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The ESA Φ-lab permanently explores innovative technologies to revolutionise and accelerate the future of EO. Three axes are being followed to utilise untapped potential for EO technologies including Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning, Quantum Computing, as well as the Internet of Things, Blockchain and Cognitive Space.

Technologies and Applications Axes

The Φ-lab in developing its own competences is mainly active along three technology axes and applies them to all elements of the Earth Observation sector.

Technologies and Applications Axes Infographic

Budget wise, about 50% of the activities carried out in the Explore and Invest offices are for Flight HW and SW, about 40% for downstream applications and the remaining are innovative business models or complete space systems.

Schema chain Infographic
Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning

This is currently the core of our research activity that we perform in the Explore Office, and a significant part of the InCubed programme to demonstrate that Artificial Intelligence is a transformative technology also in space. We develop algorithms, we grow the AI4EO community, we host Industry researchers to generate their next disruptive product or service with us.

Focus on AI4EO arw

Quantum Computing

Quantum Computing for EO (QC4EO) is a very recent initiative (September 2020) established by Φ-lab in collaboration with CERN. Quantum computing has the potential to improve performance, decrease computational costs and solve previously intractable problems in Earth observation by exploiting quantum phenomena such as superposition, entanglement and tunnelling. The initiative involves creating a quantum capability which will have the ability to solve the most computational demanding Earth observation problems by using artificial intelligence to support programmes such as and . This initiative will be extended to link to the CERN Quantum Technology Initiative, which was announced in June 2020 by the CERN Director General, Fabiola Gianotti. Through this partnership, ESA and CERN will create new synergies, building on their common experience in big data, data mining and pattern recognition.


Internet of Things, Blockchain, Cognitive Space

Other technologies we are exploring are IOT, Blockchain and Cognitive space.

The Φ-lab Explore office

The Φ-lab Explore Office aims to enable a connected network that brings together expertise and ideas from researchers, industry, ICT players, innovators and start-ups to foster scalable learning from EO data, Earth Science and Computer Science. We operate as a ESA ’hub’ within the network of EO academic and industrial researchers across Europe and globally.

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