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Small and medium-sized companies can compete in space sector

14th November 2019 BY: Rebecca Campbell
Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor

South African small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the space sector are competitive because of their lower overheads, pointed out Pinkmatter Solutions Earth Observation Solutions Manager Nicolas Steenkamp on Thursday. He was addressing the South African National Space Agency's second Space for National Development Conference in Pretoria.

Local SMEs had two main sources of origin. Many had been set up by older, experienced industry veterans. The others had been created by new, younger, entrants into the sector. Regardless of background, space SMEs always had to up-skill and re-learn, to keep pace with advances in technology. Consequently, funding was important for space SMEs.

Increased automation and the introduction of artificial intelligence (AI) also benefitted SMEs. Cloud-based solutions meant that SMEs did not have to invest in servers. 

These developments allowed SMEs to establish and expand their positions in value chains. They also allowed long-term engagements with projects and international engagements. SMEs could further carry out de-risking for clients.

For the government, SMEs could provide all sorts of "value add". An example would be analyzing Earth observation images to provide real-time fire warnings (this was being done). 

Regarding AI, this allowed the creation of applications such as "vehicle" tracking (whether those vehicles were cars, ships or planes), the detection and classification of buildings and structures, and the identification of encroachment by informal settlements on (for example) mine properties. "New niche markets are constantly evolving," highlighted Steenkamp. 

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EDITED BY: Creamer Media Reporter
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