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Earth Explorer is an online source of news, expertise and applied knowledge for resource explorers and earth scientists. Sponsored by Geosoft.


News & Views

News Archive

December 7, 2016

Geosoft introduces IP and resistivity inversion in VOXI Earth Modelling

Geosoft has added induced polarization and resistivity data inversion to its VOXI Earth Modelling 3D inversion software service. Geoscientists are now able to create detailed 3D models of conductivity and chargeability from IP and resistivity survey data with VOXI. The resulting models can assist in interpreting and targeting regions for mineral and environmental applications...

December 5, 2016

Mexico's Deepwater Round Exceeds Expectations

Some of the world's biggest oil companies showed up Dec. 5 and agreed to invest on the Mexican side of the Gulf of Mexico, proving that deepwater exploration still has a pulse despite challenging market conditions...

November 30, 2016

Magnetic inversion results for Ngamiland available for download

A regional-scale geophysical inversion of magnetic field data in the Ngamiland region of northwestern Botswana is now available for download from the Botswana Geoscience Portal, a partnership initiative of the Botswana Geoscience Institute, industry sponsors and Geosoft...

November 30, 2016

LIGO Resumes Search for Gravitational Waves

After a series of upgrades, the twin detectors of LIGO, the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory, have turned back on and resumed their search for ripples in the fabric of space and time known as gravitational waves. LIGO transitioned from their engineering test runs to full science observations at 8 a.m. Pacific Standard Time on November 30...

November 9, 2016

International Volcano Scientists Unite

For the first time, the United States will host the international Volcano Observatory Best Practices workshop, previously held only in Italy. The workshop will take place this month in Vancouver, Washington. It is designed specifically for volcano observatories around the world and their staff to exchange ideas and best practices with each other...

October 4, 2016

USGS Assesses Mineral Potential for Sagebrush Habitats in Six Western States

USGS has completed a comprehensive assessment and inventory of potential mineral resources covering approximately 10 million acres of Federal and adjacent lands in Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah and Wyoming...

October 3, 2016

Uganda Targets Up to U.S.$100 Million for Mineral Exploration

Uganda is well endowed with mineral resources and, like many naturally-gifted African countries, is becoming keen on ensuring that these resources play a transformative role in its long-term structural transformation dream - the Vision 2040...

September 9, 2016

Small-Scale Fishers Get A Big Boost With First-Of-Its Kind Impact Investment Fund

Conservation organization Rare announces the Meloy Fund for Small-Scale Fisheries at Our Ocean Conference. The Global Environment Facility, one of the largest funders of conservation worldwide, will be investing $6 million into the fund...

September 1, 2016

Scientists take to the skies to track West African pollution

Scientists operating research aircraft over West Africa have detected organic materials in the atmosphere over a number of urban areas, contributing to concerns of the rise in pollution across the region...

August 17, 2016

New IGS Xplore prospectivity maps for Botswana

International Geoscience Services have released a series of base metal prospectivity maps for the Ngamiland District of northwestern Botswana using free geodata available on the recently-launched Botswana Geoscience Portal, hosted by Geosoft. The maps identify favorable areas for copper, zinc and lead mineralization using geological, geochemical and geophysical datasets downloaded directly from the portal.

August 11, 2016

NexGen Makes New High Grade Discovery

NexGen Energy reported the discovery of a new high grade zone of mineralization 4.7 km northeast of the Arrow Deposit as part of an on-going summer drilling program on its 100% owned, Rook I property, Athabasca Basin, Saskatchewan...

August 10, 2016

Rampion UXO Disposal to Take Place This Week

E.ON has confirmed that the two unexploded devices, detected along the Rampion offshore cable route will be safely disposed this week following the consultation with the Marine Management Organisation...

August 9, 2016

Diamonds In The Rough: E&Ps Find New Reserves In Mature Basins

The oil industry’s history demonstrates clearly that new plays and prospects have long been found in mature basins that were thought to be well on the way to being squeezed dry. Through the acquisition of new data, developing new concepts and coming up with fresh interpretations, long-producing basins around the world from the North Sea to Malaysia have continued to reveal new riches...

