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ConsTrack - Taking Stock of the Construction Industry

 “Housing IS the business cycle” stated Professor of Economics, Edward E Learner, in his well-known paper on the subject*. Even if patterns have shifted slightly since the crisis in 2008, housing is still perceived as being a ‘robust forward indicator’ to cyclical economic swings. So, having accurate, up-to-date information on what’s happening in the construction industry plays a vital role in economic forecasting.

ConsTrack is a ground-breaking new satellite-based economic information service for monitoring the status of the construction sector (Photo credit: Siddharth Bajpai/Shutterstock)

Enter ConsTrack, conceived and co-developed by ESA and GeoVille – an Austrian global leader in satellite-based land monitoring.  ConsTrack is an innovative, automatic system that offers very precise status reports and images of large-scale construction from Space covering substantial areas; enriching and adding value to the array of business cycle indicators available.

While satellite-based remote sensing has a relatively long track record in areas such as agriculture and climate, its arrival on the economics scene is quite novel.

Maria Lemper, Project Manager at GeoVille, says: “Until now we’ve only had statistical information – without spatial coverage. ConsTrack gathers reliable and consistent spatial data in near real-time and transforms them into meaningful, objective statistical information.”

Roberta Mugellesi-Dow, Technical Officer at ESA  explains: “ConsTrack’s IT information system uses big-data processing of the data streams of Sentinel-2 (one of the satellites from the EC’s Copernicus programme, developed and operated by ESA), covering the whole of Europe on a weekly basis. As a result we have  a complete overview of construction activities on a national and European level.” 

ConsTrack can provide insights such as when construction starts, the size of the site (i.e. in km²) as well as the type of construction. In this way, the system enables regional and commercial banks to monitor and report on construction activities in a standardised way.

Traditionally, conventional indicators such as building permits have been used to monitor developments in the construction industry. But surveys can be compromised by human interference, insufficient coverage, or delays in their availability, as well as being affected by bias. Building permits also only indicate the wish or desire to build, whereas ConsTrack expresses the actual construction activity.

ConsTrack provides a satellite-based indicator that can significantly increase the relevance, accuracy and timeliness of economic observations which have an immediate impact on stock and credit markets.”
Maria Lemper, GeoVille

 “We have the final algorithm ready and the system is operational,” continues Lemper; “It’s a very exciting time for GeoVille, we already have the first interested customers on board and are looking forward to future cooperation.

ConsTrack gives a complete overview of construction activities on national and European level (Image credit: GeoVille)

* Leamer, Edward. (2007). Housing Is the Business Cycle. International Economic Review Proceedings. 46. 149-233. 10.1016/B978-0-12-397874-5.00047-6.

 

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ESA Investor Forum at the London Stock Exchange

Space now seen as a key technology in multiple verticals

The European Space Agency’s ESA Business Applications programme and ELITE, the business support and capital-raising programme of the London Stock Exchange Group, tucked another successful Investor Forum under their belts last month. 

The Forum – with ESA’s Business Applications team proving that space is open for business and has the power to improve everyday life.

The 3rd Investor Forum took place at the London Stock Exchange on 23 May 2019, bringing together the cream of an up-and-coming crop of companies that integrate space technologies into their offerings. Eight of the most promising companies, each looking to raise between €1- €10m, pitched to a group of 20 angel and venture capital investors. The companies are active in a wide variety of sectors, including data analytics, fintech, oil & gas, maritime, geospatial intelligence and communications.

The event proved once more how the mentoring and support of ESA Business Applications and Space Solutions not only helps companies to skyrocket but also assists them in maintaining that momentum with long-term growth. 

Startup executives and investors alike heaped praise on the forum:  

"We are very grateful for ESA's commitment and support for developing and enhancing young hi-tech business", said Steve Wilcockson from Geofinance market development at Geospatial Insight (GSI)

"Very well organised pitches…The quality of the companies presenting was really very high", enthused  Stefano Gurciullo, partner at RedStone, an international and diverse group of serial entrepreneurs, investors, investment professionals, tech analysts and data scientists whose partners have founded and sold companies to Google, eBay and Axel Springer. 

Nick Appleyard, Head of ESA Business Applications and Space Solutions summed up the mood and ESA’s role in helping businesses to leverage satellite technology: 

"Space-based systems are firmly positioned at the heart of digital revolution. New businesses continue to tap into the potential of these systems, with the prospect of rich pickings for private investment growth. ESA nurtures these new businesses in partnership with ELITE, ensuring the best possible conditions for promising start-ups to flourish." 

