An app that combines satellite data, big data and artificial intelligence in order to monitor the use of water resources has won the top prize at this year’s Space App Camp.
Over the past 11 days, 20 app developers, machine learning and artificial intelligence experts attended the first digital edition of ESA’s Space App Camp. Using a virtual workspace, the participants were asked to devise an innovative app using Earth observation data.
The participants, who are from eight European countries, were introduced to the Copernicus programme and learned about the many ways in which big data from space can enrich mobile apps using a dedicated application programming interface for Earth observation data.
Each team had one week to come up with an idea from the following areas: food security, health, tourism, coastal monitoring, smart green cities, and agriculture - this last subject in honour of the former ESA employee Luigi Fusco.
The camp concluded today with presentations from the team to a jury, which was then followed by a talk by ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano.
The winning Spanish team – Food Security – developed an app called Quifer, (aQuifer sUrveillance by sentInel interFERometry) app, which uses terrain data from the Copernicus Sentinel-1 mission, combined with big data and artificial intelligence, to monitor the use of water resources.
The app will provide ground deformation information to tackle the problem of water extraction used for illegal pumping activities and potential infrastructure damage caused by subsidence. This information will be key to help governmental agencies, agricultural cooperatives and farmers.
The winners took away €2500 in cash, technical coaching from ESA’s Φ-lab on artificial intelligence for Earth observation, a one-week visit to the Φ-lab at ESA’s Centre for Earth Observation in Italy including travel and accommodation, as well as a technical support package worth around €3500. The winners also have the opportunity to apply for further incubation at one of the ESA Business Incubation Centres.
ESA’s Director of Earth Observation Programmes, Josef Aschbacher, commented during the ceremony, “I am very excited to have seen such great ideas at this year’s Space App Camp. I hope this experience has made you even more enthusiastic about space and remote sensing. You represent the young Earth observation generation we want to foster at ESA. Good luck to all of you!”
During Luca Parmitano’s inspiring presentation, he said, “When we talk about space, we usually refer to words like science, technology and exploration, but also innovation and inspiration. Space is all of this. But what is core for us is also relevance, having an impact, making the difference. Doing a good job doesn’t always mean being visible or having visibility.
“You might have the feeling sometimes that your contribution is not so important, or relevant, but what you are doing here today, by developing these apps is providing your input to change the world. And that’s what you have to believe: you are contributing to make this world better than it is today.”
Since the Space App Camp’s inception nine years ago, around 460 developers from 30 countries have applied to participate and more than 55 applications have been developed. Some of these have already found their way into commercially viable applications.