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Last year, 2014, was a very exciting year for Earth Observation companies. We saw some massive changes in the market including the arrival of Skybox 1 & 2 data, the entry of Google via the purchase of Skybox Imaging, Worldview 3 being launched, the authorisation for the sale of satellite imagery with resolutions down to 25cm and the launch of several other initiatives aimed at putting more commercial imagery on the market.
In Europe, Astrium launched SPOT 7, Deimos II was launched, Blackbridge and E-geos announced next generation systems and the first Copernicus satellite – Sentinel 1 – was launched. The last of these, marking the start of the operational phase of Copernicus, promises further change as large volumes of data become freely available and available for free. 2015 should see the launch of Sentinels 2 & 3 further increasing the free data available.

When I was a young engineer in the 1980’s responsible for the design of the Europe’s first radar to be launched on the European ERS-1 we used to think ESA was the market for satellites. At the time, the space agencies were essentially the only customers and so naturally everything was focused around their needs. These were in turn largely determined by science and research. This attitude exists even today even if it has been largely changed by an appreciation of addressing a commercial market.

The telecommunications market was the first to emerge and indeed was already starting to do so with commercial companies buying satellites and selling communication services. In EO some early efforts were being made to sell imagery and companies were being set up to do so; but we were a long way from the point where a private company would build and launch a satellite on its own resources. Indeed, even today a fully commercial business model is quite rare.

So understanding the market is a fundamental requirement for commercial companies trying to do business. Similarly for policy makers, it is fundamental to understand the impacts of their actions; their policy decisions. The former requires a detailed survey of the market, the latter requires a detailed survey of the industry.

Two years ago, we conducted our industry survey 2013 which provided a more detailed picture of the EO services industry than we had before. Since then, many things have changed as described earlier and we have just launched our 2015 survey which will update the industry view and develop it further. In particular, we wish to be in a position to understand the impact of Copernicus on the industry and on the market and so this is a focus of our survey this time. We have already launched what we call the core survey to over 500 companies in Europe and Canada to gather specific data on their business. This will shortly be followed up with phone interviews for what we call the “full survey” which will explore some of the softer factors and strategic issues through a conversation.

But this time, we have decided to go further again.

According to the Impact Assessment published by the European Commission in 2013, Copernicus will create 9,000 direct jobs in the downstream sector. The EARSC survey will show the impact on the private sector but Copernicus is primarily a public programme with its first objective to provide public policy makers with information. Consequently, we are extending our survey to look at the benefits which Copernicus will bring to the public sector in terms of access to information, effectiveness and of course employment. In the next few weeks we shall launch a second survey questionnaire which will be sent to public bodies in Europe with questions on their involvement in Copernicus and the benefits they have seen or anticipate.

But, this is a global industry and European policy is that Sentinel data will be available on a free and open basis, not limited to European companies. Hence the 4th part of our survey will address companies world-wide to try to understand how much they benefit from access to these data. This is quite a challenge, not least because of language! The survey is in English as we think that most companies operating in the domain of EO services, as in the scientific field, will frequently use English. But a questionnaire in English can be quite complex and we are trying to restrict it to essentials as far we can consistent with gathering a good picture of the industry and how it is evolving.

We are happy to have some international partners to help us with this global survey including the GEO secretariat in Geneva, which will help distribute the link through their networks and maybe help gather some of the responses. It is too early to acknowledge everyone but I’ll write again on that once the results are complete.

Our goal is to have results available in mid-2015 and to publish a report which will be freely available. We have the support of ESA to conduct the survey and if any reader wishes to learn more, they can contact either EARSC or ESA-ESRIN to do so.

If you are someone from the private sector or from a public body in Europe reading this we very much count on you to complete the relevant part of the survey. Your contribution will be kept absolutely confidential to EARSC and only aggregated, anonymous results will be public. If you do not receive a request to participate and you think you should be included, do not hesitate to contact us

It is going to be quite a challenge to gather and analyse all the data we anticipate receiving but it is fundamental to understanding the sector and the impact of the policy makers actions towards it. It is one of our major projects; but not the only one and I’ll cover more of those in a future eomag editorial. In the meantime, I wish all eomag readers a successful a above all healthy 2015.

Geoff Sawyer
EARSC Secretary General

This quarter, I turn again to Copernicus. Recently, we published an EARSC position paper looking at the industry prospects to participate in the supply of the Copernicus services. Overall, Copernicus presents a unique opportunity for the European industry to develop its business by leveraging the public investment in the programme hence creating jobs and economic growth but a number of concerns on the procurement process have been expressed by the industry which we have captured in our paper.
We consider that the key to success is an appropriate participation of industry in the supply of the services and to maintain a strong competitive environment. But, for this to happen, a number of conditions will need to be met which are discussed in our paper. Both of these objectives unfortunately seem to be at risk with the current approach.