August 8, 2016

Northern Shield Identifies High Quality VTEM Targets at Séquoi

Northern Shield Resources announced the results of the interpretation and modelling of the VTEM survey from the Séquoi Property in the Labrador Trough of Quebec . Séquoi is owned 100% by Northern Shield and is being explored for Noril'sk style Ni-Cu-PGE massive sulphides. After geophysical modelling and interpretation of the VTEM data from Séquoi, six VTEM anomalies of significant interest have been identified...

August 3, 2016

Rio Tinto tailors big data drive to copper

Rio Tinto will put the weight of an exploration big data push and its newly-formed Growth and Innovation group behind its desire to identify a "tier 1" copper asset. Speaking at the annual Diggers & Dealers conference in Kalgoorlie, Growth and Innovation group executive Stephen McIntosh said Australia was "overdue for a tier 1" mineral discovery of any type...

August 1, 2016

Tetra Tech Awarded $200 Million Navy CLEAN Contract

Tetra Tech announced that it has been awarded a $200 million, single-award contract by Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC) Atlantic. Through the Comprehensive Long-term Environmental Action Navy (CLEAN) contract, Tetra Tech will provide environmental engineering support services to installations within the NAVFAC Atlantic Area of Responsibility...

May 3, 2016

NATO Science for Peace and Security (SPS), MODUM Partners announce "Young Scientist Summer School on Sea Dumped Chemical Weapons"

This international project cooperates closely with CHEMSEA (Search and Assessment of Chemical Weapons) Project for and sharing and knowledge transfer...

April 12, 2016

Monday mad rush for gold stocks

Renewed optimism about the outlook for gold saw investors pile back into gold stocks, pushing many stock to 52-week highs in heavy volumes...

April 11, 2016

Medgold Resources: Continues to Expand the Boticas Gold Project, Portugal; Proposes $200,000 Private Placement

Medgold Resources is pleased to announce new assay results from contiguous rock-chip sampling from the Limarinho South zone at its Boticas gold project in Portugal, which include a highlight of 6.0m @ 5.7 g/t Au...

April 8, 2016

De-carbonizing our energy sector

Nuclear energy currently provides around 11 percent of the world's electricity. China, the European Union, the United States, India, Russia, South Korea, and other nations’ have major existing fleets...

April 1, 2016

Follow-Up Drilling Results Indicate Wide Gold Zones at Hendricks Gold Discovery

Gascoyne Resources Limited announced that it has received the final assay results from the 10,000 metre aircore exploration drilling programme...

March 26, 2016

The Oil Market Is Finally Hitting Its Breaking Point

After a significant reduction in investments over the past two years, oil companies can no longer overcome the production declines from legacy wells...

March 15, 2016

N-Sea Expands into the French Offshore Wind Industry

Subsea IMR provider, N-Sea, has signed a letter of intent with CERES Recherches & Expertise Sous-Marine and TechSub Industrie Environement, to provide subsea survey, installation and remediation services to the French offshore wind industry...

March 9, 2016

PDAC 2016 Convention Exceeds 22,000 Attendees

Optimism and opportunity abounded at the PDAC 2016 Convention of The Prospectors & Developers Association of Canada in spite of recent industry challenges...

March 3, 2016

6 Alpha Launches EOD Contracting Division

6 Alpha Associates, a specialist risk consultancy practice, with expertise in the assessment and management of unexploded ordnance, has launched a dedicated explosive ordnance disposal division...

Connecting in the cloud: web services and explorers

Ian MacLeod, Geosoft Chief Technologist, looks at the past, present and future of cloud computing from the perspective of earth explorers and exploration. The ultimate experience, long term, is one where all of our data and the tools we apply to our data are hosted in the cloud. But there are several challenges to overcome before we get there.

April 1, 2011

From the context of exploration, what is cloud computing?

The "cloud" is all the information and services available to explorers on the Internet. As explorers, we all use some kind of personal computer workstation to manipulate and visualize exploration data, as well as collaborate with colleagues. When all our programs/tools and data are within our computer, or possibly on systems connected to a local area network, that is considered local computing. But when an explorer accesses data from somewhere on the Internet, uses an Internet-hosted tool, or passes a processing task to an Internet server – that is cloud computing.

