The New Era of Ground Truthing is Crowdsourced

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Crowdsourcing is the process by which the power of the many can be leveraged to accomplish feats that were once the province of a specialized few.
-Jeff Howe

We are aerospace guys at heart. We see a huge opportunity for crowdsourcing to improve a big part of Earth remote sensing: ground truthing.

Meet Ground Truthing

Through crowdsourcing, satellite and aerial imagery providers have cost effective access to many, many more data points, all over the world.

Ground truthing is the process of comparing data collected on the ground to data collected using remote sensing techniques (typically collected by aircraft or satellite) in order to improve the accuracy of the remotely sensed data. This is done both early in a new sensor’s life in order to calibrate its measurements, as well as when anomalies are detected in order to determine if the sensed anomaly true in real life or an issue with the sensed data.

Enter “exact agriculture” as an example… A remote sensor on a UAV, aircraft, or satellite collects visible and near infrared data for a vineyard in beautiful Napa County, CA. The results allow the vineyard to determine that based on the relative differences across the vines, some areas are healthier than others. However, they can’t tell two things: 1) the ‘exact’ location of each row of grapes; and 2) precisely how healthy the high and low quality areas are. That is, the precise location and the absolute measurements.

Thankfully, this is where ground truthing helps! The scientists integrate data carefully gathered from the ground, including the precise location of each row of grapes and the condition of each plant within a specific portion of the vineyard. This data allows the scientists to integrate the satellite imagery with the ground truth data to improve accuracy over the entire vineyard!

You may imagine that it is hard and expensive to collect this ground truthing data. Currently, there is no direct way to collect the data besides doing it yourself or hiring someone to do it for you.

Crowdsourcing Steps In

We are building a community of people who are requesting and providing information to help one another. In the future, we would love to add an opt-in feature that allows these users to collect data for enterprise use – and get paid for it in return.

Imagine this crowdsourced data collection capability for ground truthing:

A remote sensing scientist will simply be able to click on a map or make a data request via an API and BOOM, their data is provided quickly. This data will be in the form of a geotagged photo from a highly rated user. One similar example in use today is the SatCam App, which provides atmospheric ground truthing for NASA and NOAA satellite data via a helpful crowd.

This will enable you easy access to more, cheaper data for ground truthing.

What about accuracy?

Data accuracy is imperative in ground truthing. We plan to monitor location and direction of images carefully through the built in phone sensors and software to ensure that the correct photo is taken and delivered. Smartphone cameras are constantly improving, but are already damn good.

Currently, most ground truth data is very carefully collected by trained professionals. However, having more (potentially) less accurate data is a valid substitute which will only be getting better and better as smartphone sensors continue to dramatically improve.

In order to make this vision a reality, we are constantly building our community as well as growing relationships with aerial and satellite data providers and users. We look forward to testing with our first adopters shortly, and we would love to hear your thoughts.


If interested, please send me a message at or give me a call on my cell at 415-653-9266.

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Eric Watson

Eric is founder and CEO at Spectafy. He is focused on building a happy user community, strong team, and awesome product.