About ESA Business Applications and Space Solutions

Since the programme’s inception in 2008, ESA Business Applications has invested more than €200M in over 500 business ideas, addressing markets in industries worldwide. Funding typically ranges from 60kEuro to 2MEuro and supports everything from early stage feasibility studies to large-scale demonstration projects.

Get in touch with us via email at business@esa.int

About ELITE

ELITE offers businesses a full programme to help them grow, including education, business support and direct contact with Europe’s financial and advisory community. In the UK, Imperial College Business School helps to deliver the programme. Management teams are guided on how best to fast-track their development and capital raising processes, how to access the most suitable funding for their needs (whether private equity, venture capital or the bond or equity markets), and are given advice on building their profile and reach.

www.elite-growth.com

 

 

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ESA to partner with One Sea Alliance on maritime digitalisation and autonomous shipping initiatives

One Sea aims to create a new industrial standard for marine traffic and to lead the way towards an active commercial autonomous shipping ecosystem by 2025. (Image credit: Shutterstock)

ESA has signed a far-reaching Memorandum of Intent involving future collaboration with the coordinators of One Sea, the industry alliance bringing together leading exponents of autonomous ship technology. The partnership with ESA will involve the organisation of programmes for 22 European countries. 

The agreement sets out common objectives to encourage the development of space-based applications to analyse, enable and implement maritime digitalisation and autonomy using latest-generation connectivity.

The alliance brings together key stakeholders from the maritime and ICT industries to accelerate the delivery of digitalised solutions to market. 

DIMECC (Digital, Internet, Materials & Engineering Co-Creation) coordinate One Sea. They are a co-creation ecosystem that speeds up time to market and will support strategic research, development and innovation. (Image credit: DIMECC)

“ESA’s participation aligns perfectly with the agency’s Business Applications programme”, says Rita Rinaldo, Head of ESA Institutional Projects within the programme.

 “It is therefore with great satisfaction that we start this cooperation with DIMECC and the other actors participating in One Sea Alliance. We expect that the current initiative, thanks to the engagement of the partners, will foster the emergence of innovative, space-based downstream solutions addressing the key challenges of the future maritime and shipping sector.” 

Jukka Merenluoto, One Sea Lead said: “This is an important statement of intent, through which One Sea and the ESA acknowledge the significance that ongoing digitalisation and autonomy have for the maritime industries. Expertise from different disciplines is necessary to transform today’s connectivity capabilities for tomorrow’s needs, and this MoI represents a unique opportunity to develop applications and services that leverage assets on the ground and in space.”

The agreement envisages knowledge sharing and using resources, expertise and facilities belonging to respective signatories to achieve common goals. The MoI makes explicit reference to the future use of DIMECC’s Jaakonmeri test area for autonomous vessels - the first dedicated test zone worldwide for autonomous ship technology, located off western Finland. 

About One Sea

Established in 2016, the One Sea ecosystem, global leaders in their industries, work closely together to promote their common goal of self-guiding shipping. 

Members include: ABB, Cargotec, Ericsson, Inmarsat, Kongsberg Maritime, MTI, Tieto, Wärtsilä and Finnpilot Pilotage. Other partners include RINA, Finnish Marine Industries, Shipbrokers Finland, Finnish Port Association and Finnish Shipowners’ Association. 

 

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Final presentation day at ECSAT

Aerial view of road passing through a rural landscape with blooming in northern Greece. Credit: Ververidis Vasilis, Shutterstock

On July 10th 2019, ESA will host at the ECSAT site on the Harwell Campus the final presentation day for Business Applications projects that have achieved outstanding results in the areas of agriculture and infrastructure monitoring. During the event successful companies will present their projects, highlighting their developed services and their socio-economic impact together with the planned exploitation strategy.

The projects selected in the area of infrastructure monitoring have developed a number of unique solutions for highways, bridges, buildings and dams. Their aim is to address the requirements of prominent stakeholders such as Highways England, Amey and several UK insurance companies to mitigate risks, improve planning and response to incidents when they occur. These solutions have successfully demonstrated the ability to provide valuable information on hazard potential and activities in proximity of the infrastructure by integrating measurements captured by Earth Observation InSAR satellites with data from multi-sensor GNSS devices for in-situ monitoring.

The projects selected in the area of agriculture have successfully proven how advanced technologies can support farmers in their daily life, increasing yield while diminishing the environmental impact. Satellite data, along with UAV pictures and in-situ samples, can advise on soil condition in relation to crop production, they can provide thematic maps to detect anomalies or crop damage and can be used to highlight which areas need more or less fertiliser. The projects will also show how the offered services can bring benefits to different geographical areas which are prone to different crop cultivation.

