ESA Technology Transfer Success Story - A new perspective: satellite image processing algorithms to improve lives on Earth [Aug/2022]
Cloudflight’s code optimisation expertise, developed in Austria for analysing satellite imagery (from ENVISAT - ENVIronmental SATellite), was applied to enhance the underlying technology of UK-startup GiveVision’s SightPlus device, designed to help those living with untreatable sight loss.
ESA's ENVISAT provided satellite imagery of our oceans from 2002-2012, as the first imaging spectrometer mission with the primary objective to carry out the remote sensing of the colour of our oceans and coastal waters. The satellite carried MERIS (Medium Resolution Imaging Spectrometer), a programmable spectrometer operating in the solar reflective spectral range. This space technology has since found use on Earth, through the ESA technology transfer programme, which put Cloudflight in contact with UK firm GiveVision, to help develop the software behind their visual aid technology SightPlus.
Before GiveVision developed SightPlus, the only devices available to the 191 million people suffering from untreatable sight loss globally were small handheld devices, essentially comprising a camera and a tiny screen. These devices are rudimentary, only allowing users to magnify objects up close (e.g., for reading). SightPlus offered a substantial improvement on these devices, capable of aiding vision at any distance, so people with untreatable sight loss could engage in activities previously inaccessible to them, such as watching TV or playing an instrument.
The project didn’t just provide a boost to Cloudflight’s marketing, but also gave GiveVision increased visibility and reach. As part of the project, GiveVision’s SightPlus product was presented on stage to a live audience, enhancing in the company’s profile. Cloudflight reduced GiveVision’s code from 14,000 to 4,000 lines, increasing the speed of image processing from 300ms to 50ms per frame. Optimising GiveVision’s code did not in itself generate energy savings, since the computer processing taking place was minimal and within the device itself. However, applying these same techniques to other applications has huge energy saving potential. Globally, data centres were estimated to account for 1% of final electricity demand in 2020.
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This initiative is led by ESA's Technology Transfer and Patent Management Unit (TTPO) in ESA's Directorate for Commercialisation, Industry & Procurement. The Unit is guiding start-ups, entrepreneurs and European businesses in developing spin-offs for ESA's space technologies. More recent successful transfers can be accessed at: Technology Transfer - Funded Projects. For more information, please contact email@example.com.