In our paper we promote “A new public-private partnership; working together” since we consider that the strengths of both private sector and public bodies can be harnessed to deliver for Europe. By “deliver” we mean two things; firstly, to ensure that the European policy makers get the best information possible and secondly, to ensure that the programme can deliver economic growth through the downstream sector.

To achieve this will require a political recognition that industry should be engaged wherever possible and an open approach where industry views are listened to! We recognise that compared to the US this is not always easy in a Europe of 30 states (EU 28 plus 2 ESA) but we shall need to find ways to exploit this diversity as a strength and not cede to it as a weakness.

One concern is that the competition will become distorted through over-participation of public bodies in the supply of services. We see two different situations. Firstly, where Member States have designated agencies for certain tasks eg environment or civil protection, and which are expected to be the channel for generating/delivering national services. Secondly, where a PSB through their public task, has developed the technical skills and competences which they wish to offer in the supply of Copernicus services. In both cases, the national body will distort the competition unless they are open to work with any potential industrial bidder.

A second concern is that through the participation in a service supply, new products and services are developed which duplicate similar ones already available commercially. I already hear of a case where a company has been told that they should supply a service until it becomes available for free through the Copernicus services. Similarly, there are instances where companies have invested in developing a new product only to see it being offered to Copernicus by a public body.

Both concerns discourage industry from investing in either R&D or commercialisation. Indeed, the latter may not be possible if public bodies make products available free of charge. But to be clear, this does not mean that the free and open policy is wrong – quite the contrary, we consider that it is fundamentally sound – but that the boundary of what industry can do relative to the public body is neither clear nor frozen. This is the issue which we now face where there is a strong possibility that investments being made by Europe in the Copernicus Services will not deliver the expected growth in jobs in the downstream sector.

To overcome this risk, some of the specific measures which we feel must be taken are:

  • Harmonised procurement approaches, rules and conditions across all the services including especially a dedicated emphasis on service quality rather than on pure cost.
  • Transparency between the stakeholders and in particular scope for discussion and negotiation of the service provision for an efficient and effective supply.
  • Consideration of the commercial situation in determining the portfolio of products within any particular Copernicus service.
  • Steps to ensure that the possibility for competitive procurement is maintained and to avoid that de-facto monopoly supply chains become established. This requires an open bidding process especially in the participation of public sector bodies.
  • A good understanding of “who does what” between the industry and the public sector bodies. To understand the boundary is extremely important to enable industry to invest in the provision of new services.

One measure which could help in this last point is to develop a Research Roadmap for EO services.

Last week I participated in a workshop which looked at how to stimulate the user uptake of Copernicus services. Overwhelmingly, the message coming from geo-spatial companies and users was “What can we do with the data? Where can we get hold of it? And who can we talk to about it?” An awareness campaign is clearly necessary and it might be considered that the EO companies which can benefit from the free Sentinel data would be out there selling it. That they are clearly not – or we would not have heard this very strong message – in my view is down to this uncertainty. If having promoted a product they are told, yes but we expect to get this free from Copernicus, they will not be active. For the future success of the programme, it is vital that we clarify the boundary between what public bodies will do and where industry can anticipate doing business.

by Geoff Sawyer
EARSC Secretary General

Amazingly, EARSC has just celebrated its 25 years anniversary. The founding meeting for the Association took place on 1st June 1989 with the presence of a number of board members who still active in the Association today. I can mention particularly Marcello Marenesi and Emile Maes but there are others who we still see and meet.

Bruce Smith was the first chairman, Bill Jackson (who I worked for at the time) was the first treasurer and Rupert Hayden was the first vice-chair. As a summer job, maybe I’ll write a short piece on EARSC on Wikipedia and anyone who wishes to contribute will be welcome.

But back to the celebration! We had a great party on the 25th June – the evening of our 2014 annual general meeting – at which some 80 guests had an excellent opportunity to mingle and exchange between member companies and Brussels-based policy makers. We also made two awards – a first for EARSC! We felt the occasion was too important to miss the opportunity to introduce a “company of the year” award. This is for the company recognised by both peers and international experts as having made the most significant contribution to the growth of the EO services sector in Europe. I am pleased to report that GeoVille GmbH was selected as the winner by both EARSC members and the international jury and Christian Hoffman (founder and CEO) proudly accepted the award.

A second award was made to Emile Maes (founder and CEO of Eurosense) for his lifetime contribution to the sector. Not only has Emile built one of the first and most successful companies in the EO sector in Europe but he has been a strong supporter of EARSC since that very first meeting 25 years ago.