Strictly speaking, all web experiences outside our company network – including web browsers – are "cloud computing" experiences. Of course our primary interest at Geosoft is on how cloud computing can and does help us accomplish exploration tasks; and how Internet-based tools and services can be built into our familiar and important tools and workflows.

How is cloud computing currently being used in exploration and the geosciences?

Probably the most important use of the cloud in exploration today is accessing and downloading data via government or other data supplier web sites. We can also access cloud data servers directly from desktop software tools. For example, Geosoft's public DAP server has provided geophysical and DEM data directly to Oasis montaj, ArcGIS and MapInfo users for many years.

We are also seeing increased use of web rendering services to draw the information for us so that it is simply displayed in our application. ESRI's use of embedded data links in LYR is an example that exposes ESRI's rich library of general-purpose GIS data to explorers. Geosoft's DAP data servers also expose this capability to render more exploration specific data to WMS-capable tools like Geosoft Dapple, as well as Geosoft-aware applications that harness Geosoft web services.

And we are just beginning to see completely on-line hosted applications that perform simple tasks, such as IGRF calculators, simple geochemistry and statistical analysis, etc.

Also emerging are on-line document and application hosting solutions, such as Google Docs and Microsoft Office Live, which deal with common office documents and file sharing. Although the use of such collaboration spaces and tools is still very small relative to desktop office tools, the trend to do more with these cloud solutions is undeniable. Platform leaders like Microsoft are making huge investments in advancing cloud systems and this will ultimately benefit explorers too.

Of course, we all rely on the cloud to facilitate collaboration through e-mail, whether hosted in a web application or on our workstation. E-mail is an example of an application that blurs the lines between desktop applications like Microsoft Outlook that simply harness a cloud service (e-mail delivery), or a corporate-hosted web portal such as Outlook Web App (which I love), or a fully cloud-based solution like Google Gmail. Our experience is very similar in all cases, but in the case of Google Mail, the cloud also maintains copies of all my mail.

As a closing example, Geosoft has been providing customers will cloud-based license management services for well over 10 years. When we started to expose such services in the late 1990's, the term "cloud computing" had not been coined. We just thought this would be a very good way to help us and our customers efficiently manage our licenses.

In the short-term, what's just around the corner for cloud computing?

We believe the next generation of cloud-based services for exploration will include more robust, processing capabilities – specialized tools that launch from within your existing workflow and use a web-service to do the work. An example of this is Geosoft's 3D geophysical inversion service, VOXI, which we expect to release in 2011. VOXI will allow an explorer to apply advanced geophysical inversion technology to their local data by calling a Geosoft hosted web inversion service from their existing workflow.

We also expect to see greater availability, and advanced capabilities within on-line data access tools. While our vision for improved data access was shaped over 10 years ago, and inspired the development of Geosoft DAP server technology, finding and accessing on-line data continues to be a challenge for many explorers. The benefits of improved access to on-line data are compelling, and together with the acceleration of our collective understanding of on-line spatial data we expect to see significant developments in this area over next few years.

What are the challenges preventing us from moving forward with cloud computing within exploration?

Three major challenges we see are: network access and bandwidth, the complexity of exploration workflows, and the need for high-performance 3D visualization.

Network access and bandwidth – as resource explorers we often find ourselves in remote locations, with poor or no internet connectivity. This is changing, but in many parts of the world the improvements are slow in coming. At the same time our need to be connected to interpret and collaborate around data continues to increase, and Internet connectivity is certainly a requirement for cloud-computing. So what we are seeing is greater separation between exploration data collection (in the field, disconnected or poorly connected), and data interpretation (in the office, well connected to the Internet). As a result, field data collection systems and processes continue to improve together with methods to efficiently send data back to the "office" for interpretation.

Workflow Complexity – Exploration workflows are complex, which is not surprising given the breadth of data types and the information that we work with. Geosoft has spent 25 years optimizing workflows, and making tools as simple as possible, but complexity remains. The development cost of moving these complex workflows to fully cloud-based tools – across a network, with servers, or with web pages – is very high and takes time. At Geosoft we are doing a lot in this area, and we take advantage of the latest web development tools, but there is much to learn, apply and change. We all need patience for these systems to evolve.

3D Visualization – The Earth is three-dimensional, and explorers need to work with data and visualize prospects in 3D. Today, 3D graphics cannot be performed efficiently, or within a shared environment, on servers. Computing workstations are still required to take full advantage of 3D graphics capabilities. This is a very real consideration when architecting cloud-based solutions for explorers. For example, while we designed our VOXI inversion service to tap into servers for the heavy number-crunching, it relies on the desktop platform for the critically important 3D user interface. This requires cleverness in compressing and moving quite large volume data between desktop and server environments.

What are the benefits of cloud computing versus local computing?

One of the important benefits of cloud computing is removing the need for explorers to install and host applications that can be more efficiently managed as a cloud service. For example, about 30% of our support volume at Geosoft is related to software installation and maintenance. Our ability to install and maintain software as a service shared by all, frees individual explorers from having to do this.

Another benefit is that we, as the service provider, can choose the most appropriate technology to support a service. It is not important to the explorer what hardware, operating system, or application technology we use – it just has to work. For example, with a cloud-based service like VOXI, we are able to provide and maintain a very high-performance computing cluster that we can all share. Sourcing and installing such systems is simply not practical for the majority of explorers today.

A third benefit is more rapid and responsive release of capabilities to explorers. The development cycle of deciding what to do, planning the work, developing and testing a solution, and preparing our support and account management teams to work with our customers can take two years or more. We currently release new capabilities as part of our annual workstation update, which means that if we miss a release date, availability of the tool or capability may be delayed by a year. As we move to more cloud-based services we can break this process down and separate the work to be more focused on the need. For example, if we find an important bug in our system we are currently challenged to deliver the fix in the next release which may be 6 months away. But if the bug is in one of our cloud services we can correct and fully test the fix, then immediately update the service transparently to all the users of that service.

The cloud also has great potential to accelerate our ability to collaborate with others. As we become more comfortable connecting with data, tools and people on-line, more collaboration and knowledge sharing opportunities will be a simple click away. For Geosoft, this includes our ability to support explorers on-line, and for members of our community to help each other.

As for working locally, it will take time for all the technologies we need in exploration to mature to the point that they can fully meet our needs in the cloud. So working locally will be with us for some time. Local data and tools will continue to offer the highest performance in most cases - particularly with 3D visualization. But the tables are starting to turn. For example, with our cloud-based VOXI service explorers will be able to perform inversions in a few minutes that today take hours on local computers.

Given the benefits of cloud computing, and current limitations, we see a gradual integration of cloud services into local computing applications over time, and indeed we already see this with many of the examples I gave earlier.

What are Geosoft's plans for web services?

VOXI, our 3D Voxel inversion service, is Geosoft's first online processing service and it will be released end of year. VOXI is the beginning of a long line of geophysical inversions services that we will be rolling out over time. We intend to work with inversion research partners to apply the technology that makes VOXI work over the Internet to new and developing inversion methods. We also have a significant effort being applied to using 3D inversion technology to help model oil and gas exploration problems with a specific focus on the needs of sedimentary geology and workflows.

In parallel with the release of VOXI we will be significantly expanding the way we support and educate explorers through on-line information and interaction with Geosoft and peers in the explorer community. The Internet has become a primary source of information, and Geosoft will be harnessing this shift in the way we learn to the maximum extent possible.

We also continue to review the capabilities we offer locally, and consider which of these could be better deployed as a web service.

Where do you see earth exploration and cloud computing going in the long-term?

The ultimate long-term experience would be analogous to Google Gmail, or Microsoft Office Live Workspace – one where all of our data and the tools we apply to our data are hosted in the cloud. For the explorer community we serve, we are working towards a "Geosoft Explorer" cloud experience

In this experience, we stop caring about where the data is, or how big it is, or if we have installed the latest versions of our tools. We will simply sign-on and start working, and because all the data and tools are on-line we are able to more easily collaborate with our teams and achieve the results we need.

Although it will take time to resolve challenges, and to design and develop web services that meet the needs of explorers, we are firmly on the path to ever-increasing use of the cloud in exploration.