July 9, 2019

The Story of A Day with EO


Good morning and welcome to our workshop on “A Day with EO”. We have 4 panels of speakers who have all been invited to talk about what EO means to the organisations or sectors which they represent.

We have been finding that story telling is becoming a very effective way to explain the value of Earth Observations. In the studies which we are doing with the European Space Agency we illustrate each case example with a short story.

On the screen you can see the cases we have studied and the QR code on the wall will take you to more information. So, to provide a thread through “The Day with EO”, we have constructed a simple story around a well-known, fictitious character. Our narrator, Rory, will tell the story which introduces each speaker in turn. At the end of each panel, provided our speakers keep to their 10 minutes allocated, we’ll have a few minutes for questions.

So, all that remains, is for me to introduce our narrator for the day, and to ask you to settle back into your seats and the story starts.

I hope you enjoy our “Day with EO”.

The Story:

Once upon a time, there was a little prince who lived on a small world;

The world he used to live on was tiny; not much bigger than himself. Naturally enough, He was the only person who lived there. As you can imagine, he was lonely, so he moved to a bigger home with many people. But he was still lonely.

As he woke up one morning, the Little Prince had been dreaming of his old world, dusty and lifeless. He was pleased that he had chosen his new home which is so different. But recently, he had become worried about his new home. All the people were living as if there was no tomorrow; consuming the resources of the planet, burning fossil fuels, filling the place with waste, having one big party.

He was a tech savvy little fellow. He had bought himself one of those fatbot watches – just like a fitbit but it just gives Netflix and restaurant recommendations.

He asked to Artemis, the digital assistant on his Fatbot smartwatch and asked her if he should be worried. She told him that satellites orbiting the Earth are sending signals back to the ground. These very signals are helping clever people to manage the planet and hopefully to help nurse it back to health. She proposed him to listen to some experts talking about their work.

Panel 1: Keynote speeches from EO Stakeholders.

Firstly, we have Philippe Brunet; Special Advisor to DG International Cooperation and Development, who will talk about how satellites can help richer countries help poorer ones in managing the Prince’s new home.

Next, Kamil Kiljański (kilianiski) ; Head of Space Data for Societal Challenges and Growth Unit, DG Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs, will tell us the latest about the Copernicus programme which one block on the Prince’s new planet, some would say the best block, use to deliver data and services to all the inhabitants of his new world.

Next, I am very pleased to welcome Will Marshall; founder and CEO of Planet who has been one of the pioneers of the new space era, in which private money is increasingly being leveraged to help monitor the Prince’s new world.

Finally, we have Patrick Child; Deputy Director General DG for Research and Innovation to tell us about the use of satellites to support research into climate and other societal challenges on the Prince’s new home.

Panel 2: Food and the Environment

The Little Prince was really impressed to hear about all these activities. There had been nothing like this in his previous world!

It was 7am when he got up and got dressed. The Little Prince sat down with his morning croissant. He thought about what he had just heard and looked at his breakfast. He asked Artemis, “are satellites helping deliver my breakfast?” “Of course,” replied Artemis, “satellite images are helping farmers in Europe and around the world.  Daniel Azevedo, Director Commodities, Trade and Technology from Copa-Cogeca can explain in more detail.

Daniel Azavedo’s presentation

 “And so, the European Sentinel satellites are helping farmers to improve the management of their farms,” said Artemis. “A recent study in Denmark showed a potential to deliver over €50million Euros every year to the country just by helping their farmers“.

That’s great for the farmers,” said the Little Prince, “but my worry is about the future of my new home. The speaker said that they could reduce chemicals use on the farm, but will that make my food safer? Will it help protect our countryside?” Artemis went silent for a moment and then replied, “Europe has an agency to take care of the environment, Hans Dufourmont  – Project Manager Copernicus Land Monitoring Services works there, and he can tell us more about how they are using satellites.

Hans Dufourmont slides

The Little Prince was reassured to hear that the Agency is monitoring Europe’s land, but he wondered what happens to the seas?

He had recently heard about all the plastic swilling about in the ocean driven by ocean currents. How are the oceans monitored? Artemis told him that indeed, satellites could help monitor the seas and their waves and currents and that Cecilia Donati, Institutional Relations Manager from Mercator Ocean International – would be able to tell him more.

Cecilia Donati’s slides

After hearing about the environmental contribution, it was approaching 10am; the time when the Little Prince had his morning break.

He walked down to the Fritkot, bought himself a small serve of frites, and sat down on the bench in the park to eat them. He had learned about growing wheat and how satellites were helping farmers grow better and cheaper crops, now he wondered about the chips, so he asked Artemis. He learned that the potato came to Europe from South America in the second half of the 16th century, and is now a staple crop in most parts of the world. That China has an intense programme to grow more potatoes and is in fact already the world’s leading producer! In Belgium, Sentinel 2 satellites are being used to help increase potato crops. Romain Cools, Secretary General of Belgapom, can tell us more!

Romain Cools slides

Potatoes are an important and  high-value crop, but are extremely vulnerable to blight and to damp condition which causes them to rot. It can be very difficult to judge the conditions. What happens if the weather is so bad the farmers lose their whole crop? Artemis told him that this had happened in the 19th century when blight destroyed the crop in Ireland for several years in a row. Many people died and many emigrated to England and more to the United States greatly shaping that country even today. Today, insurance will reduce the risk for the farmers and for populations. Christian Hoffmann from Geoville is leading a study for ESA into how satellites can help the agri-insurance business, and so is a great person to tell us more.

Christian Hoffmann slides

The Little Prince was hungry again; it was his lunchtime – and so it is ours. We shall go first and come back to continue our day with the Little Prince afterwards.

