Wanted: Mobile Apps to Handle Big Data from Space

An array of Earth observation satellites, including the Sentinels involved in Europe’s Copernicus programme, collect untold amounts of data as they circle our planet. This high-resolution imagery and further information on climates and environments present tremendous potential in overcoming some of the biggest challenges of our time.

Thanks to new developments in big data, cloud computing, and other areas, commercial products – and mobile apps in particular – are growing more and more proficient at handling huge quantities of information.

This is where the European Space Agency’s Space App Camp comes in: For the fifth time, this event is inviting programmers to develop creative and innovative apps that make Earth observation data accessible to a wide audience.


Professional app developers from all over Europe are welcome to apply until 22 July 2016 at www.app-camp.eu. Based on the applications received, 20 of them will then be invited to participate in the free Space App Camp at ESA’s ESRIN facility in Frascati (near Rome), Italy, from 12 to 19 September 2016. The selection criteria will include the applicants’ previous programming work. Travel and accommodation will be covered by the event’s organisers.

The Space App Camp is more than just another developer competition. In fact, its main goal is to familiarise the participants with the many ways satellite data can be used in mobile apps. Those who attend will be tasked with devising innovative apps and feasible business models in one of five subject areas: agriculture; environmental protection; smart cities; transport and logistics; or recreation, tourism, and health. The event will also be an excellent opportunity to make interesting contacts from all across Europe while gaining insights into how ESA operates.


Space App Camp winner GAIA founds company, announces first cooperation partner

At the most recent Space App Camp in the autumn of 2015, four students from Austria, Germany, Greece, and Spain came up with the idea for GAIA – an app designed to predict plant and crop damage based on Earth observation data. GAIA covers all of the relevant measurement data collected by the Sentinels, other satellites, and in-situ sensors in order to monitor specific fields of interest for potential losses. The app thus enables farmers to identify risks early on and obtain crop yield predictions. They also benefit from precise information on the condition of their fields, which in turn facilitates the efficient use of water, fertiliser, and other resources. Meanwhile, GAIA is capable of detecting certain diseases immediately (or even before their onset) by using temperature, soil and air moisture levels, and other parameters to calculate corresponding risk.Winner 2015 ©ESA–M. Valentini

Just recently, a team comprising Lukas Böhler, Pascal Weinberger, and John Zachilashas founded the company GAIA Solutions Ltd in Great Britain. They have also entered into a partnership with the Health and Environmental Management Society (HEMS) of Nepal in order to make use of the real-world data it has gathered on training its machine-learning algorithms. GAIA has found partners to help it advance its software and hardware, as well.

“The ESA space app camp was a unique opportunity for us to meet like-minded and highly skilled people interested in changing the world with code. So we did – and we did it beyond the app camp, starting a company on the basis of the team and the idea we prototyped together during the camp. I highly recommend this opportunity to all space-geeks, world-changers!”


AZO – an experienced organiser

Anwendungszentrum GmbH Oberpfaffenhofen (AZO) has been organising the Space App Camps on behalf of the European Space Agency since 2012. By leveraging its extensive experience as a specialist in building and maintaining global innovation networks and organising related competitions, AZO supports product innovations and the creation of new companies, particularly in the field of commercial aerospace applications. www.space-of-innovation.com




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