Open Data Cube (ODC) Community Support

Open source technology to increase the impact of satellite data through better management and analyses.   

The Challenge:

In 2008 Landsat satellite data became free to use, leading to a significant uptake in the use of satellite data for research and commercial purposes. The European Space Agency also adopted a policy of free and open data for its Copernicus program. The Open Data Cube (ODC) is the open source technology that underpins Digital Earth Australia (DEA) which is a world-class analysis platform for satellite imagery and other Earth observations (EO). The ODC arose from the need to better manage and analyse the vast amount of satellite data available and has now evolved to support interactive data science and scientific computing. The vision of the ODC is to increase the impact of satellite data by providing an open and freely accessible exploitation tool, and to foster a community to develop, sustain, and grow the breadth and depth of applications.  

However, much of the core support, development and use of the ODC was still within Geoscience Australia (GA). To effectively grow the adoption of the ODC, the global user community would  require additional support, key user groups would require new and standardised training materials, and new users found the current access mechanisms had too high a technical barrier to easily overcome.


Geoscience Australia approached FrontierSI to manage a large part of the engagement work, to grow ODC and make it accessible to a wider subset of the community. The breadth of the FrontierSI network means that we have leaders from government, industry and academia in our corner, and coupled with our technical project management, open source software knowledge and light-touch governance processes, it results in the perfect combination for the technical and non-technical growth of the ODC. We further engaged Analytical Mechanics Associates and Symbios for technical work and community secretariat support for the ODC.

The Solution: 

The ODC will always be 100 per cent open source software, free for all to use and released under the liberal terms of the Apache 2.0. At its core, it is a set of Python libraries and a PostgreSQL database that helps users work with geospatial raster data by creating a framework in which satellite datasets are organised by space and time coordinates. 

To contribute to the ODC vision, this project focussed on user engagement and support to achieve the following objectives:

  • Created a new mechanism for users to engage easily and quickly with the ODC through the DEA and ODC sandbox environments, deployed through a freely a JupyterLab solution
  • Provided support to the ODC Partners Forum and Steering Council
  • Fostered efficient and effective communication within and between the Steering Council, Partner Forum and DEA
  • Provided technical support to the ODC community to reduce the barriers to entry and grow the user base, in addition to the core capability

The technical support provided during this project included the creation of a Sandbox environment along with documentation and examples to allow users to access data and test code, assistance with a reference deployment of the ODC called ‘Cube in a Box’ which automatically indexes Sentinel-2 level 2 data for users to work with, contribution to the ODC website, responding to questions in many different user forums, DEA Industry Engagement workshops using FrontierSI’s DEA Sandbox to use the ODC, and demonstration of the ODC capabilities at a number of conferences and webinars. 


The ODC translates the high volume of satellite data available into user-friendly formats and provides users a free exploitation tool supporting interactive data science and scientific computing. This, along with all the elements of technical support now available, enables a broader range of users to access and analyse satellite data, which will ultimately expand the range of applications the data is used for. 

Currently, the ODC has at least 10 operational data cubes across the globe, with 14 more in development and 32 countries reviewing the cube as a solution. These include two continent wide deployments with Digital Earth Australia, and Digital Earth Africa.

The ODC now has an open source community that is actively engaged, contributes to the core code, shares algorithms and provides support to each other to resolve problems. The project has enabled users to build, test and deploy ODC products internationally. It has also enabled Geoscience Australia to leverage developments in the open source community to gain greater insights and provide further benefits to end users of satellite data. Over the long term it is expected that international ODC deployments will increase global market opportunities for Australian companies who have built products stemming from Digital Earth Australia.  


Almost every sector in the Australian economy benefits from the use of spatial information and location technologies. Australia’s spatial industry is forecast to generate 15, 000 new jobs and contribute around AUD$8 billion per annum to Australia’s economy by 2051. Globally, the forecasted growth of 30% per annum in geoservices provides a great opportunity for Australian companies to increase expand their businesses on an international scale. Together, the industry strategy and market research projects together will ensure DEA generates value for the spatial industry, key growth sectors of the Australian economy, as well asincluding the wider Australian economy. DEA will provide Australian businesses with access to standardised analysis-ready-data (ARD), analytic capability and tools that will allow industry to innovate to produce new products and services, and ultimately to enhance their business and be competitive in global markets.


To learn more, contact FrontierSI at or Chief Delivery Officer, Kate Williams at