The agenda of the day will be as follows:

 

Business Applications Final Presentation Day

ECSAT Conference Room

 

Opening and Welcome: N. Appleyard (11:00)

 

Theme: Agriculture (11:10 - 12:45) 

  1. KORE
  2. HiVaCrom
  3. SAR Crop Index

Key Note: Future Perspectives in the Agri-Business

Shamal Mohammed,  AGRI EPI CENTRE CTO

 

Lunch: 12:45 – 13:15

 

Theme: Infrastructure monitoring (13:15 - 15:30)

Key Note: Innovation and IoT: future perspectives
Jon Collett, University of Nottingham

  1. PLIMM
  2. GEOSHM
  3. GIRP
  4. DAMMINGS

 

Conclusions: N. Appleyard, E. Gravestock

 

Event closes (15:45)

If you are interested in attending the event please contact Kristina.Wittlich.Triebow@esa.int as spaces are limited. 

 

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July 10th 2019
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Italian cities host dual initiatives on space and 5G

The cities of Rome and L’Aquila are each hosting events on 28 June to launch their respective partnerships with ESA, for the implementation of applications based on the combination of space assets and 5G. 

This follows the signature in February 2019 of Memorandums of Intent between ESA and both Roma Capitale (the city of Rome) and the city of L’Aquila, Abruzzo Region and the University of L’ Aquila. Their common aim is to support the development of services based on the utilisation of space assets such as GNSS, Earth Observation and Satellite communication, integrated with 5G networks.  

ESA Business Applications will issue Calls for Proposals and will then support the companies that propose solutions, by providing funding and expertise.

High-level support by the local authorities includes their identification of requirements and needs, which a focus on four domains. These are law enforcement and emergency response; intelligent transport; cultural heritage; and structural health monitoring. The local authorities will also provide links to their partners in the telecommunications sector; and access to infrastructure or other assets to support the resulting studies and projects, which must in turn deliver innovation and socio-economic benefits for the local communities. 

Each event formally launches the respective cooperation and announces the Calls for Proposals that ESA plans to issue during the second half of 2019, for each of the four domains noted above. 

Both events are by invitation only: for more information contact Rita Rinaldo of ESA at Rita.Rinaldo@esa.int

Launch of the Cooperation between Roma Capitale and ESA on space and 5G applications

            

 

The event will take place on the 28th June, from 09:00 to 10:00 at “Sala delle Bandiere” in the Campidoglio in Rome. Speakers will include ESA's Director of Telecommunications and Integrated Applications Magali Vaissiere, the Mayor V. Raggi, the City Councillor for Innovation F. Marzano and the Vice Head of Cabinet M. Cardilli, as well as the Head of ASI G. Saccoccia.

Launch of the Cooperation between L’Aquila and ESA on space and 5G applications

The event will take place on the 28th June from 12:00 to 13:30, at the Sala del Consiglio dell'Universita' dell'Aquila, Palazzo Camponeschi, P.zza S. Margherita, 2 - L'Aquila. Speakers will include ESA's Director of Telecommunications and Integrated Applications Magali Vaissiere, the University of L’ Aquila Rector P. Inverardi, the Abruzzo Region President M. Marsilio, the Mayor of L’ Aquila City P. Biondi and Dr. L. Monti from WindTre

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B-LiFE – Life-saving labs at lightning speed

“This project stands out because it has not only created jobs and added value  – it saves lives. B-LiFE has contributed to stopping epidemics. It’s a truly sustainable service, improving existing capabilities and developing new ones.”  Arnaud Runge, Technical Officer at ESA. 

Meet the pop-up bio lab that can be operational in two hours with its inflatable satellite antenna  (Image credit: B-LiFE)

Mobile bio labs are invaluable, offering first response and onsite analysis during a natural disaster or biomedical emergency. The successful management of such crises relies on the ability to perform rapid and reliable detection and identification of pathogens. Transportable bio labs or ‘labs-on-wheels’ are lightweight units that can be deployed quickly.

ESA and the University of Louvain (UCLouvain) joined forces to create B-LiFE (Biological Light Fieldable Laboratory for Emergencies) in a bid to boost bio-lab capabilities using space assets. The result is an autonomous, rapidly deployable communications ‘bubble’.

