Objectives of the service
Customers in the Financial Services sector complain of a lack of transparency and lack of timely information from many of the major steel producing nations of the world. They seek a reliable data source that provides timely information on industrial activity, giving them insight on supply and demand of iron and steel, and thereby a competitive advantage that can be used to predict market movements. They want this information to be traceable and verifiable back to physical observations.
The objective of GAINS is to create and deliver “activity index” products tailored to these customer requirements with a scale, frequency, accuracy, and price point never seen before, using the latest high-revisit high-resolution satellite data. The service gives customers a much-desired competitive edge for trading in goods and commodities related to the iron and steel supply chain.
The GAINS service achieves this by deriving activity indices using a variety of indicators of activity, including thermal emissions from sites, visible smoke and exhaust plumes at the sites, visible stockpiles of materials at key supply locations, detecting movement of goods using change detection, and more.
The present CCN1 activity adds on monitoring of scrap steel stockpiles, monitoring of pollution caused by steel production, and providing a more granular level of information on activity at each steel smelting site.
Users and their needs
Users of GAINS include the owners and operators of steel mills; physical traders of steel and derived products; commodity and equity traders; investment banks and funds involved in financing the sector; companies in the steel supply chain including scrap steel recyclers; market research firms; government departments and industry regulators involved in monitoring the steel industry and its environmental impact. Each group of users has different needs and priorities, but the key ones are summarised here.
Customers of the GAINS including its CCN1 extension products require:
Timely access to global steel supply chain information, at reasonable cost
Access to raw material stockpile information that is not publicly available
Understanding of steel production levels in order to understand market price movement
Ability to assess whether a site is actively producing steel or not
Understanding of the environmental impact of the steel production industry
Ability to verify industrial impact claims made by steel smelter operators
Whilst the service has widespread appeal to the above user types all over the world, the key targeted users are predominantly located in Europe, North America and the Asia Pacific region from Singapore to Australia.
Service/ system concept
The GAINS service focuses on providing high-frequency activity indicators in the steel supply chain by proactively monitoring and tracking the inferred levels of activity at numerous globally distributed industrial sites and supply chain locations. The inferred activity levels are correlated with complementary data sources such as market trading data and available published data on production from each site, as well as publicly accessible information such as news feeds, company press releases and trading statements. The specific information made available to customers is a temporal graphical plot of the level of activity detected at each industrial site that can be aggregated up at a province, country, regional or global level.
The cloud-based architecture has a serverless model to provide scalability with low operational costs. The system imports data of various types and formats, each of which triggers a predefined processing workflow. Each workflow is highly customisable and constructed from a library of functions. This provides the flexibility to create new workflows or modify existing ones. Depending on the workflow executed, the resulting outputs are stored in a database or written to file storage. A user interface permits the search and retrieval of data; advanced customers can use a custom API directly within their own software.
Space Added Value
GAINS implements a mix of very-high, high, medium and low resolution Earth Observation data. The initial service is based predominantly on optical satellites and their datasets, and will then be expanded using additional satellite data sources such as high-resolution radar, thermal and hyperspectral as these become more widely and cheaply available.
The advantage of using satellite data is that it is not subject to the censorship or bias of national governments or the commercial companies operating the steel mills or involved in the steel supply chain. GAINS is therefore able to offer an independent, verifiable source of information based on satellite remote sensing. This is particularly valuable in geographies where other sources of information are limited.
The original GAINS project, part-funded by ESA, was successfully completed in Q2 2023, and the GAINS service then entered its commercial operations phase. In October 2023, Earth-i was awarded the present CCN1 extension, again part-funded by ESA, to add three specific evolutions that customers were very keen to see added to the baseline GAINS service:
Addition of the scrap steel stockpile monitoring product for key locations
Addition of component-level activity indices for selected steel smelting sites
Addition of a CO2 emissions product for steel smelting activities globally
The CCN1 activity kicked off on 01/10/2023 and several customers were consulted to share their requirements and expectations for the extension products, which were documented in an updated User Requirements Document. In parallel, the Earth-i team undertook further system and product definition activities for the extension products, preparing an updated System and Service Architecture and updated Product Specification Document. These reports were presented to ESA at the Critical Design Review held in December 2023 and successfully passed. The team is now progressing at full speed with implementation of these evolution products. A Factory Acceptance Test review is scheduled for March 2024.