework. It’s an area that is difficult to reach and, for the local communities, almost impossible to prove any wrongdoing from the oil and gas companies, but the verifiable information from Omanos Analytics in conjunction with local testimonies makes a case that is impossible to refute.
There are, of course, other companies that use EO data – indeed, the Scottish space sector is burgeoning – but Celia’s experience brings a unique angle to the data game. She spent much of her career prior to Omanos Analytics working as a humanitarian so she has really seen what community groups and NGOs are up against in hostile, high security environments. Her experience also means, of course, that she has a good network in the NGO world and is also thoroughly adept at translating information for a wide variety of audiences.
It’s a perfect fit for a company whose other co-founder, Steve Greenland, is a highly experienced space systems engineer who knew he wanted to use the reams of available EO data out there for environmentally and socially purposeful missions.
Celia and Steve decided to join forces after a pub conversation about the journalistic difficulties in telling stories from hard-to-work-in places. Steve realised he could use his skills to gather the data and Celia could utilise it to triangulate it with other sources and tell a story that others were struggling to.
COVID has, says Celia, made data a lot more real to a lot of people: we have been bombarded by statistics, graphs, numbers, and projected scenarios for the past 18 months. It means that more people are willing to engage with statistics and data in a way that they weren’t necessarily familiar with pre-COVID.
This familiarity with data is a positive, thinks Celia. It helps people to understand the value that data can bring to everyday lives and, when combined with clear interpretation, can clearly showcase the impact on people and place.
This interpretive data piece is critical for it allows the narrative of people and communities on the ground to be made real, rather than brushed aside or subsumed by numbers. By using multiple EO data sources in combination with people’s testimony means they can achieve an outcome that is meaningful ‘on the ground’.
Their work also demonstrates the risk involved when businesses ignore their environmental impact – causing environmental and social harm is expensive, and space data can both help companies mitigate these risks and help communities hold others to account. Omanos Analytics’ work is necessarily cross boundary and cross border, just like pollution spills, land grabs or oil spills may be, and EO data makes these much, much harder to ignore.
Celia and her team are passionate about their work and they’re already making quantifiable differences to people and planet. I’m excited to see what they get up to next.
Celia and her co-founder have both built a business that really has capitalised on both of their experience. Together, they have found a niche where they can make a difference – and have found a niche where they can best add value to the space data sector.
Celia’s story really demonstrates the value in collaborating with likeminded people who complement your experience. Her story also showcases that, in order to find that symbiosis, you need to reach out and speak to your network to see who could help.
Being a purposeful business doesn’t necessarily mean being a social enterprise or a B Corps – it just means not losing sight of why you’re doing what you’re doing. Omanos Analytics doesn’t have any investors (yet); they have managed to build their business organically, and the clarity of mission enables them to be agile whilst remaining true to their environmental and social heart
Omanos Analytics make use of reams of freely available EO data that is collected by agencies such as the European Space Agency and NASA. Knowing where and how to look, how to analyse, how to interpret, and who to collaborate with is setting Omanos Analytics apart.
‘Omanos’ is an Armenian word for ‘good purpose’, and that’s certainly what Celia and Steve are doing with space data.