Huge amounts of data from space, the kind produced by the European Earth observation programme Copernicus and its fleet of Sentinel satellites, offer countless opportunities in connection with mobile applications. The Space App Camps bring programmers together to develop creative and innovative apps that make Earth observation data – particularly from Copernicus – accessible to a wide range of citizens. This unique one-week event was initiated by ESA in 2012 and has since been organised by AZO Anwendungszentrum GmbH Oberpfaffenhofen.

It seeks to introduce app developers to Copernicus and to create awareness for the possibilities Earth observation data offers as a means of enriching mobile apps. Such data provides crucial economic and ecological information to an array of industry sectors: from energy, transport, logistics, and construction to aeronautics, healthcare, and telecommunications, myriad areas profit significantly from this global flow of information.

Here, cloud platforms are highly effective at processing huge quantities of data and integrating them with the industry’s dynamic business statistics in order to offer new digital services. This is why the Space App Camp cooperated with SAP for its Barcelona edition in 2015, 2016 and 2017, which gave developers access to the cutting-edge SAP HANA Cloud Platform.

Each year, the App Camp assembles programmers from across Europe (who have little or no experience with Earth observation) to exchange ideas with like-minded people, tackle some of the world’s greatest challenges, and make EO data accessible to a wide range of citizens via smartphone. Participants learn about the many ways in which satellite data can be used for mobile apps, make contacts all over Europe, and gain insights into how ESA operates.

Since this initiative’s inception, around 420 developers from nearly 30 countries have applied to the Space App Camps, and more than 45 apps have been developed. A number of former participants are currently finalising their applications, have already transformed their ideas into operational services, or have founded a startup in order to bring their apps to market maturity. To make it easier to access Earth observation data and integrate it into mobile apps, the European Space Agency has also invested in providing a dedicated maps API. In enabling participants to focus directly on utilising WMS datasets to realise their app concepts, this interface has been a key component of the App Camps’ success and has great potential to continue driving user uptake.