Q: What is involved in your role as Chief Strategy Officer for Ubotica?
I joined Ubotica in October 2019 as Chief Strategy Officer, and I am based in Dublin, Ireland.
I look after our long-term strategy, aligned with our ambition to be the pre-eminent provider of AI platforms and solutions in space, SPACE:AI. My role needs to take into consideration all Ubotica activity, from our R&D portfolio through to product, our supply chain, our strategic partnerships and our global customer pipeline. Ensuring all efforts our aligned to our vision.
A key strategic perspective for us is how end users ultimately consume time-sensitive insights from satellite on-board AI services. We are fundamentally changing the paradigm, from satellites simply capturing and transmitting raw data to scenarios where satellites provide relevant and valuable insights in a timely manner, and deliver this insight direct to an end-user. This is game changing for the sector, and we are creating a new marketplace.
Q: In 2024 Ubotica will launch its own satellite. What does this mean for the company?
We are committed to launching a satellite next year, and in doing so, we will instantiate a full end-to-end satellite on-board AI service. This end-to-end service incorporates a number of key stages, including running AI model inference on sensor data on the satellite, extracting valuable insights from this inference, and then, critically, delivering these insights directly to an end user, for example direct to their mobile phone. An insight delivered when and where it is needed.
Another breakthrough and benefit of our on-board satellite data processing, is that it will reduce hugely the economic and environmental cost of transferring, storing and processing large volumes of zero or low value space data. For instance, large volumes of EO (Earth Observation) data with low information content (e.g. cloudy images) ends up in power hungry data centres, by placing AI based analysis of data on board the satellite we ensure that only rich and meaningful data is sent to earth for further analysis.
Q: Which sectors do Ubotica’s customers come from and how do you help them?
Space is more and more important in all aspects of our daily lives, from the sustainability of our food supply, to the vital management of our vulnerable environment.
Agriculture and the Marine are two sectors that are a priority for us, and we have directly engaged with a number of users across these sectors.
A great example is fish farming. It is hugely important for the world’s global food chain and in support of the growing world population. However, fish farms, which are placed in the open sea, are at risk to many environmental factors including harmful algal blooms (HABs). In a matter of days, these blooms can kill thousands of fish worth millions of Euros. In 2019, in Norway, 8 million farmed salmon were killed in 2 days by a HAB.
Our EO (Earth Observation) satellite technology can help prevent this, we can give fish farmers early warning to threats like harmful algal blooms. This early alert gives them more time to react, for instance, to harvest the fish straight away, to pump oxygen into the water or to active an air bubble curtain that isolates the fish from the bloom.
Another good example comes from agriculture industry. Our EO technology (using hyperspectral sensors), can measure in real-time soil temperature and soil moisture content. Presenting farmers with timely and specific detail about the condition of soil on their land. This, timely information, has big implications in terms of their everyday decisions on land irrigation needs, and crop planting and harvesting schedules.
We know it’s really critical in crop management that you plant at the optimal time. If you plant when it’s slightly too wet, slightly too dry or slightly too warm, this can have a major impact on your yield. We can offer farmers an accurate, up-to-date assessment of their soil temperature and moisture, which can make a huge difference.
In addition, soil moisture content is a leading indicator of forest fires. When moisture levels get too low, it’s a direct indication of dryness and a higher risk of fires breaking out. We can spot danger signs, as well as alert people when a fire does break out, early information gives a better opportunity to react.
In summary, we can observe, interpret and deliver relevant and valuable information from space direct to our customers when and where they need it.
Q: How is Ubotica assisting critical infrastructure engineers?
Critical infrastructure is another area that can benefit for timely insights and alerts from space. For instance, when electrical infrastructure, oil or water pipelines, railways or roads are damaged, it is critical to have insight into the damage as soon as possible and therefore be all to response to the risk presented.
In working with our customers in this area of critical infrastructure, an interesting pattern is emerging, one where we combine different monitoring options to more thoroughly assess a potential damage situation.
In short, the satellite can take a broad scope view and make an initial assessment of potential critical infrastructure damage, it will immediately then send an alert to earth. This alert can then trigger, for example, a drone to go and have a closer look. Drones are already being used to monitor critical infrastructure, but our technology will mean that they can be prompted by satellites with respect to specifically where to go to and have a closer look.
This hybrid approach combines what the satellite can detect across a large special area with other forms of monitoring, including drones, that can go in closer for a more comprehensive assessment of the situation.
Q: What can you tell me about how Ubotica is growing its team around the world?
We have gone to where the talent is, and already have a dispersed and diverse team across Europe and beyond.
For instance, we have found brilliant space systems talent in the Netherlands, and similarly with computer vision expertise in Spain, AI modelling talent in Tunisia and digital image processing in Canada.
We are very flexible in our recruiting methods and locations, however forming clusters in specific places is definitely of benefit, both for the company and for the co-located teams that are formed in these clusters.
Our teams work both virtually and in situation together, and as we grow and welcome people from different national cultures, diversities and backgrounds we believe that we are building an innovative, inclusive, trusted and collaborative team culture across Ubotica, this is really important to us.
Q: What do you see in Ubotica’s future over the next couple of years or so, besides growing your team around the world and developing your own satellite?
We will continue to build out and validate our end-to-end solution with the key milestone of the launch our own satellite in March 2024. As reference, our own satellite allows us to instantiate our end-to-end SPACE:AI solution.
Beyond that, it really is all about addressing customer needs, and delivering customer value, therefore allowing us realise customer adoption of our solutions. Innovation is ultimately about people and customers adopting a new solution or a new way of doing things, for Ubotica solution adoption is the goal.
We will advance many customer engagements across numerous sectors, understand where timely insights from space can have most benefit, and that can drive social, environmental and economic value.
Constellations are of huge importance to us, as they allow persistent coverage over areas of interest across the global. We are currently engaged in constellation planning with a number of Tier one space providers, overall we are keen to develop partnerships on this side of our business. We believe that constellations are the ultimate means to provide persistent real-time insights from space to our customers.
Q: Ubotica is developing the infrastructure to extend the Mobile App Store ecosystem into space and unlock Live Earth Intelligence?
It is essential that we have an easy to use, secure and scalable means to deploy and manage our AI applications in space. To achieve this, we are working closely with a number of enterprise IT companies.
Just like technology platforms in any other industry, as you scale up your offering and scope of coverage, you need more complex infrastructure and IT management, in our case to enable deployment and management of AI solutions in space including the updating of existing solutions.
IBM are an important partner for us. We are working with them to specifically deliver on a deployment and management infrastructure for AI applications in space. Our vision in this regard to make it as easy as possible for developers to deploy and manage on our AI platforms in space as it is to deploy and manage to well-known mobile app stores e.g. AppStore or GooglePlay.
For instance, post-deployment upgrading in the same way that phone apps get upgraded after they have been installed. Considering the space technology that assesses soil moisture levels, we can upgrade the application while in situ so that it is more accurate than before, or perhaps to add functionality that measures moisture levels in trees.