It’s hard to believe that just a couple of years ago there was a lot of ‘space’ separating satellite technology from the end user. But today that gap has nearly been closed, thanks to the many space-based applications that are now firmly a part of our daily lives. From the GPS in our car to the landing procedure of the last flight we took – the benefits of satellite technology are everywhere.
“Space applications go hand-in-hand with the development of our knowledge economy,” said Pavel Bělobrádek, Deputy Prime Minister of the Czech Republic, speaking during the Opening Plenary session of the European Space Solutions conference in Prague. “I am convinced that this conference will contribute to the further development of space applications and, by doing so, will enhance the cooperation between government institutions, industry and academia – all for the benefit of the end user.”
European Space Solutions 2014, in its third edition, is a three day conference jointly organized by the European Commission and the European GNSS Agency (GSA). It brings together business and the public sector with users and developers of space-based solutions, with the objective of offering new opportunities to discuss topics on space applications in satellite navigation and Earth observation.
“Space is a solution – an invisible infrastructure providing very visible services,” said Paul Weissenberg, Deputy Director General, DG Enterprise & Industry. “Let’s use this conference to explore the many opportunities for tomorrow.”
A Truly European Project
European GNSS programmes, and Galileo in particular, are prime examples of European integration in action. Too big of a project for a single Member State or a certain industry, the charge is being led by the European Union.
Central to this undertaking is the GSA, which, since the beginning of this year, has been responsible for the operations of EGNOS and, in the future, will be delegated a similar role for Galileo. In fact, it is the exploitation of these programmes that is one of the key pillars of the GSA’s mission – and where a transition is occurring.
“Exploitation is where the most important paradigm shift from a technology-focused push to a service orientated pull must occur,” said Carlo des Dorides, Executive Director, GSA. “We started this process in January with EGNOS and are already getting ready for a similar transition to Galileo in 2017.”
Another key focus area of the GSA is market development. “We are in constant dialog with users from across all sectors, essential for ensuring a wide adoption of E-GNSS,” noted des Dorides. “These conversations also present an excellent opportunity to promote the development of applications and services via the Horizon 2020 Funding Programme.”
In the end, EGNOS and Galileo must deliver services that support users and offer tools that can fuel business success. “Helping users get the most out of space technology is not only the ultimate goal of this conference, it’s the foundation of the GSA,” concluded des Dorides. “After all, to paraphrase Steve Jobs, technology is nothing unless the people have the right tools to do great things with what is given them.”
Further stressing this essential role of the user, Antonín Prachař, Czech Minister of Transport, stated that commercial developers and end users are ready for EGNOS and Galileo. “The GSA plays an essential role in the development of these programmes,” he said. “Member States like the Czech Republic are getting ready for the application stages by encouraging local companies to get involved by incorporating space activities into their products and services.”
The Industry Perspective
As the ultimate success of E-GNSS programmes will depend greatly on the role of industry and private companies, it is essential to understand their thinking. To hear the needs of business, the opening session included an international business roundtable comprised of business leaders from the Americas, Asia, Africa and Europe.
A key theme from the roundtable was the importance of a multi-constellation environment, such as what Galileo will offer. “We’re very excited about Galileo coming online as having more satellites in the sky means improved signals, which allows us to offer our customers faster and better positioning,” said Peter O. Large, Vice President, Channel Development and Executive Committee Member at Trimble. “Of course there is redundancy between Galileo and GPS, but what the interoperability of Galileo and GPS shows is that there is often times value to be found in redundancy.”
It was also noted that in order for industry to be able to truly develop E-GNSS based applications, the European Union had to be clear in its objectives. “Clear regulations and stability are crucial to allowing the private sector to benefit from space technology,” said Philippe Blatt, Vice President, Domain Navigation, Thales Alenia Space. “What we need is a clear view into both short and long-term planning – essentially a roadmap for exploitation.”
Blatt noted that the new GSA governance structure, coupled with the issuing of a stable budget for a period of seven years, are excellent examples of the type of regulatory clarity and financial stability that industry demands.
Regardless of any frustrations, what is clear is that E-GNSS is nothing if not a private/public partnership. “The private sector depends on the public sector for deployment, and the public sector depends on the private sector development, creating an ideal environment for new innovations,” concluded Large.
It’s All About Tangible Benefits
The message to be taken away from the opening of the European Space Solutions Conference is, at the end of the day, the final objective of everyone involved in the European space community is to deliver tangible results to the end user. “The most important thing is to ensure that the user on the ground benefits from the technology in the sky,” said Marian-Jean Marinescu, Member of the European Parliament.
Noting that every euro invested in space brings four to nine times back to the market, Marinescu emphasised the importance of investment: “Industry should be confident in EGNOS and Galileo and invest in the development of applications because this will be good not only for business, but also for the everyday user.”
With this in mind, the only limit to what can be achieved is the space community’s collective imagination – and the European Space Solutions conference looks set to push this limits.
Carlo des Dorides, Executive Director, GSA
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