Space4Ghent: Satellite data improving life in cities

Ghent, Belgium

About the conference

How can satellites help cities become more sustainable and efficient?

How can satellite-based services enhance our urban experience? 

What satellite data is freely available and how to access it?  

This conference will aim at addressing such questions. The event will present experiences of use of Earth Observation data in cities and will generate debate among experts, citizens and local administrations on the opportunities and challenges related to the use of satellite-based services to enhance quality of life in cities. 

The conference is organised within the Eurisy Space For Cities initiative.

Why a conference on satellite applications for cities?

Satellite applications are by definition objective, sharable and scalable. They can change our urban experience, as well as help public authorities improve their services. 

In many European cities, satellite navigation allows transport managers to monitor and optimise public and private transport. Numerous mobile apps rely on satellite navigation signals, e.g. to help persons with disabilities in their daily movements or to enable residents to provide feedback to their local authorities.

Satellite communication is also used in cities, to connect rescue teams when other connections are down, or to perform health checks in public spaces, among others.

Satellite imagery is the most sophisticated satellite application, and the one that is less known by the general public. 

It allows for an integrated view of land uses and infrastructures. It is already employed by city managers, for example to target soil and infrastructure maintenance works where they are most needed, or to decide on where to build a new park. Earth Observation also provides information which helps local authorities to identify urban heat islands, to make predictions about the impact of different traffic scenarios on air quality, and to intervene on areas where construction materials retain too much heat.

Satellite imagery is more complicated to access than satellite navigation or satellite communication. First, it has a higher cost. Secondly, it is difficult to know which kind of satellite imagery we need to acquire in order to visualise and extract relevant information. Finally, it needs to be processed to unveil its information.

Despite such challenges, satellite imagery is becoming less costly and more available, while more and more IT companies are working to turn the images into operational services. Moreover, the new constellation of Copernicus satellites of the European Union and the six Copernicus Services relying on them are expected to significantly foster the use of satellite imagery in the next years, by making available to public and private entities raw data and semi-operational services.

For the benefits of space to reach society, it is fundamental that the potential of satellite imagery is understood and made available in cities, where most Europeans live.

Why a conference in Ghent?

The City of Ghent believes that citizens are the main agents of change, and that empowering citizens is the key to building a smart city.

Having already experienced the benefits of satellite navigation to improve public transport and urban mobility, the Municipality of Ghent is today interested in knowing which information satellite imagery can deliver to the city and how this can be used to improve life in Ghent.

To this scope, the Municipality welcomed the Eurisy Space4Cities initiative and decided to organise a dedicated conference on the use of satellite imagery within “Apps For Ghent”.

Apps For Ghent is an initiative of the City of Ghent, Digipolis, Open Knowledge Belgium, the Ghent Living Lab, and the Artevelde University College Ghent. Started in 2011, Apps For Ghent aims to maximise the potential of open data in Ghent through projects, events and co-creation, and make them available to as many people as possible. Traditionally, the initiative challenges coders, IT professionals and developers to use the City’s open data to develop digital projects.

This year, Apps For Ghent comes to its eight edition. The hackathon is scheduled to take place on the 17th of March 2018.

Conference objectives

This conference will present and discuss experiences of use of Earth Observation data to create apps enhancing cities’ efficiency, sustainability and social inclusion.

Emphasis will be placed on the Copernicus datasets and services which are most relevant for cities.

City administrations, private companies, NGOs, educational institutions, international organisations, and individuals will be invited to showcase and discuss their experiences of use of Earth Observation data to improve quality of life in cities, with the following specific objectives: