Fourth Industrial Revolution

Earth observation will unlock huge economic and climate value for these 6 industries by 2030

Earth observation is carried out by satellites, aircraft and ground-based sensors – and has the power to unlock huge value for these 6 key sectors.

Earth observation is carried out by satellites, aircraft and ground-based sensors – and has the power to unlock huge value for these 6 key sectors. Image: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Brett Loubert
US Principal and Space Leader, Deloitte
Bridget Fawcett
Head, Sustainability and Corporate Transitions, Investment Banking, Citi
Helen Burdett
Head, Technology for Earth, World Economic Forum
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Fourth Industrial Revolution

  • More than a thousand satellites orbiting the planet constantly collect Earth observation data.
  • The cumulative potential value-added from Earth data could reach $3.8 trillion from 2023-2030, according to a new report by the World Economic Forum in collaboration with Deloitte.
  • There are 6 key industries responsible for 94% of that value generated.

Every day, more than one thousand satellites capture detailed images and data from around the world. These satellites are used to create breathtaking images of our planet — and, when combined with tech on the ground, they can help us uncover relationships between people and the planet and produce significant economic value.

Earth observation (EO) allows us to make better decisions with better data. From an economic standpoint, that manifests in terms of productivity increases and cost avoidance which both yield economic value-added.

Businesses can harness these benefits to develop innovative solutions, increase asset efficiency and better manage financial risks, all leading to increased competitive advantage.

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Earth observation: The trillion dollar opportunity

Because physical infrastructure and natural phenomena are at the core of many organizations’ business models, EO applications can be found in nearly every industry, sector and region.

According to a new study by the World Economic Forum, in collaboration with Deloitte — Amplifying the Global Value of Earth Observation — the potential value-added from Earth data is estimated to reach $700 billion in 2030 with a cumulative $3.8 trillion contribution to global gross domestic product (GDP) between 2023-2030. At the same time, EO can inform interventions that stand to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by more than 2 billion Gt of CO2 equivalent annually.

Most of EO’s value comes in the form of downstream industry applications. The potential for each industry to extract value from Earth data is strongly linked to technology readiness as well as their global size and future growth profile. Tech-ready industries have the potential to grow EO data’s value the fastest, whereas traditional industries have the most value to gain overall.

Potential global economic value from EO data, by industry, in 2030 ($, billions).
Potential global economic value from EO data, by industry, in 2030 ($, billions). Image: Deloitte/World Economic Forum

Earth observation's 6 key industries

Applications in six key industries are responsible for 94% of Earth observation's total value possible by 2030.

1. Agriculture

Uses of EO data in the agriculture industry are wide-ranging, with applications spanning cropping, fisheries, livestock and timber. Modern processes increasingly use remote sensing and in-situ data to apply inputs more judiciously and harvest at optimal times. Doing so can also reduce up to 27Mt of GHG emissions annually from fertilizers.

2. Electricity and utilities

Early adopters of EO in the energy and utilities industry have gained an information advantage that extends from site selection to management of transmission infrastructure. Applications for renewables, like forecasting energy potential for new solar, wind and hydropower sites, emerge as key enablers to the expected proliferation of renewable energy this decade.

3. Government, public and emergency services

Earth observation, especially by satellites, was initially government-led and applications for public and emergency services are relatively robust. More accurate modeling of hazards and near real-time monitoring of structures, land and vegetation allow for better disaster preparedness and response. As disasters like floods, droughts, wildfires and hurricanes become more frequent, EO provides a vital tool to protect human lives and capital stock. In the context of wildfires, early warning applications can also help eliminate up to 64Mt of GHG emissions per year.

4. Insurance and financial services

Insurance companies can use EO data to better assess risk, offer parametric insurance products and find efficiencies in assessing claims. The technology also plays a key role in sustainable finance by enabling independent verification sustainable practices. Further, since biodiversity loss and climate change pose material risks to their interests, financial services and insurance industries can use Earth data to better assess and manage their exposure.

5. Mining, oil and gas

Among the many applications for Earth data, the ability to remotely monitor oil and gas extraction and transmission stands out for its dual economic and environmental co-benefits. Using specialized sensors, companies can predict potential damage and quickly detect leaks when they occur. In turn, rapid remediation can help limit leaks which not only avoids product losses but also reduce GHG emissions by as much as 1.7 Gt per year. As such, the International Energy Agency estimates that oil and gas companies can use EO to reduce almost 45% of methane emissions from oil and gas operations at no net cost.

6. Supply chain and transportation

EO enables traceable supply chain insights for an increasing number of companies focused on ethical sourcing. Not only can companies track physical goods within their own downstream supply chain operations, but also upstream in the supply chains of their vendors. As consumers and regulators exert pressure on markets to ethically source products, EO can provide a valuable tool to plan interventions and provide objective evidence of their success.

Seizing economic and environmental co-benefits by 2030

The period from 2024 to 2030 is a vital window of opportunity to advance EO for sustainable economic growth. Major international commitments linked to the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Global Biodiversity Framework, Paris Agreement, Rio Conventions, Dubai Consensus and others culminate in 2030 targets. Over the same period, environmental disclosure requirements and emissions regulations will take effect, thousands of new EO satellites are forecasted to launch and enabling technologies such as Artificial Intelligence may catalyze adoption.

The prospect of adding a cumulative $3.8 trillion to the global economy from 2023-2030 and reducing emissions by 2Gt per year is a compelling case for increasing the uptake of EO. To achieve these outcomes, collaborative action is needed from every player across the EO value chain to address key barriers, such as limited awareness of EO applications, a shortage of specialized talent, fragmented standards and difficulty navigating the complex EO marketplace.

The Amplifying the Global Value of Earth Observation report offers strategies to help address these barriers. This publication reflects inputs from the World Economic Forum’s Earth Observation community and provides insights for those in the EO ecosystem — and the potential beneficiaries of Earth data across all industries — to drive a more prosperous, sustainable and resilient future for the planet.

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This article was created in collaboration with Deloitte Consulting LLP, an entity within the Deloitte organization. The findings, interpretations and conclusions expressed herein do not necessarily represent the views of any Deloitte entity or its employees and no Deloitte entity or employee shall be liable for any loss in connection with this article.

Deloitte refers to one or more of Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited (DTTL), its global network of member firms, and their related entities (collectively, the “Deloitte organization”). DTTL (also referred to as “Deloitte Global”) and each of its member firms and related entities are legally separate and independent entities, which cannot obligate or bind each other in respect of third parties. DTTL and each DTTL member firm and related entity is liable only for its own acts and omissions, and not those of each other. DTTL does not provide services to clients. Please see www.deloitte.com/about to learn more.

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