Let’s start from the very beginning. What exactly is space applications? And why have Governments and organisations been so interested more recently?
In order to answer that questions, perhaps it makes more sense to take a step back and talk about space technology and how that is relevant to space applications. Let’s start with the idea that technology and in this instance, space technologies enables, grows, empowers humanity to do the things it would otherwise not be able to.
In entrepreneurial terms we talk about spin offs and spin ins. Spin offs being a development or product from another product. Many startups come from all walks of life, from University projects, to garage experiments to R&D experiments and spin offs are one could say a crystalised form of ideation when shaped, molded and tested becomes a versatile product that could be presented to the market – i.e. you and me and the public at large.
So if we were to go back to Space applications, I would say the story goes like this: we all rely on satellites, space technologies that on a day to day basis we take for granted. Our mobile phones are a great example of this. We have a phone, the phone has a chip, the chip is connected to a satellite and the satellite provides our navigation systems, GPS; allows us to make phone calls world wide and track items depending on what kind if apps we have downloaded on our phone.
This earth – space intersection is rarely seen as such.
Currently, the European Global Navigation Satellite Systems Service Centre offers Galileo as a service provider and is keen to see applications derive from such services. The themes for discussion are very broad and they include:
The Internet of Things (IoT) is everywhere. It’s connecting your personal cell phone, tablet computer and PC, and it’s making roads, signage and appliances smarter. In every sector of the economy, IoT is enabling objects to exchange data with manufacturers, operators and other devices – creating a vast integrated network of connected things and services that is expected to surpass 50 billion by 2020.
As part of a ‘system of systems’, Galileo will play a key role in IoT, providing the positioning, velocity and timing information required by an increasing number of context-aware applications. For example, thanks to its signal strength, with Galileo, IoT users will enjoy better accuracy and availability in such difficult environments as in the city.
- LBS is the broader market for Galileo and provides users, wherever they are, with information and advertising about nearby businesses and services.
- The integration of accurate positioning signal receivers within mass-market consumer electronic devices brings Galileo directly into our daily lives and fundamentally transforms the way we live and work.
- Dedicated positioning devices will increasingly represent a fundamental tool for tourists and hikers, amusement park and museum visitors, and those shopping at large commercial centres.
- Galileo-enabled devices will provide new security-related applications, helping to locate stolen property, lost pets and missing persons.
- Galileo signals will play a crucial role in civilian protection and humanitarian operations, such as in harsh environments. Galileo will be an invaluable asset for coastguards and border control authorities, ensuring faster rescue operations and the saving of more lives.
- Galileo’s Search and Rescue (SAR) will help save lives. For example, in the event of a boat or airplane crash, the SAR transmitter will send an emergency positioning signal that will be received by the satellites, allowing for a quick and accurate emergency response.
- Galileo will support scientific research in such areas as meteorology, geology and geodesy, in tracking pollutants, dangerous goods and icebergs, and in the mapping and measuring of oceans, tides and sea levels.
- Galileo improves atmospheric measurements, including the level of water vapour in the air – crucial information for more accurate weather forecasting and a better understanding of climate change. It also helps us study the ionosphere and space weather, earthquakes’ predictor events, and better understand the movement of animal populations.
- The scientific community benefits from Galileo’s high-accuracy timing signals (see below), allowing for the precise adherence to international time standards and the calibration of atomic clocks – a key element to such cutting-edge scientific research as the Very Long Base Interferometry (VLBI).
- Satellite navigation improves the way we use vehicles, meaning increased traffic safety and efficiency (which in turns contribute to reduce pollution). In road transport, Galileo’s highly accurate and reliable signals play an important role in fleet management, delivering the vehicle’s positioning on a map and helping to locate specific shipments. Its signals deliver similar benefits in aviation, maritime, rail, and even pedestrian traffic.
- GNSS also plays a key role in transport security. For example, the GeoKey project utilises GNSS positioning information as keys, meaning that when attached to secure cargo such as oil, gas or even hazardous goods, it can only be unlocked based on a preconfigured location.
- By integrating Galileo signals with other technologies, the agriculture community benefits from an improved monitoring of the distribution and dilution of chemicals, improved parcel yield thanks to customised treatment, and more efficient property management.
- Galileo provides the fishing industry with a more effective exchange of information between vessels and stations, and fishermen with improved navigational aids.
- The fishery industry will also benefit from Galileo’s Search and Rescue service (SAR). For example, fishermen can send distress signals in case of emergency, and public authorities can better manage maritime border disputes.
- In civil engineering, accuracy and reliability are absolute musts. When combined with digital mapping, Galileo offers a powerful tool for decreasing costs and increasing productivity.
- Galileo also allows construction companies to maintain the highest level of standards across a project’s entire lifespan – from a structure’s planning to its ongoing maintenance and surveillance. For example, the GeoSHM project monitors the overall health of such structures as bridges by integrating GNSS and Earth observation technologies.
Galileo satellites are synchronised to an extraordinary level of accuracy with the widely used Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) standard. This means Galileo is capable of delivering a timing signal demanded by such applications as:
- Wireless telecommunication networks and mobile phone companies use this timing signal for network management, time tagging and the calibration of frequency references.
Finance, banking, insurance
- In today’s information society, security, data integrity, authenticity and confidentiality have emerged as major issues in the exchange of electronic documents and computer files. As a result, certified time stamps are necessary for such applications as electronic banking, e-commerce, stock transactions and quality assurance systems and services.
- Galileo’s extremely accurate time reference makes it a formidable instrument for the time stamping of financial transactions and, in the future, for the authentication of the time stamp.
- Accurate location systems are indispensable in the design, construction and operation of modern energy networks. Power grids must be continuously monitored, and when a power line breaks or a failure occurs, it is vital that monitoring instruments are synchronised with maximum accuracy. The high quality of time synchronisation provided by Galileo means better services for the transportation and distribution of energy.
- In the oil and gas sector, marine seismic exploration is profiting from the services Galileo offers to seismic acquisition vessels, and seismic streamer arrays and gun arrays. With the high-resolution surveys of new sites and the identification of geomorphologic or geophysical risks that Galileo provides, drilling activities are becoming increasingly safer.
In Japan, the Quazi- Zenith Satellite System (QZSS – Michibiki) was recently launched start of November 2018. One could say that the ambition is very similar to that of Europe, that is having a view of uncovering as many downstream applications as possible. Where consumers and businesses are using space technology without even noticing it. The QZSS is focused on the Asia Pacific region and the systems aim to offer more accurate positions through its’ augmented system.
So they say the trillion dollar business is not in space, but instead on earth in space applications.
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Then this is a call for action. What space applications idea do you have?