Lab results in real time

B-LiFE is a ‘step up’ from previous bio labs, using advanced satellite technologies to speed up communication between field teams, control centres and remote experts. The enhanced system uses broadband links for data, voice and video – so that lab results can be available in real time. Satellite-enabled Earth observation data is also used to create high-resolution maps for safety and security, while GNSS offers tracking of teams and equipment as well as the geolocation of field samples.  B-LiFE brings diagnostic capabilities even closer to the crisis area, providing fast emergency response while ensuring the safety of deployed staff and surrounding populations.

B-LiFE first earned its stripes during the Ebola epidemics in 2015 in Guinea. Blood samples from infected patients were analysed in the B-LiFE laboratory and results were sent via satellite link to secure B-LiFE databases. Doctors in Belgium could monitor the status of the epidemic remotely as well as the effects of new drugs developed to treat Ebola, helping them to tailor treatment to individual patients.

“In the areas where B-LiFE was deployed people were cured 50 % faster than in conventional labs – thanks to the use of space technology ”, says Arnaud Runge. 

The system was put through its paces once more in a high-profile international operation called ‘Bio-garden’ in Belgium in June 2018, where a bio-terrorist attack during a major sporting event was simulated.  

The idea for Bio-garden came following the actual terrorist attacks in Brussels in 2016 where large numbers of people needed urgent medical attention but mobile networks collapsed as panicked citizens unwittingly blocked the communication lines vital for emergency services. 

Bio-garden – a national and international response to a simulated biological incident, attended by EU ministers and high-level stakeholders with substantial press and media attention.   (Image credit: B-LiFE)

During the Bio-garden exercise B-LiFE not only dealt with the medical aspect of the crisis, delivering optimal critical care, but also provided a robust back-up, fully autonomous telecommunication infrastructure, operating outside of a potentially saturated network. Space assets provided full interoperability, with seamless exchange of data at a very high speed.

Arnaud says: “What’s impressive about the B-LiFE service is the flexibility of its mechanism – it can be ‘idle’ when there is no crisis (which greatly limits costs), but then rapidly deployed with a full battery of new services that would not be possible without the satellite capabilities.” 

Roland Gueubel, Project Manager from University of Louvain says: “B-LiFE takes technologies that exist – and fills a gap. The result is an integrated and novel service that did not exist until now. 

“We’re continuing to expand the reach of B-LiFE and are looking at very high bandwidth using the O3b constellation. It’s the first time a constellation has been tested at such a high latitude and able to give cover for an emergency situation. We’re also looking at Artificial Intelligence tools as well as creating near real-time epidemiological maps. B-LiFE will be the first to offer this service and the World Health Organisation is already very interested in this capability.”

Watch the B-LiFE Video 

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More sustainable Fish 'n' Chips thanks to Space

The information captured by Verifish is tied into the vessel position and delivers a ‘footprint’ on catch and handling information, including catch areas. (Image credit: Shutterstock)

Sustainable fishing and a 21st Century system to support food regulatory demands were the goals of Frank Fleming, also known as ‘Fisherman Frank’, when he teamed up with ESA to tap into their Space know-how.

The result was the Verifish software platform, which uses space data to simplify processes, support certification and save precious time from catch to consumer. 

With over 30 years in the fishing industry, Frank was keen to combine his sustainability credentials and experience as an advisory service to the seafood sector, with cutting edge technology. 

Verifish helps fishermen to achieve certification by meeting critical food safety and sustainability criteria. It does this by using a cloud-based platform with mobile devices to record data on catching practices. The system also cuts down the time taken for catch information to reach the producers (wholesale buyers), enabling a more efficient onward transfer to market once ashore. In the process, it reduces the risk of the catch becoming spoiled due to paperwork delays.

Before Verifish, paper manuals and lever arch files weighed down vessels and fishermen who had to manually log data and record temperature from freezers or water in the hold to satisfy regulations. This ocean paper-trail can now be relegated to the recycling bin, as Frank and ESA’s satellite-enabled solution allows for the capture of real-time data while the vessel is fishing. Although data can still be entered manually, increasingly this is done automatically when captured by sensors (for example the temperature sensors in the holds that store the catch during transit), and then relayed to the onshore database. 

Marco Sartori, Technical Officer of the project at ESA explains: “We have managed to make standards more accessible to a wide variety of commercial fishermen, to improve management of certification data – and the quality of the data captured – to provide an efficient two-way ‘information highway’ between vessels and their sales agents/processors.”

