Pressures on natural resources are increasing and a number of challenges need to be overcome to meet the needs of a growing population in a period of environmental variability. Some of these environmental issues can be monitored using remotely-sensed Earth Observations (EO) data that are increasingly available from a number of freely and openly accessible repositories. However, the full information potential of EO data has not been yet realized. They remain still underutilized mainly because of their complexity, increasing volume, and the lack of efficient processing capabilities.

EO Data Cubes (DC) are a new paradigm aiming to realise the full potential of EO data by lowering the barriers caused by these Big data challenges and providing access to large spatio-temporal data in an analysis ready form.

The main objectives of the Swiss Data Cube (SDC) is to support the Swiss government for environmental monitoring and reporting and enable Swiss scientific institutions (e.g., Universities) to facilitate new insights and research using the SDC and to improve the knowledge on the Swiss environment using EO data.

UN Environment/GRID-Geneva and the University of Geneva are currently building the Swiss Data Cube (SDC). Following the work done by Geoscience Australia the “Data Cube” is a new way for organizing Earth Observations data (especially Landsat satellite data) by gathering all satellite images through space and time for a given period over a dedicated region. This is a change of paradigm in the way that remote sensing data are being organized for delivering it to end-users. In a first testing phase (December 2016), the SDC contained 5 years of Landsat Analysis Ready Data (1984, 1990, 2000, 2010, 2016) corresponding to more than 800 scenes. In the second phase (2017), more than 30 years of Landsat data have been added. Since 2018, all Landsat, Sentinel-1 and 2 data are available for the entire country.

UN Environment/GRID-Geneva and the University of Geneva have developed a strong and fruitful collaboration around the SDC with the Committee on Earth Observations Satellites (CEOS), the Group on Earth Observations (GEO), and Geoscience Australia. These collaborations allows to advance the vision and implementation of the Data Cube concept and is positioning Switzerland as a pioneer and leading country on this technology for monitoring the environment of our country in space and time from Earth Observations.

The concept of the Data Cube is a series of structures and tools that calibrate and standardise datasets, enabling the application of time series and the rapid development of quantitative information products, such as Water Observations from Space. Water Observations from Space (WOfS) is a web service displaying historical surface water observations derived from satellite imagery for all of Australia from 1987 to present day. WOfS aims is to allow better understanding of where water is usually present; where it is seldom observed; and where inundation of the surface has been occasionally observed by satellite. It uses open source standards and is designed to help both government and private industry make informed decisions. Before the Data Cube, satellite imagery and other gridded geospatial datasets were downloaded, analysed and provided to users on a custom basis. This took a long time to produce at a high cost, for a single purpose. The Data Cube approach calibrates this information to make it more accessible, easier to analyse, and reduce the overall cost for users.

The SDC is powered by the Open Data Cube architecture. This is an open-source analytical framework that helps users organise and analyse large, standardised satellite data collections.