ASIGN – Semantically – driven Communications Improve Impact and Reduce Bandwidth

Mission – Critical Visual Communications for Integrated Space Applications


In mission-critical visual communications, and situations where the need for network capacity a concern, focus is on the impact images may have for operations, not the technical quality of the image. By focusing communications capacity on operationally relevant content, savings in network loads over 99% are realistic while keeping full image quality for relevant parts. Based on several space projects, we have developed an optimal mission-critical visual sensor communications solution for low-bandwidth mobile or satellite networks. It is also applicable live images from UAVs, and for providing hi-resolution satellite imagery details to field users using mobile satellite networks. The operational system has been designed by interactions with United Nations, Civil Protection, Police and Military, and has won several innovation awards.

Target Challenges

While both fixed and mobile broadband networks continue to expand in coverage, there are still a vast number of situations where communications network capacity is a fundamentally limiting challenge. Many of these situations are related to satellite communications, space, UAV, earth observations and satellite navigation, which all are applicable in missions for critical operations where lives, security, infrastructure and property may be a critical stake.

A fundamental challenge is how to communicate visual data in near real-time, such as photos, video or satellite EO images with operationally important information in sufficiently high speed and quality for supporting rapid decision-making in a cost- and bandwidth efficient manner. Visual situational awarenessis needed in situations like disaster preparedness, response or recovery, surveillance, safety, security, UAV operations and more.

High-definition visual data can require substantial and potentially excessive communications network capacity, specifically in situations where regular telecommunications infrastructure could be severely limited, or when mobile satellite systems (MSS), like BGAN, are used.  In realistic situations, using multiple networks must be expected, like Wi-Fi access to a SatCom terminal, multiple hops in the core network, potentially limited access to field receiver.

Situational Awareness

ASIGN, Adaptive System for Image Communications in Global Networks, is motivated by needs for improved Situational Awareness, to know what is going on, where – when it happens. Situational Awareness is important for critical decision-making, in particular in any emerging situation where safety, security, lives, environment and other values are at stake. Visual field images, in-situ photos/video, remote satellite/UAV observations, maps and geographical information systems (GIS), from professionals or the public, form essential components.

In critical situations, “things” need to always work, and one needs to trust both the observations themselves, and that they reach their destinations.  The objective is communications of operationally relevant informationanytime and anywhere, even under potentially difficult network conditions, such as low bandwidth, varying capacity and blocking. Relevance is mainly decided by analysts and decision-makers, considering multiple inputs and sharing a common operational picture. We also need to reduce operational cost and increase speed of transfer for visual communications over mobile satellite networks. Needs are focused around 3 operational phases:

  • OBSERVE: Trustful, reliable field content capture (images, sound, text) and meta-data as location/time/weather.
    • Professionals, crowdsourced, unmanned.
    • Highest image quality. Adaptive compression.
    • Rapid communications for analysis & decision.
  • DECIDE: Analyze relevant content, by experts and/or computer vision different locations. Decide actions.
    • Common operational picture and portal.
    • Observations communications management.
    • Rapid Mapping, rapid data fusion. Security.
  • ACT: Secure decisions communicated quickly to field for performing actions. Work interactively. Monitor status.
    • Share relevant observations and content details.
    • Add interpretations and commands. Coordinate.
    • Manage communications networks.