Fish without a footprint – conserving marine resources

Respecting the marine habitat is becoming increasingly important for consumers. “Retailers and consumers are very interested in where their food comes from these days,” says Frank. “Is it sustainable? Are the stocks replenishing themselves? Retailers themselves want to make sure they are meeting those demands and Verifish allows them to do just that

“The ability to demonstrate sustainability credentials gives fisherman better access to the market and better prices for their fish.” Frank Fleming – ‘Fisherman Frank’ 

The fishing industry contributes about one billion Euros per year to the Irish economy and is a very important source of employment, particularly in rural areas. The success of Verifish has earned Frank and his team the award for ‘Emerging Company of the Year in Cork’ but Verifish serves the whole of Ireland and also international retail chains and Non-Governmental Organisations. Even a US office in Rhode Island has recently opened as a result of the growing reputation of Verifish. 

The project has also spawned a new contract with ESA, AquaEye, to develop both software and hardware products for the Aquaculture industry.

 “We are in the fortunate position that the work we do with clients, while growing the business also contributes to the bigger picture of protecting our natural resources”, says Frank. “On the journey so far we have received a lot of help and support and we are particularly grateful to the European Space Agency.”

 

 

 

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If you can’t fly with Captain Sully…

Satellite monitoring halves the number of bird strikes 

Bird strikes are a significant threat to aviation safety, as well as costing millions in terms of damage and flight disruption.   Image credit: Mike Focus/ShutterstockMany will remember the dramatic moment in January 2009 when US Airways Flight 1549 struck a flock of Canada geese not long after take-off from New York City, with a total loss of engine power. Unable to reach any airport, pilot ‘Sully’ Sullenberger performed a forced landing on the Hudson River, which the National Transport Safety Aviation Board described as “the most successful ditching in aviation history”. All passengers and crew survived. 

Ten years on, aviation stakeholders are acutely aware that bird strikes are on the rise. Increased global passenger traffic, lower noise levels from airplanes and climate changes all affect wildlife behaviours. Danish company, AscendXYZ, has been working with the support of ESA on a novel solution that integrates bird radar with Earth Observation data to tackle this problem. The system is currently in use at Aalborg Airport in Denmark, where it has more than halved the number of annual bird strikes. Many large international airports are monitoring the results of this project, with the prospect of implementing the radar system and related services. 

Wildlife preventive activities to reduce risks 

Airport operators need to monitor and manage many things in order to secure aviation safety. What the current approaches have in common is that they are labour intensive, involve standalone systems, or demand specialised human resources.

Project ‘WAMMO’, which grew out of a previous ESA project using satellite data for obstacle management, adds ground radar data to the system. This brings a real-time element and provides on-line knowledge about the airport surroundings to all stakeholders, including Airport Operators, on-the-ground workers, Civil Aviation Authorities and wildlife management.

Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) and multispectral images (enabling detection of things not visible to the naked eye, such as infrared and ultraviolet) help to monitor changes in the ecosystems and landscape, while Very High Resolution (VHR) satellite images monitor the airport’s surroundings and habitats. Satellite navigation (e.g. GPS or Galileo) is used in a tablet-based solution to guide bird controllers to areas with identified bird activity. 

Captain Sully, whose ‘Miracle on the Hudson’ landing has been made into a film with Tom Hanks. Image credit: Shutterstock

Arnaud Runge, Technical Officer of the project at ESA explains:“Changes in bird activity are relayed to wildlife crew and actions taken in the field by the bird controllers are registered with geolocation information. With the radar data we can superimpose changes in bird behaviour on updated satellite images and use this information for analysis.”

Arnaud holds a commercial pilot’s license, which helped him understand what the company were trying to do. He has also experienced a bird strike first-hand and so was ideally positioned to support the project aims.  “The idea was to move from visual observation to real tracking – you have radar on the runway and feed real-time bird activity information to the pilot,” he says. “This is already so successful that it was starting to be sold even before the end of the project. Airline companies are now requiring airports to get equipped as this has an insurance impact.”  

Peter Hemmingsen, CEO of AscendXYZ  says: “By combining the radar tracing of birds with satellite monitoring of the airport surroundings, Ascend offers a new and unique solution for airport wildlife management.

“With analysis of historical radar data, weather forecast and other factors, we can quite accurately predict bird behaviour over the next 9-18 hours. From an operational perspective this means you can now focus staff in high-risk periods. You can relay information to pilots to use in their pre-flight checks. 

 “Radar systems have created a lot of interest; we have created a whole company on the strength of our contracts with ESA. Before ESA we were a three-man company, now we have a strong position in the industry as the technology has been validated through the ESA IAP programme. 

“The Business Applications programme brings a huge amount of value,  owing to the detailed feedback and dialogue with the technical officers at ESA.” 

 

 

AscendXYZ Avian Radar System from ascendxyz on Vimeo.

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