The first ever Satellite Masters Conference took place in Berlin on 23 and 24 October complementing the 2014 edition of the European Satellite Navigation Competition (ESNC). The conference focused on the emerging satellite applications market and attracted delegates from start-ups, SMEs, researchers investors, institutional stakeholders and industry from across Europe and beyond. The European GNSS Agency (GSA) contributed to a variety of conference sessions.
Since 2004, the European Satellite Navigation Competition (ESNC) has been rewarding the best services, products, and business cases that utilize satellite navigation in everyday life. In just 10 years, it has quickly evolved into an international innovation competition.
This year, the annual awards ceremony was complemented by the first Satellite Masters Conference. The conference’s objective was to provide a unique marketplace for sharing innovations based on satellite navigation and Earth observation capabilities and connecting with the world's leading network for downstream satellite business.
The conference focused on fostering an entrepreneurial spirit and the impact space technologies have on business and society through a blend of conference sessions, workshops, and round-table discussions. The conference was also an opportunity for the prize-winners from this year’s ESNC and the Copernicus Masters competitions to present their business cases, along with past winners and other ‘graduates’ of the European Space Agency’s Business Incubation Programme to share their entrepreneurial success stories.
On top of all this, it was also an opportunity for the GSA to update delegates on the latest progress and application developments in the two flagship E-GNSS programmes: Galileo and EGNOS.
The opening session of the conference saw an update on the status of the Galileo programme from Christoph Kautz of the European Commission DG Enterprise. He emphasized the stability of the programme going forward, thanks to clear governance systems and finance in place for the next seven years and the imminent transfer of responsibility for the exploitation of the programme from the Commission to the GSA.
He also highlighted that the extensive ground segment of the Galileo system infrastructure was now almost complete, both within the EU and globally, and contracts for the fabrication and launch of 26 satellites have been formally concluded.
The recent launch anomaly was clearly unfortunate, but the reasons for the failure to achieve correct orbit have been determined and the two satellites themselves are fully functional. Work is ongoing to see how best to use them. "Through the signature in August this year of a contract for three launches with the European launcher Ariane 5, we are effectively doubling our launch capabilities and thus ensuring completion of the constellation, adds Kautz". He also said that he is looking forward to great progress for the programme in 2015.
Market trends and upcoming opportunities for GNSS in location-based services (LBS) and mobility applications were discussed by the GSA’s Fiammetta Diani. Sensor integration and fusion for use with multiple applications was a key trend, but the latest market views indicated that GNSS was likely to remain the most important navigation component in smartphones and similar devices for the next 30 years.
Market growth for LBS in smartphones and related markets is huge, with some one billion units shipped globally in 2013 – over twice the market predicted in only 2010. And the global market is far from saturated.
Fiammetta predicted that “Further LBS growth will be stimulated by new platforms and applications,” said Fiammetta. “For example, big data, Earth Observation apps and the Internet of things (devices connected to the internet) will open new vistas for applications.” She also sees substantial opportunities for reliable solutions to integrate indoor navigation capability and in augmented reality applications.
Galileo will benefit the LBS and mobility market through its direct contribution to the new multi-constellation signal environment, but also through its unique features such as its Open Service authentication (important for reliable and secure payment applications) and higher multipath resistance. She also claimed that Galileo will show enhanced indoor signal penetration.
The potential power of Galileo in the mobile market was demonstrated by Giovanni Vecchione of Deimos Space, who described the work behind the Galileo for ARA project – the winner of the GSA Special Prize at ESNC 2014.
The project will develop a dedicated Galileo module for the Google ARA modular smartphone platform using the Galileo E5 broadband signal. This will facilitate the widespread use of this unique Galileo signal that can deliver sub metre (down to ~20cms) positioning precision on a smartphone. This has application in areas such as surveying, farming and lane keeping for automated driving.
“The use of the E5 signal on a simple device can boost adoption of EU GNSS technologies globally,” claimed Giovanni Vecchione.
Secure and Sustainable Agriculture
How GNSS can help feed the world was outlined by the GSA’s Marta Krywanis-Brzostowska in a session dedicated to precision agriculture – an area where Europe’s EGNOS space-based augmentation system is already having a great impact.
With rising demand for crops, precision agriculture is key to increasing yields via better management of finite resources. “EGNOS is a key enabler for precision agriculture, increasing accuracy and providing information on signal reliability,” said Marta. “Some two-thirds of farmers using GNSS use EGNOS.”
She also noted that the coverage for EGNOS is being extended and the system is fully compatible with the future Galileo system.
The success of EGNOS is due to its ability to provide sub metre accuracy, which most precision agriculture applications require. It is also a free service to the user and affordable because of its low infrastructure costs.
Oliver Desenfans of 3M Systems presented a method to directly measure soil moisture using GNSS reflectrometry. The GNSS-Air project was the winner of the ESNC 2014 regional prize in Wallonia (Southern Belgium). Agriculture is a major user of freshwater, and with climate change and increasing need to boost food production, it is essential that farmers obtained “more crop per drop” through smart and targeted irrigation.
The system can monitor soil moisture content using only GNSS signals by measuring the signals reflected from the ground and comparing their left and right polarisation with a sensor mounted on an Unmanned Arial Vehicle (UAV). The technique can also be used to monitor flooded areas or natural wetlands and is highly complementary to other satellite and in-situ technologies.
The closing session of the conference was also dedicated to the Galileo programme, with presentations and discussions around the future Galileo Public Regulated Service (PRS).
Giovanni Vecchione, Deimos Space
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