EARSC has come a long way in that time – as has the world of remote sensing. In 1989 the world was changing dramatically; Time magazine even consider it as the year which changed the world – Tiananmen Square, fall of the Berlin wall, first elections in Poland and death of Ayatollah Khomeni to name just a few major events. The internet was still a research network, mobile phones were brick-sized and Europe had launched only 2 EO satellites (Spot 1&2). It was also a time when commercialisation of remote sensing was a priority even if this was to bring a crisis to the industry some years later. EARSC also went through its own crisis in the mid-90’s but recovered and now has 76 members from 23 countries. Interest is sustained and 2 decisions taken at the recent AGM should help bring more companies and other organisations into the network

Our focus on animating the network and helping companies find business together seems to be much appreciated and we now provide a single voice for the European EO services sector ranging from those selling satellite data, to those selling geospatial information where satellite data may represent a small proportion of its value. The increasing commercial interests of the sector are also being recognised by European institutions, EC and ESA, and we are being kept very busy in dealing with both the positive and negative aspects of this. As is typical of the sector, the government interest in EO surveillance means that we face increasing legislative actions and EARSC will be at the front of efforts to ensure that these are constructive for the industry.

Indeed, 2014 feels like a significant year for our sector. Whereas in 2013 some 23 EO satellites were launched globally, this number looks to explode in 2014. The strong, revised, commercial interest manifesting itself in private investments and new ventures (Skybox, Planetlabs, Orthimage, Urthercast, Satellogic etc) is to be welcomed. It demonstrates a confidence in the technology but more importantly in an emerging market for the services which EO can deliver. As I have mentioned before, I regret that most of these are outside of Europe but feel that the skills and competences amongst our members will be able to compete with the support of a favourable legislative environment.

We are working with both ESA and the European Commission to establish a constructive approach and I am optimistic that the next few months will see positive developments. A sign of this can be seen in our institutional interview this month with Eric Morel, Director in charge of Industrial Policy at ESA, who sets out a vision for achieving sustainable, commercial business in the downstream sector.

Another priority for us is working to ensure the Copernicus programme is oriented to allow industry to deliver key services to new customers. Standard procurement procedures used by the EC are not well-suited to complex services such as those required by Copernicus, and their use risks to particularly disfavour industry. We hope that this can be recognised and some of the lessons learned from the Galileo programme can be applied to Copernicus.

Finally, I just wish to mention that we are making good progress on our certification scheme with Planetek recently becoming the first company to successfully apply it to their certification process. We shall hold a second certification workshop in November (on 19th, in London) to look at the results and decide on the next steps.

1989 was a year that changed the world. The world of Earth Observation has changed enormously since then; what will the next 25 years bring?

by Geoff Sawyer

Congratulations to ESA, Thales Alenia Space and all those involved in building and launching Sentinel 1; the first satellite in the Copernicus series. Credit also to the European Commission for having steered a complex path to reach the milestone achieved last Thursday. Photo:Sentinel1©ESA

The launch of Sentinel 1 is truly a seminal event. According to my Collins English dictionary, seminal stems from the latin seminalis literally meaning “belonging to seed”. It goes on to give the definition “Strongly influence future events or highly influential” and the Wiktionary on-line gives it as “Highly influential, especially in some original way, and providing a basis for future development or research”.

Now this certainly describes Sentinel 1. In a few days’ time we expect to see the first radar image before a 6 month period of commissioning to calibrate and validate the data coming from the satellite. We consider that the Gigabytes of data to be collected every day will lead to good opportunities both for industry and for science. There is no doubt that it will be “highly influential” and will it will certainly provide a strong basis “for future development and research”.

The objectives of Copernicus are defined in the EC regulation as being (1) to provide a reliable source of geo-information to EU public customers and (2) to develop the EU downstream services industry. I paraphrase the objectives and note that the downstream industry in this case includes both data suppliers (satellite operators; sometimes called the midstream) as well as value-adding companies.

To achieve the second objective will require careful measures particularly regarding industry access to the data as well as the rules of procurement for the Copernicus Core services. We consider that two conditions are essential that:
1. competences necessary to deliver the Copernicus services shall be developed within or at least fully available to the EO services industry.
2. it will always be possible to receive competing bids for each of the services which will be procured.

How best to achieve this? Various measures will be possible but, as I said at the recent EC conference on Big Data held in Brussels, I see six steps to be necessary to enable and deliver the full economic benefits:

  • 1. Free and open access to the data,
  • 2. Easy access to the data,
  • 3. Platforms to enable the combination of different types of data from different sources,
  • 4. Channels to deliver information products effectively and efficiently,
  • 5. Quality assurance and a scheme for certified products,
  • 6. Creating an enterprise culture.

Six core services are defined: land, marine, climate change, atmosphere, emergency and security; each of these will cover a range of specific products. The procurement of each service will be delegated to external bodies and although some had anticipated that industry could fill this role, the reality is that to be qualified to manage public funds through delegation, certain criteria must be met which it is very difficult for a private company to achieve.

In any case, to meet the conditions for competition, industry will prefer to be on the supply side and to avoid any potential conflicts of interest in being both procurement agent and major supplier.

The authorities selected will then procure the services and here we do expect industry to play a full role. For industry to exploit Copernicus it must master the complete chain of competency necessary to generate the Core Services. Where these lie in industry, normal market rules will apply although the EC may need to be vigilant to ensure a fair and open competition. Where these lie in a public body, backed by public-sector/government funding some arrangements with an industrial prime will ne needed. Here we see a great potential for distortion of the market.

There are several reasons why a PSB should – or even must – play a role in the service provision. In some cases the technical skills and knowledge (for example mathematical models) rest in a PSB, whilst in other cases a PSB will be a key actor/agency in a Member State and hence will be unavoidable for political reasons. A further consideration will also be the research base which will drive future innovation and new products and help underpin both the competitive environment and the delivery of new and innovative services to public and private customers alike.

Care must then be taken to ensure that key organisations, necessary for technical or political reasons, are ready and willing to work with other partners and are not constrained to work in any one particular team. If competition is to be maintained, any organisation which has been funded through public grants and which has some unique skills or links to offer, must in some way be required to offer their services openly. Of course this will be quite difficult to arrange, especially given the European dimension, and even harder to enforce but we believe that it will be necessary if Copernicus is to deliver the full benefits foreseen by the EU policy makers.

The procurement rules should be such that competition is ensured and the public sector receives good value for money. A varied, competitive supply base has to be maintained on the industrial side and single-source providers should be open – and not closed – to competitive partnering. Without measures to achieve this we believe that the full opportunity will be lost and forecast jobs and economic benefits will not be achieved.

The successful launch of Sentinel 1 really does mark a seminal moment in the development of the geo-information services business. It is our goal to see the Copernicus seed grow into a flourishing European EO services industrial sector backed up by the extraordinary research capabilities which exist in Europe.

by Geoff Sawyer
EARSC Secretary General

Seminal: Strongly influence future events or highly influential
Photo:Sentinel1©ESA

This year we shall celebrate the 25th anniversary of the founding of EARSC. We plan to have a celebration in Brussels in the summer and we hope to see many of you there. So it seems like a time for reflection on where the industry has come in that time and how far EARSC has changed.

In 1989, Landsat had already been operating for 17 years having launched Landsat 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5! SeaSat had been launched (in 1978 and failed 90 days later) and the first European satellite SPOT 1 had been launched just 3 years earlier. Japan had launched MOS-1 just 2 years earlier and there were several Russian satellites orbiting. At that time, I was a young engineer working as the lead radar system designer for the SAR shortly to be launched on ERS-1. It was an exciting time full of technological challenges and new developments. We were learning a lot about how to build space-borne radar.
I recall also the first images we received from the ERS-1 SAR and the time we spent analysing them and trying to understand the rich information they contained. For, at that time, each new satellite was bringing new data and new challenges to the interpretation of the imagery.

Fast forward until today and it is also an exciting time, but rather than addressing the technological challenges of constructing the instruments or understanding the data, the main focus is about how to commercialise the developments. We have moved from a domain driven by technology and research to one that is operational with the need to discover and address new markets; which brings me to EARSC!

I was not there when EARSC was first formed although I do know one or two people who were; notably Bruce Smith and Emile Maes. These two visionaries saw the need for an organisation at European level to help take the industry forward. I became involved about 15 months later and for the first 15 years there was only the effort that the directors themselves gave to the Association; apart from a short period in 1992 when there was an attempt to employ a first secretary general. This ended in disaster as the dramatic increase in fees led very quickly to a situation that, when I became chairman in 1994, I was faced with an Association with 9 directors and 9 members!

For a few years EARSC continued by organising a few high-profile meetings but EARSC only really started to evolve in 2004 with the appointment of an executive secretary – Monica Miguel Lago. This was the first step in transforming EARSC from a club as it then really was, into a true, representative organisation.

The directors of EARSC started planning to appoint a secretary general in 2006/7 but this took more time than expected to find and appoint a secretary general. Congratulations should go to Monica and to then chairman Paul Kamoun who were together fundamental to EARSC development during this time up to the point when I was appointed as SecGen in January 2011.

Today, EARSC continues to develop and we are asking ourselves what more EARSC can do to help its members increase their business. Although the nature of the challenge has changed, the EO services market is still a difficult one. As mentioned in previous editorials, the combination of public and private interests is perhaps unique in this domain. EARSC as the organisation representing the European industry is evolving to meet these new challenges. It is our goal to help the industry develop and we seek to represent the industry in its entirety. Our approach to this is centred around communities of interest and this lies and will remain at the core of our strategy.

One community which we plan to start developing is around research. The EC has just launched its Horizon 2020 programme which is the new Framework Programme. To help our members we have set up a Research Portal where companies and individuals can go to seek partners. It is not yet the final, polished thing, but it is open and we would welcome feedback. It is intended as a sort of virtual coffee bar where people can chat and exchange ideas. There is a library of information and EARSC members can even book a meeting room where they can go and talk about specific ideas for projects with partners.

