Busy as IBC
IBC (ex International Broadcasting Convention) in Amsterdam is one of the largest annual events in the region: an exhibition and conference for professionals in media, broadcasting and accompanying business. All the exhibitors, conference speakers and visitors span a multitude of categories. There were content creators, equipment manufacturers, business professionals and technical associations; and all other participants that may somehow be connected to the broadcasting industry.
Being a regular visitor over the years, Amphinicy decided to exhibit here this year. Although this is not a specialized event for our core satellite business, over the years IBC tried to de-highlight its broadcasting focus and to expand to accompanying sectors and did so - quite successfully. You could easily lose yourself in a maze of drones and flying thingamajigs, high-res cameras, VR equipment, lightning, UHDTV screens, microphones, mixers, speakers and satellite dishes, RF equipment, satellite operator stands, VSAT equipment vendors, various ancillary organizations and IT companies. On top of that, you could agonize over loads of interesting conference sessions and featured events, wishing you could clone yourself and be at several different places at the same time. There were speakers from NASA, Google, Dolby Vision, Eutelsat, Sony, Netflix; there was Hackfest, Interoperability Zone, Rising Stars... 55.000 visitors from more than 160 countries and nearly 2.000 exhibitors visited IBC premises over six days of conference and exhibition. Busy days, indeed.
Amphinicy team of 5 (Mirta, Frane, Hrvoje, Marko and I) arrived one day in advance so we had time to prepare our booth and get to know our surroundings. We cracked the whole setup like a circle of wizards we are. Unpack, plug-in, say a few magic words (work, please work...) and lo and behold, ladies and gentlemen - our contraption, buzzing happily with its little bits and bytes!
We wanted to present several of our software products in their ‘natural surroundings’, so we prepared a vision of a software-based ground station solution we love to call Stargazer. It’s all you need for your satellite ground station, and mostly done with software. A combination of the antenna and a software-based radio device (to receive the RF signal and digitize it) and a COTS server where the rest of the signal processing (Blink) and monitoring and controlling of ground equipment (Monica) happens. It’s our vision of the future, where having your own satellite becomes available to schools, universities, startups and individuals and moreover; enables the growth of big space missions. It’s a high-throughput, cost-effective, flexible, multi-mission solution with short lead- and down- time, that supports big missions and high data rates we need with advancing high-resolution satellite sensors up there.
SatScout was also there, prepped on our mobile phone, as a handy tool for VSAT vendors and installers to tune up the VSAT antenna towards the selected satellite.
And finally, nothing would work that well without our little helpers you can see down there on the table: tuning up and messing up things, all-in-all working their little plastic behinds off, just for the sheer fame and glory. And yes, they certainly got the public eye, as intended :)
Our days continued jam-packed with meetings, demos, conference sessions or visiting other booths, especially of compatible companies. We collected a large number of contacts and agreed to follow-up afterwards. However exhaustive and time-consuming they might be, exhibitions and conferences continue to be one of the best ways to promote your business and find new partners and clients.
During these six days, after the busy conference hours, we’ve had some time to take a look around Amsterdam - a known pillar of cyclist supremacy. Cyclists rule and everyone else’s job is just to get out of their way. And there’s cheese, lots of it! Add some canals, stepped gable façades, picturesque dining and entertainment offer to the mix and you get one beautiful and fun city to live in :)
I’ll let the following imagery speak for itself.
Back to the future
Back at IBC, the exhibition, conference and all the feature events amounted to a giant living beehive of networking, prospective contacts and opportunities and an enriching source of interesting new concepts and ideas. A few sessions and talks at the conference caught my attention.
Making more of metadata
It was interesting to see how the industry uses learning algorithms to parse through an immense amount of (video) data and adds descriptive tags for a targeted, ‘smarter’ advertising. Not a big fan of ads myself (quite the opposite), yet it was impressive to see the ‘ad-beast’ at work.
Back to the future – then, now and what’s next
A fun and engaging session of retrospective and insight into now near-exponential acceleration of (tech and societal) change and advancement. We’ve barely accustomed to 4K resolutions, and here we already have 6K, 8K and HDR (high dynamic range) waiting to enter the market. With global connection and such ever-faster-changing environment (with unexpected outcomes), it becomes harder and harder just to behave reactively and steer your company with plans based on current trends. It’s evident that to succeed, for the long run, you need pure vision (of global scale), never ending passion and grit to weather out the market volatility and reach your goals.
Live From Space: NASA and imaging
A long-awaited session did not disappoint me; quite the contrary, it managed to exceed my high expectations :) An enthralling talk and witty speakers in smart suits and astronaut-themed socks - what more could I ask for? Carlos Fontanot, Imagery Manager for International Space Station and Kelly O. Humphries, News Chief from Johnson Space Center filled that too-short one-hour session with exceptional material from the history of space exploration, current stunning imagery, and their plans for the future, all topped with an inspiring HD video.
With some of the most iconic NASA images of all times, it was a beautiful reminder of the human pioneering spirit and achievements. I’ll list some of the presented imagery as links to their full-resolution versions:
- Earthrise (Apollo 8 mission in 1968)
- Apollo 11 (1969) – Edwin Aldrin photographed by Armstrong (seen in Aldrin’s visor) during first spaceflight that landed humans on the Moon
- ISS with docked Endeavour shuttle (2011) - taken from Soyuz TMA-20
- Curiosity rover taking a ‘selfie’ on Mars (2015)
- Pluto (2015) – taken from New Horizons interplanetary space probe
Continuing the session, they listed some of the future challenges and explored options for (global) collaboration.
HD (Earth) Observation
We can use never-better cameras, higher and deeper resolutions to solve one chunk of problems, but then we need to find a way to download all that data raining down by terabytes, process it, extract knowledge and all that with no or with very small latency. Amphinicy has been working on that piece of the puzzle for a while (Blink), and with days to come, we hope to bring you more good news on that front.
As with all space exploration, we should never forget how these inventions, solving ‘space challenges’, end up helping our precious Earth the most.
I’ll end this medley-report with a story around aforementioned Earthrise (a first known color-picture of Earth taken from an orbit of another celestial body), told by prof. Brian Cox in his captivating book Human Universe, with a little help of T.S. Elliot.
“[Apollo 8] The mission’s most potent legacy, however, is NASA image AS8-14-2383, snapped by Bill Anders on a Hasselblad 500 EL at f/11 and a shutter speed of 1/250th of a second on Kodak Ektachrome film. It was, in other words, a very bright photograph. The image is better known as Earthrise. When viewed with the lunar surface at the bottom, Earth is tilted on its side with the South Pole to the left, and the equator running top to bottom. Little landmass can be seen through the swirling clouds, but the bright sands of the Namib and Saharan deserts stand out salmon pink against the blackness beyond. Just 368 years and 10 months after a man was burned at the stake for dreaming of worlds without end, here is Earth, a fragile crescent suspended over an alien landscape, the negative of a waxing Moon in the friendly skies of Earth. This is an unfamiliar, planetary Earth, no longer central; just another world. When Kennedy spoke of Apollo as a journey to an unknown celestial body, he meant the Moon. But we discovered Earth and, in the words of T. S. Eliot, came to know the place for the first time.”
…We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time…