Companies can capitalize on smartphones with GNSS receivers in new ways to reduce their operating costs. Microjobbing, or crowdsourcing small jobs rather than dispatching employees to perform a simple task, is the aim of German startup company “wer denkt was” and its smartphone application AppJobber. Registered users of AppJobber can view nearby microjobs on a map and complete the requested task in exchange for a few euros transferred from the company into their AppJobber account.
The Climate Corporation provides tailored weather insurance to farmers based on a database of satellite and ground weather data collected over the past 30 years, adjusted for the impact of climate change. Farmers state the levels of rainfall and temperature ranges for which they would like coverage, and the database is used by Climate Corporation to calculate the risk and associated cost of the insurance. The company was purchased in October 2013 by agriculture giant Monsanto for $1 billion, illustrating that data services related to satellite-based Earth observation are viewed as a valuable addition to efforts to improve crop yields and profits.
New space-based services created to assist companies and inform investors continue to emerge. Satellite information can benefit certain activities, such as commodities trading, that directly depend on raw material. In September 2013, China surpassed the United States as the world’s largest net oil importer, heralding an increased wave of oil trade investment in China. Yet while the United States releases official figures detailing net oil imports, stockpiles, and refinery figures, China is largely silent on oil consumption data.
The high-resolution imaging capabilities of satellites can be used to help power utilities with maintenance and planning. High rates of copper wiring theft at electrical substations motivated electricity company Dominion Virginia Power to hire DigitalGlobe Analytics for a solution. DigitalGlobe compiled satellite, air, and ground images of the electrical system and studied previous thefts to identify the next most likely targets. By improving security at these locations, which were primarily those near scrap metal businesses, copper theft was reduced by ##%.
Space exploration and utilization activities help inspire students to pursue careers in STEM fields. All the ISS partners devote some portion of their activities on the station to educational purposes. Many other space agency programs also have an outreach component. Aside from cultivating an interest in STEM, the microgravity environment of space allows students to learn about other physical phenomena in unique ways.
Satellite services are also being used by law enforcement in new ways to find and apprehend suspects. StarChase is a GPS-based pursuit management system that reduces the need for dangerous and destructive high-speed vehicle chases. Installed into the front of a law enforcement vehicle, StarChase targets and launches an adhesive GPS-enabled tracking device at fleeing suspect vehicles. Law enforcement can then track the suspect’s car at a safe distance.
Governments cooperate on the use of space assets in search and rescue missions. The Cospas-Sarsat Program is an international effort to improve search and rescue (SAR) operations by outfitting a fleet of satellites to detect radiobeacons activated by parties in distress, then using the data to locate the individuals. SAR repeaters installed on satellites of ESA’s Galileo program were tested in January 2013 for the first time, expanding the suite of satellites capable of detecting radiobeacons.
After a natural disaster, finding survivors amidst rubble is a daunting task. NASA technology used to precisely locate spacecraft has been adapted to detect the heartbeats and breathing of survivors trapped beneath debris. The new device, Finding Individuals for Disaster and Emergency Response (FINDER), sends microwave radar signals into rubble and analyzes the pattern of returned signals to detect heartbeats.
Satellite products and services play an important role in governance, education, and the development and maintenance of infrastructure. Governments around the world rely on satellite communications for programs as diverse as election monitoring, border security, tax collection, distance learning, disaster relief, and national defense.
Space assets can help to improve and monitor government services and public infrastructure. Earth observation satellites can effectively image large swaths of the Earth’s surface, while communications satellites provide connectivity in regions where ground-based communications are costly or difficult. In 2013, the European Union (EU) reached the goal of ensuring 100% of citizens have access to broadband internet services of at least 0.5 megabits per second (Mbps), a feat made possible through satellite internet services to remote regions.