With thanks to our current chairman Han Wensink and all past chairmen; as well as the many industry champions who have given their time to sit on the board of EARSC during its 25 years of existence, it only remains to wish everyone a happy, healthy and successful 2014.

Geoff Sawyer
EARSC Secretary General

The EC has recently published its proposals for a Copernicus Regulation and a Delegated Act. The former sets out the conditions for the Copernicus programme whilst the Delegated Act defines the data and information policy. Both documents are being discussed in the Council of Ministers and the European Parliament with a view to having agreement by the end of the year. Naturally, given the importance of the programme and the legislation, EARSC has views on the Copernicus Regulation linked to a number of points which we are promoting.

The passage of the two documents will differ. Without going into too much detail, the Regulation will be modified according to the views of the three institutional bodies until there is full agreement on a final text whilst the Delegated Act can only be rejected by either Council or Parliament. If it is not rejected, it is accepted. No changes are possible. It is also linked to the GMES legislation and hence will need to be revised or re-adopted later.

For this reason, EARSC is focusing its attention mainly on the Regulation since if it was decided to change or adapt any part of the data and information policy, this can be done in the Regulation and as the newer legislation it will take precedence.

I, on behalf of EARSC and the EO services industry, have promoted the adoption of the free and open data policy. This view was expressed in various EARSC position papers since 2009 right through to February this year. I also conducted the study into the benefits of such a policy now commonly referred to as the Geese and Golden Eggs. In the report we noted that there would be some companies adversely affected by such a policy since there would certainly be some customers which would prefer to have free data than choose to pay for slightly better data. Hence operators such as RapidEye, Deimos and DMCii which are operating satellites delivering imagery close in performance to Sentinel 2 will lose business. The key question is how much business they will lose and if the overall market growth – which we believe will be stimulated by Copernicus – will outweigh the loss.

No-one can know; today just as no-one can know how much new business will be developed by VA operators as a result of free and open access to the Sentinel data. It is a matter of beliefs.

What I personally believe, and believe to have shown, is that giving access to free and open data is the right policy. Our study follows a lot of other work which has been done on the question of PSI re-use. The results show that access to free data helps drive new businesses much more than if data is charged for. This seems very evident. Furthermore, if we as taxpayers have already paid once for the data why should we pay for it a second time? Provided the benefits are widely shared then there seems no justification to implement a charging policy which generally has shown to be counter-productive; hindering the use and take-up of data whilst costing governments to put in place charging and accounting systems.

Nevertheless, we believe that there is also a need to protect private sector investments and encourage further investments in the future. This follows a commercialisation policy which is supported by EARSC and many governments. So it seems that what we are discussing today is not really the issue of a free and open data policy. Global trends and economic analysis are overwhelmingly and inexorably leading us in this direction. No, it is about the conditions under which a free and open data policy should be applied. In the language of those dealing with PSI re-use it is about what is a core government task; ie a task which must be performed using public resources rather than using private resources.

Here we know that opinions differ through Europe. I was involved in Galileo in the early 2000’s when we were fiercely discussing and trying to find a PPP (public-private partnership) which would work. We saw opinion sharply divided between those who thought it could and others who said but the GPS signal is free, how can we find a paying model for Galileo? With hindsight the conditions were wrong to implement that policy, opinion was too divided, and the fact that it was tried set back the Galileo programme several years. I am convinced this is one reason why we are now coming at Copernicus from the other direction. The experience of Galileo has undoubtedly shaped Copernicus to become fundamentally a government programme.

A short aside here; I said in a recent meeting that one of the goals in creating GMES was to improve the use of European resources and particularly budgets. The aim was to reduce duplication and increase spending efficiency at a European scale. I noted that I feel that Europe as a whole has not done a bad job and that the construct of Copernicus, with its mix of government funded data (from the Sentinels) and privately funded (from the contributing missions), goes some way towards achieving this aim. The decision makers in ESA and the EC should be congratulated for the progress in this very difficult area – but which is not to say that we cannot achieve more.

Hence, as a public programme, the data coming from Copernicus Sentinel satellites should be free and open. Yet some say, that may be fine for those who have paid for it but why give it away free to other nations that have not? Whilst industry is in agreement for the first point, there is less agreement on the second one. Here I return to the finding that charging systems are rarely efficient and that the benefits of giving it away free will allow European industry to develop business as a result. If countries globally are using Sentinel data and experiencing first-hand the quality of products that it can provoke, will that not also provide a strong lever for European companies to do business – even those selling data?
But I also believe, as I have already said, in a policy of commercialisation. Mobilising private resources when possible and saving public funds for more essential public tasks seems to me to be good policy. Hence, as EARSC, we are calling for a review of the public and private roles in the future. Who should do what? Which side of the public – private divide should pay for future satellites and which ones – in particular with what resolution? Which organisations, public or private, should be delivering specific Copernicus services?

