EY launches satellite image processing service

“In Australia, we’ve got that trajectory over five years to sort of get to a $ 200 million-plus business,” he said.

The creation of a new service line comes as EY examines splitting its audit business via a sale or initial public offering.

Mr Jones, who would not comment on the potential split, said the space technology business was a “strategic investment priority” for the firm, so was organized across the firm’s audit and consulting businesses. That means it is unclear where this potentially valuable business would end up if the firm did split.

Under the agreement, four EY partners and 30 support staff comprised of scientists, data and analytics, and AI specialists will have access to Swinburne’s capabilities including research students, academics and the OzSTAR supercomputer.

Start-ups not superpowers

Alan Duffy, director of the Space Technology and Industry Institute at Swinburne University of Technology, said the partnership with EY would educate the industry on the potential uses and benefits of space technology.

“We’ve never had a company that hasn’t been excited by the idea that space tech can help, but they are always surprised that it can,” he said.

Professor Duffy noted that a decade ago the space industry was dominated by governments, but the rush of private companies into the field over the last decade had created new commercial opportunities powered by thousands of satellites that are in orbit capturing high-quality data.

“AI-powered insights into this incredibly and increasingly rich amount of data we’re getting from space allows companies to ask questions and solve problems that I just don’t think we could have imagined 10 years ago,” he said.

“This new space race is between start-ups, not superpowers, and that’s a profound shift. It means that the pace of change is also accelerating. “

Client problems

EY has used satellite imaging processing for a global mining client to manage 1800 kilometers of its rail line, monitoring it for bushfires that could destroy valuable habitat and heritage-listed areas.

Satellite images of the track are scanned using computer vision to identify the types of plants growing alongside the rail line. This information is used to predict where vegetation could catch on fire during rail maintenance or when a train goes past and creates sparks.

The process takes a few minutes, compared with the previous process of manually mapping fire risk across the entire network, which took months to complete.

“They have instances where they have particular fires have shut down the track for the day and the volume of revenue is $ 50 million a day through those rail lines,” Mr Jones said.

A satellite image of a rail corridor, combined with computer vision, shows which vegetation is encroaching on the tracks.

EY has also used a similar approach to help the New Zealand Water Authority identify leaks earlier.

Water utilities typically only discover leaks when they are reported by a member of the public and crews are sent out to investigate. Using satellite data, the utility can scan its network for “water anomalies” in the soil, which indicate leaks.

EY said proof of concept identified more than 200 possible leaks from space, which field technicians were sent out to investigate.

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