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TIL EY Has Commoditized Space

Is there any limit to the robust and ever-growing suite of services offered by professional services firms? Apparently not. As we’ll learn in a sec, not even the sky is the limit.

It was less than a year ago that EY put $3 million Aussie bucks into a space business in partnership with Swinburne University of Technology that “will solve big business problems by utilizing space-derived data and services for terrestrial benefit” per its lead partner Anthony Jones. Let’s check out the June 2022 announcement from Swinburne and figure out what’s going on here, the details of which are way beyond our paygrade:

Protecting our environment, supporting resilient communities, and solving real-world problems will be the focus of a new Space Tech hub created by Swinburne University of Technology and EY Australia.

Supported by $3 million from EY, the hub will leverage Swinburne’s global leadership position in space, its renowned academics and researchers, and innovative technology such as the OzSTAR supercomputer to provide tech solutions to industry partners.

Director of Swinburne’s Space Technology and Industry Institute, Professor Alan Duffy, said the pioneering hub was all about applying the knowledge gained from research across the universe to solve complex problems faced on Earth.

“We are excited to be combining Swinburne’s world-leading research, technology and education capabilities with EY’s deep global connections and end-user insights to create sustainable space tech solutions to real-world issues,” Professor Duffy said.

“Through the use of ground-breaking technology, like the Swinburne OzSTAR supercomputer, and our access to the next generation of talent, this partnership will position Australia’s space industry at the forefront of global economic, environmental and social opportunity.”

The Space Tech hub will initially have three key focus areas:

  • Improving community resilience and environmental health
    Helping communities and businesses effectively respond to the impact of natural disasters (fire, flood, climate) and climate change-related pressures.
  • Improving productivity
    Boosting the safety and performance for industry partners through the adoption of space technology for managing critical infrastructure and assets under challenging conditions.
  • Creating an ecosystem to solve problems of national interest
    Positioning Australia to lead globally in space technology to resolve issues of climate impact, land management, logistics and defence.

A dedicated EY team of 15 staff – comprised of scientists, data and analytics professionals, and AI specialists – will work on the hub, led by EY partner Anthony Jones, with support from Swinburne talent and technology.

“The Space Tech hub will solve big business problems by utilising space-derived data and services for terrestrial benefit,” Mr Jones said.

“We’ll be leveraging the capability of EY’s own astrophysicists, machine learning engineers and data scientists, as well as working with academics from Swinburne University of Technology, to help solve community resilience issues, drive decarbonisation initiatives, and aid in reducing the impact of natural disasters on communities.”

The hub builds on the Swinburne Space Technology and Industry Institute’s work with the EY Data Science Challenge, developing AI to help spot bushfires from space for the Country Fire Authority.

It forms part of the Institute’s pledge to build the engine room for space innovation and economic growth in a sector projected to be worth $1 trillion globally by 2040.

That OzSTAR supercomputer they mentioned? It is one of the fastest supercomputers in Australia and in the top 500 supercomputers worldwide with over 5,000 processing cores, 230 GPUs, a collective 25 Terabytes of system memory and access to over 6 Petabytes of storage (one petabyte = 1,024 terabytes).

Shall we assume that NewCo will get the space geeks if audit and consulting get divorced (a possibility looking less and less possible by the day)? We shall.

Bringing us back to current day, AFR reported yesterday that the burgeoning space business has scored former NASA engineer Brian Killough for the team. Killough retired from public service last December and brings several decades of experience to the table. His bio:

Dr. Brian Killough, former NASA engineer and Earth scientist, has compiled 35 years of experience at NASA with the last 15 years leading the international Committee on Earth Observing Satellites (CEOS) Systems Engineering Office (SEO). This office developed Earth observation data technologies and applications for global benefit. Dr. Killough has played a significant role in the evolution of the Open Data Cube initiative and the development of regional data cubes in Africa, and the Pacific Islands. Dr. Killough has authored over 30 technical papers and received the NASA Exceptional Service Medal in 2016 and the 2021 Group on Earth Observations (GEO) Individual Excellence Award. If he is not consulting and working with satellite data, you might find him on a golf course. Outside of work, this is one of his lifelong passions.

His official title per LinkedIn is “Executive Consultant, Satellite Data and Applications.”

The future has arrived and you can bill for it! WOO.

Former NASA exec joins EY’s satellite image processing service [Australian Financial Review]