We are pushing to have this discussion as part of a wider review of an industrial policy for the EO services industry. As part of the Copernicus programme we should like to see an effective industrial policy. Hence our two key claims regarding the Copernicus regulation are:
1. A long-term, stable investment environment for EO services including a plan for the procurement of data from the contributing missions.
2. An industrial policy covering procurement of services, the role of the private sector in delivering Copernicus services and a plan to exploit the large volumes of data and information which shall result. This would include a review of the adopted data and information policy and its impact on economic growth covering the roles of all players in delivering services and investments in the future.

But whilst these points are very important for the EO services industry in the immediate future, in the medium term we need to find the right relationship for future programmes and future investments. For this we need a sound policy and a good understanding of the respective public and private sector roles. We need to understand the market and what drivers can best deliver results in terms of economic benefits resulting both from growth in the EO services industry and the application of EO products for both public and private sector customers. I think we can have a really interesting and fruitful discussion around this subject over the next few years.

Geoff Sawyer
EARSC Secretary General

Photo Credits MLahousse-EPPGroup
EARSC views on the Copernicus Regulation

The recent conference organised by ESA on big data proved to be a useful and interesting event. The term “big data” belongs more to the marketing than to the technical world but it proved a strong enough pull to get around 200 people at the 3 day workshop to exchange on what it means for the world of Earth Observation. “Big data” embraces a number of other terms which are entering the everyday language alongside GIS such as the cloud and crowd-sourcing and which have relevance to EO service providers. Behind the marketing lie some very serious subjects which were discussed during the workshop.

The means to access data from Sentinel satellites was one such subject along with the means to combine with other data sources not just other satellite data but also a variety of others. We have been and are still concerned about how industry will gain access to the large volumes of Sentinel data that will start pouring down to Earth starting in the next 12 months. It seems that it will remain under the responsibility of national authorities to provide suitable portals which is strange for a European programme. ESA will provide a central Portal to serve the GMES/Copernicus services so assuring the primary mission of the programme but the second mission is not being given enough attention.

I say the second mission because in the recently published Copernicus regulation from the European Commission, it is declared that the Copernicus programme shall contribute to the following general objectives:

  • protection of the environment and provision of support to civil protection and security efforts;
  • support of the Europe 2020 growth strategy by contributing to the objectives of smart, sustainable and inclusive growth; in particular, it shall contribute to economic stability and growth by boosting commercial applications.

Furthermore, these shall be monitored through 2 indicators:

  • data and information made available in accordance with the respective service-level delivery requirements for environment, civil protection and security;
  • market penetration and competitiveness of the European downstream operators.

We really welcome this focus on developing economic benefit through the downstream industry but to achieve this second goal means that European industry must have not just good but excellent access to the data. Hence it is frustrating that this has not been given more attention earlier, but we are now in discussion over this issue and a second meeting to address the industry concerns is planned for late September.

Overall, I am delighted that the messages from EARSC have been heard and reflected into the EC regulation. We have been continually pushing the message that the European industry is anticipating benefits from the Copernicus programme, not through the programme directly (ie participation in the Copernicus services) but through being able to develop and exploit the skills and knowledge that will come as a result. Of course, for each company, participation in the provision of Copernicus services will be an important step, but we believe that the major benefit will come from taking the data and products into other markets such as commercial customers and government customers outside of Europe. This was borne out in our recent industry survey which showed that the industry expects to derive most benefit from the Copernicus programme as a result of free access to Sentinel data.

This is a major finding and a big step forward from what might have been found in earlier years and a major finding demonstrating that the industry is moving away from a focus on research to that of operational business.

In the impact assessment supporting the EC regulation, it is estimated that more than 9000 direct jobs in the downstream services sector will be created or maintained as a result of the programme. In our survey, we find that there are some 5000 highly skilled employees in the sector today. This only accounts for those in industry and not those in the public sector so the goals seem realistic. Nevertheless, as the big data conference showed, there are many pressures on the industry and competing technologies as well as international competition is going to keep us on our toes.

In particular, new and innovative ways of distributing and accessing data are shown to be very important. Google presented their ideas in this respect which could transform the way in which companies and individuals are able to manipulate, process and combine data from as many and as diverse sources as we can imagine. The cloud, social networking and non-space observation platforms will all contribute to this transformation in which European companies are also playing leading roles. It is therefore critical that we can take advantage of the Sentinel data to create more change and more innovation. This is behind our support for a free and open data policy but nevertheless, the challenge is enormous as we seek to ensure that the European investment into the Copernicus programme is able to deliver on its objectives.

Best wishes,
Geoff Sawyer
EARSC Secretary General

With this edition of eomag we are sending you a free video! Click on the goose to see it.
The video animation addresses the subject of a free and open data policy for GMES/Copernicus Sentinels. It lasts 2 minutes and I commend everyone to take a look at it for a new perspective on the benefits of such a policy. The video can be viewed here. The study final report can be downloaded at GMES and Data. Geese and Golden Eggs. Enjoy the story!