Panel 3: Humans in a Built Environment

The little prince had gone down the street for lunch. As it was in Brussels he obviously got soaked by the rain! He asked Artemis how so much rain could fall on the city and everyone did not drown. Artemis responded that in some places even more rain falls, and that they can indeed have disastrous flooding events. In fact, Europe has average losses of about 5 billion Euros per year due to flooding. A recent study showed that up to 30m€/year of benefits could be delivered to Ireland through the application of a satellite based flood warning and response system.

Elsewhere in the world they have even worse problems. In Cambodia they can have up to 100mm of rain in a single day! (here in Brussels the average is 65mm / month!). The drainage system in Cambodia can struggle to keep up with such levels due to blockages from waste and mud mobilised by the rainwaters.

Steve Coulson, Head of Science, Applications and Climate Department from ESA and Robin Roach, Managing Director from Abd International Ltd -are here to tell us about a system they are working on to help the Cambodian government prepare for such events and save lives.

Steve Coulsons slides

The little prince was very pleased that such systems were being designed to help regular people survive against the elements. He wondered that if people kept living so close together and modifying their environment with buildings and roads that that may have some impact on the floods. “indeed” replied Artemis, “and just as the built environment can influence water flows, water management policies can also impact on the built environment”. In Rotterdam, Stedin, a gas pipeline operator, is monitoring the streets and houses on a regular basis to manage their operations more efficiently and reduces the risk to households”. Ivo Visser, Geo Data Scientist, from Stedin, will tell us more about the needs of gas pipeline operators in urban environments.

Ivo Visser’s slides.

The Little Prince asked Artemis to tell him more about cities and the issues they are facing from their rapidly increasing populations. She explained to the Little Prince that such high density living can  lead to problems such as poor air quality, too little space, high energy consumption and higher greenhouse gas emission. The person at the next table leaned across and said, “Ah, what a co-incidence! That is something I know about let me explain”, and now {Prita’s intro slide} Pirita Lindholm, Director of the European Regions Research and Innovation Network (ERRIN), will tell us about smart regions and how satellites can help them address environmental challenges. 

Prita Lindholm’s slides

Pirita had talked about the cities and their difficulty of dealing with ever more people coming from the rural areas. These rural areas can also face challenges due to this migration. How are these regions managing and can they use satellites to help? We have an expert from EUROGI, Maurice Barbieri here today to speak to us about this topic.

Maurice Barbieri’s slides

Panel 4: Our Heritage and Security

Our little Prince left the restaurant and started to walk back home. He passed a bookshop where he noticed a poster in the window saying that there would be a talk about protecting cultural heritage using satellites!

What luck, he thought, this is “My day with EO” and here is someone talking about exactly that! He hurried inside and sat down just as Arianna Traviglia; Coordinator of The Centre for Cultural Heritage Technology, Italian Institute for Technology and Grazia Fiore, User Programme Coordinator from EURISY stood up to speak.

Arianna Traviglia & Grazia Fiore’s slides

After Arianna had finished, he struck up a conversation with the girl sitting next to him. After a few minutes he could not help but ask her why her voice sounded so familiar. She laughed, “People are always asking me that. I am a voice-over artist and last year, I prepared the voice for the Fatbot Digital Assistant; I imagine, judging by your sleek watch there, that is where you have heard me before”.

It was 5 o’clock as they left the bookshop, and they noticed a crowd of people protesting about the lack of action to protect the climate. The little prince told his new friend that he was worried about his new home and how it was not being taken care of as well as it could. The Artemis voiceover artist, who was also conveniently named Artemis, replied that these kind of demonstrations are the way to communicate such displeasure to the politicians and to send a message that we want them to take better care of the Earth. {Greet’s intro slide} Greet Maenhout, Deputy Head of Unit from the Joint Research Centre is here to tell us about how satellites are helping to provide information on climate change and to develop European policy on this topic.

Greet’s slides

{slide of Greenland case}

It was now 6 o’clock and they decided to go for a drink together. They found a bar, ordered two Mohitos and sat in a quiet corner {bring up TV}. Unfortunately, as is often the case in such bars, there was a television on the wall opposite which grabbed their attention. This TV was showing a clip of a Middle East archaeological site being subject to vandalism, looting and destruction by ISIS. The reporter said that the European External Action Service is engaged in the protection of cultural heritage and the fight against organised crime, such as the looting, smuggling and selling of cultural artefacts. Denis Bruckert from the EU SatCen is here to tell us more about how SatCen supports the EEAS with geo-spatial intelligence, including analysis of damage of important cultural sites.

Denis Bruckert’s slides

Now it was 7 o’clock and the Little Prince noticed a headline, half-hidden in a magazine rack next to them, with the word Satellite showing. He picked it out and opened it to the page which was talking about the use of satellite imagery to enhance Customs intelligence capabilities like identification of trafficking routes and smuggling patterns, the fight against corruption and better deployment of resources on the ground. Rather than read the article, let me invite Mariya Polner, Senior Policy Advisor in the WORLD CUSTOMS ORGANIZATION to tell us more.

Maria Polner’s slides

Close of the Workshop:

The little prince and his new friend, the voice-over artist who did the voice on his digital assistant, Artemis, who was also conveniently named Artemis, left the cocktail bar together. The Little Prince was happy and Artemis took his hand as they walked along the street. Both looked up thinking of all the satellites that were up there protecting their everyday lives. The Little Prince no longer felt lonely!

Which brings us to the end of the story of the Little Prince and his friend.

In closing, I would like to ask you to do one thing – look into your mind’s eye, and wonder to yourself of the many and wonderful ways in which satellite technology influences your life, and the lives of those billions of people whom you have never met.  Can you imagine a new application of satellite data that could help millions more…?