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Phi-Week 2018

By Xu Teo, Imagery and GIS Specialist
Held in Frascati, Italy from 12th – 16th November, the inaugural ESA Φ-week conference event focused on “EO Open Science” and “FutureEO” as the main themes and was the largest event to be held at ESRIN, ESA’s heart of Earth Observation. More than 700 international participants attended this multi-disciplinary event. It brought together AI /machine learning and “traditional” EO experts from both industry and academia in an intensive 5-day knowledge exchange and networking exercise.
I had the pleasure of speaking about Earth-i’s Vivid-i constellation and sharing what we have achieved so far with video data from our technology demonstrator satellite, VividX2, which was launched in January this year. My goal was to get people thinking about “the art of the possible”. I wanted to communicate that, along with the plethora of data sources already available in the public domain – such as social media tweets, freely available satellite data and news feeds – video data can be a powerful complement which can offer highly unique insights beyond what a static image or “snapshot in time” ever could. Video provides us with an added “dimension” in time, allowing us to determine direction, speed and rate of change of moving targets on the ground, to name just a few of the new insights possible. Not to mention the ability of such datasets to also create highly accurate Digital Surface Models (DSMs) of an area of interest, which are highly beneficial for applications such as line-of-sight analysis and urban management.
Besides giving us a glimpse into how the EO industry is evolving and what it might look like in the years to come, the event served as a powerful reminder of the importance of innovation along with the exchange and communication of knowledge. This is especially critical as the use of EO data becomes ever more pervasive in a burgeoning downstream space sector.
There is a common saying that space is a complex industry but that in many ways misses the point. The use of data to derive intelligent insights has become much simpler and there certainly is a very strong case for bringing space “down to Earth”. We need to continue communicating what “space” can continue to deliver for the benefit of a wider audience, making it more accessible than ever before to communities and industries. We must change the way we present EO data, space-derived or otherwise, to those outside of the space industry, for all of us to truly benefit here on the ground.
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