Nervous System for Planet Earth

“Gradually, GIS technology will evolve into a nervous system for our planet where we, on an ongoing basis, measure and encapsulate knowledge, share it, and respond to issues that people care about and that need to be attended to around the world.”

Jack Dangermond, President of Esri


Smart devices, smart homes, smart cities,..., and finally a smart planet.

To be “smart,” the planet would certainly need a brain or two. To make smart decisions and turn them into smart actions, the brain will need to know what’s going on. Even a very smart brain is useless without a system that collects sensory information about the environment and transmits “action items” from the brain to the muscles that actually do the work.

Remote sensing technologies, such as satellite imagery, are similar to vision in a biological nervous system. These technologies provide a wealth of data about the planet, but, in many cases, sensors must be “there” and must interact with the environment to make measurements. In addition to vision, the planet needs fingertips that are able to touch and scratch the surface.

GeoNeurons and USVs are like fingertips used to touch and scratch the planet’s surface. GeoNeuron

Envirover’s GeoNeuron is a device that functions like a biological neuron in that it exchanges information between sensors, actuators, and a data processing system.

GeoNeuron has two sets of registers, i.e., input registers and output registers. Input registers maintain the current state of connected sensors. Output registers keep the desired state of actuators (i.e., servos that control gymbals, winches, or sampling devices). During communication sessions, the content of the input registers is sent to the device “shadow” in the communication medium, such as Amazon Web Services Internet of Things (AWS IoT), and the content of the output registers is received from the same source.

Out of the box, GeoNeuron supports several types of water and air-quality sensors. It also supports integration with Campbell Scientific dataloggers, which can read a wide variety of measurement sensors.

GeoNeuron uses the Iridium Short Burst Data (SBD) satellite network for communication with the Internet. The Iridium SBD network was not designed to transmit large datasets, such as pictures or videos; rather, it is a simple and efficient network that provides the capability of transmitting short data messages, providing global coverage.

AWS IoT is the spinal cord of the planet’s nervous system. AWS IoT

The AWS IoT communication medium is analogous to the spinal cord in a nervous system. It is used to exchange information between the “brain” and GeoNeurons, and it also triggers alerts, logs data, and routes the information flow in the system.

Sometimes getting “there” requires too much time and money. And sometimes, it is not even know where the “there” actually is. This is when unmanned vehicles come into play.

Envirover’s unmanned surface vehicles (USVs) and other mobile platforms are essentially GeoNeurons with propulsion and steering. These platforms have a guidance, navigation, and control (GN&C) system that also is known as ‘autopilot.’ Autopilot obtains the actual position, orientation, and velocity from the GPS, magnetometer, and inertial measurement unit, respectively, and controls the propulsion and steering to move to the desired point, follow the desired path, or “scan” the desired area. The autopilot also can perform sensor-based guidance, e.g., it can find places with the smallest/greatest readings of a certain sensor by using gradient-descent search.

Multiple GeoNeurons or mobile platforms distributed over a certain area can be used to solve complex, data-collection problems.

ArcGIS is the brain of the planet’s nervous system. ArcGIS

The actual and desired states of GeoNeurons and mobile platforms can be synchronized with spatial databases in geographic information systems (GISs) on the web, such as ArcGIS Online or ArcGIS Enterprise. The desired states of the devices can be changed by simply changing the attributes in a table. GIS can be used to store, visualize, and analyze the collected data and to control the data “collectors” with complex orchestration.

In Envirover, we assess new ways of exploring our planet. Envirover’s mission is to make our planet smarter by providing next-generation, environmental intelligence solutions.