A picture may be worth a thousand words, but the insights gained from layers of satellite-delivered, real-time geospatial data and imagery can be game changing for a variety of industries, governments, businesses, and communities across the globe.
The convergence of satellite communications (SATCOM) and geospatial data is redefining the speed of decision making in virtually every market. As a global innovator of space-based capabilities, ground systems, and terrestrial networks, Comtech is uniquely positioned to develop infrastructures capable of integrating SATCOM and geospatial capabilities and unleashing the full potential of new constellations in space.
During the early days of the conflict in Ukraine, geospatial data was put to the test, as cloud cover and smoke disrupted optical satellites attempting to provide critical insight over an area teeming with evacuees trying desperately to get out of harm’s way.
Military and government officials turned to synthetic aperture radar (SAR) technology, but quickly found that raw SAR files were of little use to decision makers on the frontlines since deciphering the gray-scale imagery would take too much time in the face of a rapidly escalating war.
The eventual and necessary move to analytics changed everything by opening the door to immediate data and reports from the field.
“The pivot to analytics that we saw take place in Ukraine is not theoretical, it can be life-saving,” explained Nicole Robinson, Chief Growth Officer for Comtech. “It has proven to be an important convergence of SATCOM and geospatial data. The results have already been transformational when it comes to empowering decision makers with a new level of what Comtech calls Insights at the Edge.”
Beyond military operations, according to Nicole, the advantages these insights provide can make an unprecedented impact across a wide variety of global markets and industries.
Next-Gen Satellite and Geospatial Technologies on the Horizon
Developments in satellite and geospatial technologies over the last five to eight years have opened the door to new possibilities in analytics and real-time insights. The latest high throughput satellite (HTS), and mega constellation advancements in LEO and MEO along with geospatial developments, including SAR, hyperspectral, AIS, RF Mapping, and other compelling modalities, have made rapid access to insights a new reality.
Thanks to these new developments, patterns can be generated when people, places and activities are correlated. In today’s world, understanding patterns and delivering real-time insights through smart-enabled technologies has the potential to enhance nearly every industry and aspect of life imaginable.
Broadly speaking, blended SATCOM and geospatial tools will provide two distinct outcomes. These include enhancing program delivery by efficiently sharing assets by geospatial collaboration tools as well as place-based analysis. Secondly, this technology convergence can enable businesses, communities, and governments to implement better policies and procedures owing to insightful intelligence and geospatial analysis capabilities.
The real magic is in the ground architecture, which is often “a bit of an afterthought,” noted Nicole. “Everyone is beginning to appreciate the fact that ground systems are actually the foundational component when it comes to bringing SATCOM and geospatial together to get that critical insight to decision makers even faster. There is a tremendous need for this capability, and Comtech is thrilled to be at the center of this convergence. It’s really something special and extraordinary.”
With 50 over years of technology leadership, Comtech is uniquely positioned to deliver the global hybrid ground service platforms needed to accelerate the transformation of global communications infrastructures and deliver smart-enabled services to empower customers with access to new information and powerful insights.
“Today, Comtech is developing new ground service platforms that will enable the integration of multi-orbit, multi-frequency, and multi-modality capabilities to provide customers with powerful new Insights at the Edge,” said Nicole. “These new insights have the potential to change the game for nearly every industry imaginable.”
In April, Data analytics leader Descartes Labs joined Comtech’s Innovation Foundry as an EVOKE technology partner to further advance SATCOM-geospatial convergence capabilities. The goal, Nicole said, is to enable a broad range of customers, from first responders to wineries, to leverage speed and near real-time access to intelligence and insights. Rescue crews can utilize the data to provide a safer, faster, and more effective emergency plan, while the analytics can also enable vineyards to ultimately produce a better bottle of wine.
“Comtech’s ground systems and sensor technologies are delivering the insights to the edge to literally create smart vineyards, for example, where winemakers can use Descartes Labs’ geospatial data layer delivered over high throughput satellites to help them fully understand and enhance the quality of their soils,” Nicole explained. “That will have a huge impact on the quality of their harvested grapes and the overall production of their wines.”
Comtech has the lightning in the bottle, the ground infrastructure to unleash the full potential of multi-orbit, multi-frequency, multi-modality capabilities over a SATCOM architecture in Low Earth Orbit (LEO), Medium Earth Orbit (MEO) or Geostationary Orbit (GEO), which enables immediate geospatial data and communications delivery, and analytics and access at a single point.
Comtech’s EVOKE Innovation Foundry brings in partner strengths and capabilities that, when combined with Comtech’s capabilities, “deliver something much greater than the sum of the parts,” explained Nicole. “The Descartes Labs-Comtech alliance enables the increased intelligence and understanding of what’s happening in a broad range of use cases through that fused, layered insight.”
Key Benefits of SATCOM-Geospatial Convergence
“Speed to insight is among the most important, critical benefits of this SATCOM and geospatial data convergence,” said Nicole. “Having access to insight in a matter of minutes is absolutely game changing. It’s everything when you can put actionable information in the hands of decision makers when they need it most – right now.”
First responders who can quickly assess the reach of floodwaters or the extent of electrical grid outages will know immediately where to send resources to save lives and restore services. Access to insights in days is now considered irrelevant and no longer actionable.
Operational security is another benefit of this emerging convergence. The ability to ensure pristine data that has not been altered is extremely important in all applications, and is especially critical for defense and intelligence communities, as well as commercial markets.
As part of Comtech’s new Insights at the Edge solution, “we offer a deployable kit that features the antenna, modem, and the hardware technologies in transportable form,” Robinson explained. “That rapid deployment tool allows users to receive data on premise and perform quality assurance and security measures, so they know who has authorized access to the data and analytics supporting their mission.”
Comtech’s Insights at the Edge solution blends Comtech’s hybrid networking ground systems with satellite services and geospatial data to provide customers with access to industry first insights and information. As the demand for real-time actionable insights continues to grow, Comtech’s Insights at the Edge solution is designed to evolve over time to adapt to customer needs in near real-time and integrate a variety of new smart-enabled services.
“There’s tremendous room for growth and expansion,” said Nicole. “What’s exciting is Comtech has nudged the SATCOM-Geospatial door open, and customers are very interested – not because of what we’re going to be able to do in 3-5 years with the convergence, but what we’ve already consistently shown we can do today.“