Follow Us :

Gains | Production monitoring for Iron ore, Steel and others

  • Home
  • >
  • Metals
  • >
  • Gains | Production monitoring for Iron ore, Steel and others
Project Name

GAINS (Global Activity Indices from Space)

Research Project Sponsor

European Space Agency, Marex


Develop an innovative system to report temporal global activity indices for industrial facilities across a range of sectors, including Iron Ore, Steel and Aluminium


– Successful completion

– Delivered on time

– Delivered on budget

What we did

We developed an innovative new system to produce and report temporal “activity indices” on a global scale for a wide range of industrial facilities. Such information is of great commercial value to organisations involved in trading the commodities produced by those industries, and more widely within the investment houses trading in some of the world’s most valuable companies that operate in these industries.

The project created a capability to provide high-frequency activity indicators of complex supply chains by proactively monitoring and tracking the inferred levels of activity at diverse industrial sites – e.g. from thermal emissions, changes to assets and stockpiles, prevalence of night lights, evidence of lorries, trains and ships being loaded, atmospheric emissions and more.

The capability focuses on industrial sites that produce tradeable goods and high-value commodities. 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, for validation of the observations from satellite and for ongoing refinement of the data analytics chain.

The specific information that can now be made available to customers is a temporal graphical plot of the level of activity detected at each industrial site. This could range from 0% if it appears that the site is completely inactive, to 100% if it appears that the site is operating at its full capacity. Intermediate levels can also be reported wherever possible, for example if a site has two production chains and it appears that one of them is not operational, this could imply that it is operating at 50% of its capacity.

GAINS will aim to monitor sites along the entire production chain for specific industries that are of value to the end-user – for example for the steel industry, it should be possible to monitor not just the steel smelting sites but potentially also the mines where iron ore and coking coal is extracted and the ports and depots along the route taken by the ore and coal from mine to smelter to refinery to market. It will thus provide customers with a holistic view of the likely production level.

Earth-i and Marex have established that there is a widespread commercial demand for this type of generalised global supply chain monitoring. By creating and delivering “activity index” products tailored to customer requirements with a scale, frequency, accuracy, and price point never before seen, we will be addressing a key gap in the market. The service will give its customers a much-desired competitive edge when it comes to trading in goods and commodities.

Indicators produced

The activity indices will include for example the following types of activity indicators:

  • Hotspot Monitoring – Monitoring the thermal emissions from various aspects of the site including slag, furnaces, exhaust etc.
  • Plume Detection – Detection of smoke plumes emanating from smokestacks within a site.
  • Terrestrial Freight Detection – Implementing change detection from SAR data to detect freight transportation, including trains, containers, and vehicles.
  • Ship Detection and Tracking – Implementing change detection from SAR data to detect the number of ships in a port, and AIS data feeds to track the ships moving in and out of the port.
  • Stockpile Monitoring – Detection and monitoring changes in stockpiles of input material.
  • Production Monitoring – Detection and monitoring changes in holdings of produced material, where these are visible.

In addition to these activity indicators, we will also explore the integration of 3rd party geospatial data to drive an alerts system to pre-empt activity outages caused by extreme weather or pollution.

Earth-i generates the activity indices by applying sophisticated data analytics to multi-operator, multi-sensor, multi-resolution satellite data. Customised information products will be produced, indicating the level of activity and its variability observed at each site, relative to its overall capacity. The service will be taken to market in collaboration with Marex whose existing client base includes commodity producers and consumers, banks, hedge funds, asset managers, broking houses, commodity trading advisors and professional traders. Earth-i will also pursue distribution agreements with organisations who provide a variety of “alternative data” indices for trading houses and other customers.


The ability to automate the processing of multi-operator, multi-sensor, multi-resolution remote sensing imagery and video data sources and apply AI algorithms to undertake highly accurate analysis at such scale and at affordable cost, for monitoring industrial sites in the manner we are proposing, has not yet been demonstrated by anyone in the industry.

We have researched the competitive landscape and believe what we are proposing to be quite unique. There are Satellite Earth Observation companies who use satellite imaging to monitor various energy and manufacturing production levels, but either using expensive VHR satellite data which makes the service unaffordable in the mass market, or low-resolution data which delivers little value. Our capability addresses the “alternative data” market with a completely new product offering and price point.

A unique service

The financial services sector desires a high revisit and multi-resolution analytics service across thousands of AOIs on a daily or weekly basis with a minimum of a 2-year historic data set (5-years is optimal). In the past this has not been commercially viable owing to the cost of the data, the complexity of the processing chain, the lack of historical datasets, the variation in EO data standards, the expense of quality control procedures, the high cost of gathering and creating asset level data. As such, other services (including SAVANT) use a single data source or indicator to achieve a sparse indicator of activity, with often undesirable gaps in time or spatial detail. By integrating a variety of datasets including radar, multi-resolution optical, thermal and others, we will increase the temporal and spatial resolution of our monitoring along with the breadth and depth of the types of sites and activities that can be monitored.

The Consortium  

GAINS is delivered in partnership with


The European Space Agency (ESA) is Europe’s gateway to space. Its mission is to shape the development of Europe’s space capability and ensure that investment in space continues to deliver benefits to the citizens of Europe and the world.

Table of Contents

Get in touch

Need some help finding the answers?

Would you like to share your Earth Observation requirements with us? Or discuss the possibility of using satellite imagery to solve challenges within your business?

Submit an RFP
Submit an NDA