Making space data more accessible

Caroline Wendt
January 24, 2020

In June 2019 the National Space Data Lab started to make space data easily accessible and lowering thresholds by providing access to processing capacity, software platforms, tools and methodology. The Space Data Lab will contribute to services, innovations and applications based on space data and enable collaboration for research and education. The Space Data Lab was presented during the Space Hub Lund in November 2019 by the project manager Viktor Lehtonen together with Tobias Edman, Swedish National Space Agency and Malin Larsson, AI Innovation of Sweden.

With a budget of 8 MSEK and support from Vinnova, SMHI, Rise, LTU and SNSA the National Space Data Lab has two years to work towards their goals.

- The goal of this project is to create a national resource that enables the use of spacedata by lowering thresholds and offering the latest tools and technologies from artificial intelligence together with advanced processing capabilities. This will introduce more organisations to the possibilities of space data and lead to new, better services and more innovations and applications based on space data, says Viktor Lehtonen.

In the lab, they use satellite data with earth observations from the Copernicus programme. The open data cube is keeping the satellite data organized, and provides an analysis lab for developers who can take advantage of technologies as algorithms and machine learning using the Python programming language to develop new tools to work with space data.

Two examples of what space data can do is “Datakub för klimatanpassning för Vänern” and “Datakub för klimatanpassning för Mälardalen”. Vänern has focused on the state of Lake Vänern with respect to water levels, vegetation and green regeneration. As increasing numbers of open beach areas are becoming overgrown with small trees and bushes, we need to monitor how fast and where overgrowth is becoming a problem in order to identify the locations that need to be maintained. In Mälardalen they look at draught in the ground to prepare against forest fires.

Tobias Edman, Head of Innovation and Public Benefit on Swedish National Space Agency.

Tobias Edman, Head of Innovation and Public Benefit on Swedish National Space Agency, made the speech "Space data - public benefits and future innovation”  

- The space industry is all about data, Tobias Edman says. By studying the earth from space we can learn more about the earth system and how to manage the earth in a better way.

Satellites are used to collect data, but also for positioning via GPS, communication for TV, radio and telephone. Collected data can be used for atmosphere monitoring, marine environment monitoring, land monitoring, climate change monitoring, emergency management and security. But why is the use of space data not more widespread? Two reasons, according to Tobias Edman, are the lack of knowledge that data actually exists and that data analysis of Big Data may require special competence.

To lower the thresholds the Swedish National Space Agency has initiated the Space Data Lab, which will work with the open data cube and by using an analysis system will process the data and create algorithms for AI. The capacity could in the end also be used of those who have ideas and want to do something commercial.

The Swedish Space Data Lab is a project in AI Innovation of Sweden, which is a national and a neutral centre for accelerating applied AI research and innovation, with the aim to strengthen the competitiveness of the Swedish industry and welfare. The centre was established in 2019 and funded by Vinnova and more than 50 partners. By establishing regional nodes the centre will create different engines to support collaboration in AI innovation and research. One node is established in Gothenburg and one i Stockholm. Four more nodes are doing pre studies to be established –  North of Sweden, Örebro, Linköping and one in the South of Sweden including Skåne and Blekinge. Malin Larsson is regional manager of AI Innovation Of Sweden, South, and the pre-study is led by Mobile Heights in Lund.

- By having network through all the different areas – industry, corporates, SME, public sector, research parks, research infrastructure and academia we can strengthen and accelerate applied AI together. Through our partners, we will work on all different levels, to make sure to connect people so we can share experience and knowledge and make knowledge available, says Malin Larsson.

At the end of 2019 AI innovation of Sweden had The Space Data Lab and four more projects up and running with more than 50 partners and observers.

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