8 July 2015. On May 21, Resident Fellow Arne Lahcen made a presentation at the 2015 Data Hub Event in Vienna, organised by the International Data Corporation (IDC). The conference, attended by over 200 delegates from 9 different countries, addressed a range of compelling business ideas and strategies around Big Data and predictive analytics, as well as big data platforms and technologies.
The presentation opened with a general introduction on the different kinds of space utilisation and their relation with the different types of Earth orbits. This was followed by a historic overview on how the use of space has changed and diversified over time, situating also the trend of an increasing central position of data in the overall use of outer space. The second part of the talk focused on the role of data in space anno 2015 and in the future. There are two main data trends in space in this respect. The data volumes in a number of fields (incl. human space flight, GNSS and, communication) are increasing significant, yet these would not qualify as ‘big data’ in the strict sense of the definition. On the other hand, big data is profoundly reshaping practices and outcomes in the fields of Earth Observation and Space Science. The Copernicus space component, for instance, is expected to generate 8 terabytes per day when fully deployed – a downlink capacity which is currently still an order of magnitude higher than the process and storage capacity. Here, big data will most likely lead to revolutions in our understanding of the world and the universe, increasing our understanding of complex systems like our climate and ecosystems and, in the fields of astrophysics and cosmology, more measurements implies that theories can be tested in far greater detail. These trends have implications on the way the space community deals with data. Efforts are being made to ensure that the information and benefits that can be derived from big data sets will reach as many actors as possible, and (fairly) full and open access data policies are an indispensable instrument to this effect. On the other hand increasing emphasis is put on ensuring proper training and knowledge regarding big data all throughout the data provider-user loop. Finally, the future prospects of big data in space were assessed. All in all, the outlook here is very positive, in spite of the technical challenges situated in the near term. With expected launch costs going down in the mid-term thanks to innovation dynamics, the miniaturisation of spacecraft and instruments and, more tailored launching solutions, space based technologies generating big data will become more democratic and profitable. In turn, this creates more chances for private businesses, both big and small, to become engaged. In this respect, the main commercial potential is situated also further downstream, mainly in the area of hybrid-source uses for services.