EARSC supports a free and open data policy because we believe it will be the best way to help the European EO services industry develop. Winning business is a key challenge for any company and often takes a considerable amount of effort. Indeed, in our survey of the industry (of which more later) one question we asked is directly linked to this and it will be interesting to see the responses. Hence, one of the roles for a trade association is to try to create new opportunities for companies to pursue. This is especially true for an association such as EARSC where growth is expected in an immature sector as compared to mature industries where the focus will be more on regulatory matters.

One way in which we can help to create opportunities is by promoting the sector generally; by raising awareness of what companies can offer. For the geospatial services industry, which can be considered as B2B ie largely serving corporate or institutional customers, this demands very targeted actions. EARSC works closely with other organisations such as Nereus and Eurisy that are active in this respect and of course we work very closely with ESA. This largely involves holding meetings dedicated to either a specific type of product (thematic orientation) or type of customer (market orientation) and we are always happy to support such a meeting and give member companies the opportunity to promote themselves as well as for EARSC to promote the industry.

We are also working to develop links with other industry sectors. In particular we are working very closely with the oil and gas sector through their main industry association the OGP (Oil and Gas Producers Association). This has involved 3 dedicated workshops and the establishment of the OGEO Portal to encourage direct communication between the two communities. The Portal is currently being upgraded and a new version will be launched in May.

As a result of this dialogue we are organising a workshop next week (15th April) on the subject of certification. This is a complex and even slightly contentious subject as opinions on the need for action do vary. However, as services are becoming operational, we are seeing customers starting to ask for a standard approach to procurement so that rather than a number of different certification standards, or even variants on a single one, they can see one consistent approach. This could be through an industry guideline that is applied to ISO 9001 which in itself would reduce the cost of becoming certified and annual cost of renewal. At present, each auditing against ISO9001 depends on the organisation carrying out the audit and each will interpret the general requirements of ISO9001 into the specific aspects of the EO services industries. Hence a common guiding document may provide a standard and consistent approach that reduces costs. It is important, in this respect, that companies which already have ISO 9001 certification will benefit as well as those who do not and that the benefits clearly outweigh the costs. If it makes doing business easier then everyone gains.

Up to now, EARSC has focused on getting closer to commercial sectors. Now we are starting to look at what we could do to help companies do more in overseas markets. This will be the focus of discussion at this years’ Annual Meeting in June when we shall have several speakers talking about export opportunities. Later this year we look to organise a first ever EARSC export mission.

Finally, I’ll just add a word about the industry survey. We have more or less completed the survey; we are just waiting for 1 or 2 responses which are on the way, and we are starting to download and analyse the results. We have had over 150 companies respond and good data from over 120 companies which represents around one third of the companies contacted. We thank all of you for the time spent on completing the core survey and for the time on the phone for the full survey. For the latter, over 50 companies have answered all the questions we have put to them. Many, many thanks for your support and we anticipate that results will be available before the summer. I’ll report on them in a future editorial.

Best wishes,
Geoff Sawyer
EARSC Secretary General

I wrote last time about our study into a free and open data policy (FODP) for the GMES Sentinel data. The final report, entitled GMES and Data : Geese and Golden Eggs is now available from the EARSC web-site. In it we take a look at the benefits such a policy could bring and also at what we can learn from other digital data domains where open data policy has been or is being applied.
This leads us to the strong and growing evidence that a free and open data policy (FODP) yields benefits to all parties; it leads to increased economic activity and hence employment and tax revenues by reducing entry barriers and encouraging entrepreneurship, it allows more business to be done in value adding by reducing input costs and it stimulates innovation in new products and services. It is very much a win-win policy.

Of course it is based on the premise that the underlying costs are already justified by public-sector needs. In the case of GMES / Copernicus the cost-benefit analyses that have been performed all show this to be the case. Both PwC and Booz & Co reports demonstrate a very positive return factor, at around 3.7 times the investment, on public tasks linked to environment and security – especially information linked to climate change. These do not consider the commercial benefits but a recent study (1) does and is forecasting the creation of 83,000 jobs by 2030 and a market in downstream services of around €1.8b.

But there are some consequences of an FODP and in particular where investment has been made in commercial systems. It is clear that there will be some substitution affecting existing data sales of commercial satellite operators; some customers will accept lower performance with free data than to pay for a higher performance. Those offering a performance closest to Sentinel 1 or 2 will be the most affected. But the goal is to stimulate the market so that all players in the EO geo-information services sector will benefit. If we are correct in the view that GMES / Copernicus will act as a market stimulus; raising awareness and bringing new, operational services to be offered, then the (hopefully) small loss in direct, data sales will be more than compensated by new opportunities.

