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Public sector ‘should make more of space data’


Mark Say Managing Editor

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The public sector has been urged to make more use of space and satellite technology and data in a report published in advance of the launch of the National Space Council.

Public, which encourages the growth of tech start-ups working with the public sector, has emphasised the issue in its Time for Launch report, produced in a partnership with the Satellite Applications Catapult.

It highlights the potential for the technology to support healthcare, the environment, transport, energy management and public security.

This has been increased by the Government’s announcement in June that it is to set up a National Space Council, to begin work later this year, to coordinate all aspects of its space strategy.

One of its tasks, according to Public, should be to establish common standards for satellite data to be used by the public sector. This would support its sharing and re-use, and help to increase the overall potential in public services.

In the field of health and social care, it points to apps that already use satellite data to help people monitor their exposure to UV rays from the sun, and says there is scope for many more applications to help people self-manage their health conditions.

Space technology could also help provide connectivity for people in remote areas and for community health teams to securely share data.

Water preservation

For environmental management, Earth observation and satellite remote sensing enable better monitoring of assets and natural resources. Examples include spotting water leakage and monitoring the quality of sea water to reduce the impact of desalination.

In transport, satellite data will be key to planning, the roll out of electric vehicles and infrastructure, and supporting features such as smart tolls and road conditions in less populated areas.

The report says that space technologies can make energy networks more robust through real time monitoring and smart distribution, with its capabilities for weather forecasting helping to make clean energy sources more reliable.

In the cast of public safety and security, there is an important role for satellite based services such as offender tagging, navigation for emergency responses and GPS data as evidence in criminal cases.

There are also a number of recommendations, including: publishing guidelines on how agencies can procure space and satellite services; increasing the use of challenge based funding initiatives; implementing a new framework for working with space bodies in Europe; and introducing new training initiatives to build up expertise in using relevant services.

Minister's message

The report includes an unfortunately timed foreword by Jo Johnson, written before his resignation of minister for universities, science, research and innovation last week, expressing his support for the public sector to seize the potential.

“I want the public sector to continue to grasp the benefits presented by space,” he says. “An important part of this will be the coordination of a new National Space Council in the coming months, which will provide leadership on the UK’s space strategy, investment and use of space through a new National Space Framework.

“Establishing a National Space Council will help to put space at the heart of government policy and support sector growth.”

Image from NOAA, CC BY 2.0 

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