On satellite applications

On satellite applications

On satellite applications

Satellite images provide information about places, spaces, as well as spatial phenomena.

Satellite navigation indicates absolute location, relative movement and time. Satellite telecommunication infrastructure ensures connectivity when terrestrial connections are down or inexistent.

The applications resulting from these technological capabilities are often used together and in combination with data from a multitude of sources – whether field measurements, statistics, historical data, or even tweets – to deliver useful digital services that allows us to navigate, to make decisions, or to communicate in new ways.

Navigation and location will never be the same again

We rely less on less on paper maps to navigate from A to B in our day-to-day. But personal or car satnav devices are just the tip of the iceberg in terms of satellite navigation applications available. These can also include locating distress calls as part of emergency interventions; monitoring coastal and beach erosion; fleet tracking; animal tracking; geo-tagging; fun or educational mobile apps and even more unexpected uses, such as in car insurance policies or art projects for museums and art galleries.

While we have come to take it for granted, it is difficult to imagine the workings of our world without satnav capabilities.

Decision-making, (should be) easier

With more sources of data, including from satellite, being more accessible to more people than ever before, the understanding of places, spaces, and spatial phenomena is potentially better than ever.

But making sense of all this data is proportionally more complex for those whose job is not to analyse data, but to simply make sense of a situation, sometimes in real-time.

It can be small decisions about where to have the best sushi meal in town. It can be bigger decisions about giving building permits without affecting natural habitat areas; about curbing nitrite pollution which causes algae bloom; about investing in and positioning PV plants, according to their expected energy yield; or about keeping an eye on illegal forest clear cuts.

In such cases, geospatial services rely on multitude of data sources, algorithms and software to extract only the information which is relevant and necessary to the decision-maker, and to present it in a way that is useful – often on digital maps, or colour-coded pictures.

A picture is worth a thousand words

Geo-located information presented on digital maps that people can access via their computers, tables and mobile phones, has forever changed the way we describe and tell stories about what we do.

It can be a summer holiday photo-journal, geolocalised following one’s footsteps; or a solar energy potential map, encouraging communities to invest in solar panels; or a 3D model of projected public infrastructure, eliciting public opinion. In all cases, the maps bear a message in that one can grasp in a glance.

Always connected: great expectations

France, 2012: due to a breakdown of a telecom service, 26 million subscribers find themselves cut off from phoning or web-surfing, causing the minister for the Digital Economy to step in and ask the telecom operator to provide a (good) explanation.

While satellite communications are too slow for day-to-day uses in most areas of the developed world, they are still in many cases either an insurance policy or the only available recourse. They are an insurance policy when acting as a back-up for private enterprise, governments and NGOs who need to ensure business continuity in any circumstance, even when terrestrial networks are down, such as in cases of disasters.

They are the only option for communicating or tracking ships and planes, or in areas lacking terrestrial infrastructure (remote, or poor). Here, businesses, governments and individuals can conduct important operations such as make distress calls, or making money transfers by phone, thanks to satcoms.