Web 2.0 to go into outer space

24 Feb 2009

A space technology company is developing a Web 2.0 social-networking platform for the European Space Agency’s Centre for Earth Observation and, if successful, it is envisaged this technology will have a major impact on the way projects are managed within the space industry and also the business world.

In recent weeks, siliconrepublic.com reported how Dublin-based software technology company Skytek successfully adapted its space-developed iPV (International Procedural Viewer) technology for use by emergency personnel at Dublin Fire Brigade. It is anticipated that the technology will eventually be rolled out across all 22 of Ireland’s Fire Brigade divisions.

The European Space Agency (ESA) and NASA-sponsored iPV was developed to assist astronauts in controlling and managing emergency situations onboard the International Space Station.

However, Skytek has moved on to a new phase in its development – the creation of a social-networking platform to enable workers on the ESA’s Centre for Earth Observation to share knowledge and keep in touch in ways that suit them.

The managing director of Skytek Dr Sarah Bourke told siliconrepublic.com that the social-networking platform will allow workers at ESRIN, known as the ESA Centre for Earth Observation, to share data across a variety of methods, from blogs to videos, images and even Twitter feeds if necessary.

ESRIN is one of the five ESA specialised centres situated in Europe. Located south of Rome, ESRIN was established in 1966 and first began acquiring data from environmental satellites in the Seventies.

Earth observation data has grown in importance as more and more international and national agencies recognise the many uses to which it can be put. Satellites for Earth observation keep a constant watch over the Earth, and the data they provide helps to safeguard the planet in which we live.

“ESRIN will be a very strong test site for the system. Effectively, we want to change the way that major space projects are planned. The idea is to take the way workers would manage their personal Bebo or Facebook profiles and bring that methodology into a business environment.

“At present, ESRIN will use it, but our ambition is that it will be used across the ESA.

“If proven, it will be a great success story for Skytek, and hopefully could be rolled into other major international projects.

“The reality is on such projects it is very difficult to manage large groups of people, and it would be better if they would be able to access a single site where everything from blogs, videos and images and even mini-blog feeds can be managed to give a universal view of how projects are shaping up.

“We began by looking at project management for the space industry and applying Web 2.0 principles, and we evolved the idea of bringing social networking to space.”

Skytek employs 10 people in Dublin and is privately funded. Bourke said that while the company has been offered venture capital, it intends to remain a private venture.

By John Kennedy

Pictured: artist’s impression of Sentinel 2, the future space mission from the ESA which will provide multi-spectral earth observation data (Photo: ESA)