Behind the Platform

About thirty researchers from nine different institutes are involved in the development of the Earth Observation platform MULTIPLY. Each partner focuses on a different aspect, and combining these into one functioning platform is a challenge according to software engineer Tonio Fincke from Brockmann Consult.

“We have various parts within MULTIPLY like the different pre-processing steps, the inference engine, the prior engine, and the post-processing applications. I focus on putting all these parts together in a common platform where they can work together and are provided with the data that is needed,” Fincke explains. To achieve this, he works closely together with the partners and is available for their questions.

The developers of MULTIPLY use various forms of communication to work together on the software. In addition to email, skype and monthly telephone conferences, the software development platform GitHub is used. “On Github, we have issue trackers, project boards and there is a wiki with common rules for the developers. In the past, we also had coding workshops with different developers.”

“The challenge in bringing the different software parts together is that software can be a black box. You must give the software the correct type and form of data to let it function. It was nice that everyone was using the coding language Python, as this made it easier to integrate and construct a common code base. At the same time, it was also challenging, because there can be differences between packages that different people use, which can cause conflicts. So, we had to adapt some of the code to a common base as we wanted to avoid these conflicts,” says Fincke.

Next steps

“MULTIPLY is a very demanding project, it costs time and resources and combines many disciplines. But there is a good atmosphere within the partners which I enjoy, and we are meeting our goals,” Fincke says. He is looking forward to the next steps: “For our company, this is a very crucial phase as the Graphical User Interface is coming up.”

The next few months, Fincke will be working on improving the back-end, the code. “MULTIPLY is now available to test-users and in the background, we are still working on improving the platform, fixing bugs and integrating new features.” Fincke and his colleagues will also develop the front-end, the user interface of the platform. With this, it will be easier to configure and to define for users what they are interested in. “You should be able to use MULTIPLY without a specific background but there should also be the possibility to adjust the platform by submitting your own data, prior information or certain models.”