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ESA, DCU Partner to Establish Satcom IoT 'Maker Space'

Minister John Halligan welcomes the partnership as an opportunity to support a growing number of Irish technology companies

Credit: Dublin City University

The European Space Agency (ESA) and Dublin City University have joined forces to establish a Satcom IoT ‘Maker Space’, which will support the development of innovative Machine-to-Machine (M2M) and Internet of Things (IoT) technologies for satellite communications.

Based at DCU Alpha, the University’s Innovation Campus, and supported by Enterprise Ireland and the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, the initiative will provide opportunities for rapid prototyping and validation of challenging innovative technologies proposed by ESA and DCU, which are targeted at industry, space tech entrepreneurs, academics and the wider Maker movement.

Potential applications will address challenges faced in everyday life. For example;

  • Developing satellite enabled sensors which could aid in search and rescue operations;
  • Developing satellite enabled sensors to monitor critical infrastructure;
  • Adapting existing radio protocols and standards to integrate terrestrial communications with satellite communications

ESA has awarded a contract to the Maker Space through its ARTES (Advanced Research in Telecommunications Systems) Core Competitiveness programme. Published projects will provide opportunities for target stakeholders to address individual design and development challenges. Over an 18 month period, projects will be awarded and implemented by target stakeholders via a competitive process. Maker Space activities will be 100% funded, with typical values of between €5,000 and €20,000 per activity.

Commenting at the launch, Professor Brian Mac Craith, President of DCU, said:

“As Ireland’s University of Enterprise, DCU is delighted with this announcement and we are looking forward to engaging with innovative Irish inventors, entrepreneurs, and companies to develop new ideas and services in the field of satellite communications for M2M/IoT. We hope to stimulate and support new technological advances that can be further developed by Irish companies, with R&D support that leverages DCU’s expertise in IoT, sensors and communications.”

ESA' Frank Zeppenfeldt, initiator of the Maker Space project, added:

“With modern satellite communications, many design challenges are unique, requiring testing and experimentation to reveal what does and does not work. For this reason, fast prototyping of promising technology concepts is absolutely essential. An additional goal is to encourage spin-in from terrestrial technology and convergence with satellite communication. Through the Maker Space initiative, ESA hopes to engage and work with a wide variety of parties with whom ESA has never worked to enable new ideas, boost innovative technologies and prepare for future Satcom products."

John Halligan T.D., Minister for Training, Skills & Innovation congratulated DCU on securing the ESA contract:

“This activity has the potential to support a growing number of Irish technology companies which are developing innovative technology solutions for the expanding Internet of Things (IoT) market.  I am particularly pleased to see the development of ESA’s role, working with Irish institutions and industry in fostering continued innovation in this area”.

The demand for connectivity for what is anticipated will be up to 26 billion Internet of Things devices by 2025, will require both terrestrial and satellite communications. With the DCU based Maker Space and continued support and collaboration with Enterprise Ireland and the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation,  ESA aims to accelerate research and development in this area in order to provide truly global communications satellite coverage for all such devices in the future.


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