Dispatch from the TGI Consortium: Missouri S&T Researcher Works to Improve Geospatial Analytics

Photo collage of 2023 TGI Fellows.

Dr. Satish Puri, an associate professor of computer science at Missouri S&T, poses with stacks of printed maps in the Curtis Laws Wilson Library that only represent a small fraction of the petabytes of digital data used for his research. Photo by Michael Pierce/Missouri S&T.

Dr. Satish Puri, an associate professor of computer science at Missouri S&T, poses with stacks of printed maps in the Curtis Laws Wilson Library that only represent a small fraction of the petabytes of digital data used for his research. Photo by Michael Pierce/Missouri S&T. Michael Pierce/Missouri S&T

November 29, 2023

by Greg Edwards, Senior Strategic Communications Consultant at Missouri University of Science and Technology

Imagine owning a library with every book imaginable—millions and millions of titles—but not having a way to organize the different texts or search for specific information.

This is essentially the scenario Missouri S&T researcher Dr. Satish Puri works to fix, but instead of it being a brick-and-mortar library filled with books, he is working with petabytes of digital data—primarily geospatial information, such as maps—and finding the best ways to run queries and get useful results as quickly as possible.

To put the term “petabyte” into perspective, Puri, an associate professor of computer science, says one petabyte equals 1 million gigabytes. Each gigabyte is equivalent to 1 million kilobytes (KB). The first commercially available floppy disks, which can be considered a precursor to memory cards or USB flash drives, could store 80 KBs.

Puri says different types of maps often need to be combined to answer queries, and the map data he works with includes a collection of spatial shapes and location markers.

“The amount of spatially referenced data now available may be difficult for some people to fully conceptualize, especially when you consider the available sources, such as smartphones, drones and remote sensing satellites,” he says.