Data produced by satellites from the world’s largest Earth observation programme will be made accessible to everyone with the help of technology developed by a Slovenian company under a deal signed with the European Space Agency (ESA) and the European Commission.

The Ljubljana-based company Sinergise and its partners in the T-Systems International consortium signed a six-year €150 million contract to set up a system for storage, processing and distribution of data from Copernicus, the EU’s Earth observation system, on 2 December.

Its share in the deal valued at over €20 million, Sinergise will be responsible for data processing and distribution, which it will provide with the help of its high-tech product Sentinel Hub.

Sinergise developed Sentinel Hub in 2016 to simplify access to the large amounts of data that are available from Copernicus, Sinergise CEO Grega Milčinski told reporters.

A key part of Sentinel Hub is the EO Browser, an open-source web-based tool for browsing, comparison, visualization and analysis of satellite imagery. The browser is freely accessible to everyone regardless of whether they are experts or not.

Sentinel Hub can be used to monitor the situation in Ukraine or reforestation in Brazil, among many other things. Scientists have also used the portal to monitor penguin colonies, pollution in Iraq, and flooding in India, said Milčinski.

The app is currently used by some 400,000 people from around the world each month. With this new project the number will “explode”, Milčinski said. He projects the number of users to increase by a factor of ten.

The contract with the ESA will make it possible for users to access data produced by Copernicus satellites via Sentinel Hub. Copernicus is the world’s largest Earth observation system.

This will increase the company’s revenue and have a positive impact on the whole Earth observation industry in Slovenia, which also includes the University of Ljubljana Faculty of Civil and Geodetic Engineering, the Research Centre of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts (ZRC SAZU), the Space-SI Centre of Excellence and companies such as Skylabs and GeoCodis.

“The EO Browser has revolutionised Earth observation by granting access to large quantities of data,” said Krištof Oštir, professor at the Faculty of Civil and Geodetic Engineering and delegate with the technical committee for Earth observation at the ESA.

Slovenia has been an associate member of the ESA since 2016, which has made it possible for companies such as Sinergise to take part in the agency’s calls. In this way Slovenian companies have signed over 60 deals with the ESA, valued at almost €18 million in total.

“We have a good reason to believe this trend will continue,” said Tanja Permozer, the head of the Slovenian delegation to the ESA. Slovenia has recently increased its financial contribution to the ESA’s programmes for the next three years from €3 million to €5.8 million per year.

Founded in 2008, Sinergise employs some 80 people. Since 2015, its main focus has been developing technology for statistical data processing. It also has a subsidiary in Austria’s Graz.

Photo: STA