Exploiting these opportunities will be the key and this is where there is work to be done. EARSC continues to build links with other industry sectors. Unfortunately we are only a micro-organisation so the number of fronts that we can work on is limited but the signs so far are good and progress is being made. This year for the first time we shall start looking at export openings and find where there is a possibility for the industry find new partners.
There are two other items that should be mentioned this quarter.
Firstly, we are organising a workshop for April looking at certification in the EO geo-information services industry (see the announcement in eomag). This initiative results from the links mentioned above and customers calling for a certification scheme to be established. Is the industry ready for this yet? It is a sign of maturity that the question is being asked but what do companies think? We shall be asking both suppliers and customers their views.
Secondly, we are about half way through our survey of the industry. We have been very pleased with the response so far and many thanks to those who have responded. However, there are still some 200 companies that have not opened the survey and I re-iterate how important it is that you should do so. Answering even a few of the questions will help us understand what part you play in the sector. If you can answer the full survey, then that will be really, really appreciated. If you are a company, in geo-information services and you have not received a mail asking you to complete a questionnaire then please do get in touch. The survey should be completed in March and results will be published around the middle of 2013. These will be vital to help us and decision makers understand what are the issues facing the industry and how to respond to them.

It remains to wish you a happy new year. I have been very gratified by some of the mails that I receive encouraging EARSC in the work we are doing. We are always seeking ways to help serve our members better. Do not hesitate to contact either myself or Monica if you wish to make suggestions or, if you are part of a company that is not yet a member, to come and join the Association!

Geoff Sawyer
EARSC Secretary General

(1) Assessing the Economic Value of GMES: Spacetec Partners for the European Commission.

As most of you will know, I am convinced that a free and open data policy for GMES will be the best way to help develop the geo-information services industry and hence the right and best way to gather the maximum economic benefits for Europe This conviction is based on two premises: firstly that making data available at zero cost leads to increased use and more business revenues and secondly, that the economic value to the government is high to fully justify the public sector investment in the first case.

The study we are currently finishing aims to make the first point by drawing comparison with other domains where information gathered by a public-sector body (PSB) has been made available for re-use. There is growing evidence that such a PSI free re-use policy will give greater returns to public treasuries through taxation than charging for the data in the first place (as is often the case today). Nevertheless, firm figures are hard to find and the arguments still rest largely on other considerations.

In this respect I was especially interested to see a new paper published by the National Geospatial Advisory Committee (NGAC) – Landsat Advisory Group. This makes a statement on Landsat data use and charges with the overarching recommendation that Landsat data must continue to be distributed at no cost. It puts forward 9 reasons why Landsat data should continue to be freely available of which 7 of these are equally applicable to GMES as to Landsat.

The same group has also published another paper which addresses the second point by looking at the economic value of certain services enabled by Landsat. This shows between $178m and $235m savings to government departments through use of the data for 10 EO services. As we know this represents just a small fraction of the uses for which EO services may be applied and hence the total benefits that may be expected and the total annual economic value of Landsat data has been estimated separately as $1,7b.

At a time when Europe’s policy makers are yet again hesitating about the funding with arguments going back and forth about EU funding or intercommunity funding. They must not lose sight of the enormous benefits that GMES will bring to Europe. Firstly, the straightforward economic benefit is huge; up to €50b estimated by Booz & Co. Secondly, the growth in high-value jobs and the spin-off these provide into other sectors. Thirdly, and most importantly, foreign policy, industrial policy, security policy will all be enhanced by the availability of regular and timely information not to mention the regular observations that are essential to monitor the impacts of climate change and to determine many environmental policies.

There seems a risk that GMES will falter due to complex political negotiations surrounding EU budgets against inter-governmental ones, about priorities for economic growth versus austerity and even about priorities between research and operational data gathering. Understanding what is going on around the world is of vital importance to our decision makers. As the US report shows the economic benefits are high in many diverse policy-linked areas.

There are arguments being made about technology such as crowd-sourcing and local measurements such as aircraft or UAV’s replacing satellite observations. Whilst they may complement a satellite system, none can provide regular, reliable, global-scale observations that only a fleet of satellites can deliver. Other technologies are important but the Sentinel satellites are at the heart of GMES. I suggest that all EARSC members and supporters remind their national representatives that this is the case and to urge that GMES funding is approved urgently as a European Union programme.

Finally, just a brief word and reminder about the survey that we are about to launch – see elsewhere in the magazine. It is over 5 years since a comprehensive analysis has been made on the EO services industry. It is vital that we have up-to-date information on the industry in Europe. It is important for us and it is important for the decision makers. If you work for a company in Europe it is most likely that you will receive an invitation to participate in the next few weeks. Please let us know if you do not or in any case let us know that you do wish to participate and tell us who the company contact should be. We look forward to hearing from you.

Geoff Sawyer
EARSC Secretary General

(*) Ref. Landsat articles
NGAC Paper: Statement on Landsat Data Use and Charges
NGAC Paper: The Value Proposition for Ten Landsat Applications