IBM & The International Space Station

Share this post:

Last week I was fortunate enough to travel to San Francisco for the I.S.S. R&D Conference. In recent years Elon Musk has graced the stage as the keynote speaker at the event and this year, it was the turn of IBM. IBM were to keynote the event on the Wednesday morning which would be lead by Todd Moore, VP Open Technology, and Grady Booch, IBM Fellow. After this, IBM could be found in the booth hall, where we shared our collaborative work with the ISS to the Astronauts, Engineers and Students in attendance, as well discussing IBM’s Call for Code.


IBM Senior Leadership Take to the Stage

Todd Moore covered IBM’s industry leading efforts in open source technology, IBM’s Call for Code and IBM’s Code Patterns, in particular those built in collaboration with the Center for Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) and NASA. This lead into Grady Booch’s segment on IBM’s involvement in the space industry past, present and future and in particular, a focus on Artificial Intelligence’s inevitable role in the industry going forward.

More details on Todd Moore’s content can be found below, but for those interested, Grady covered IBM’s involvement with the Mercury and Apollo Programs all the way through to the recent work with NASA Langley and with the European Space Agency and Airbus through the CIMON project, the free-flying cognitive assistant that is onboard the International Space Station as we speak.

The conference was organised by CASIS, whom Emerging Technology have worked with on Open Source initiatives. We’ve collaborated to create a set of publicly available assets that showcase IBM’s technology, in conjunction with data related to the International Space Station. For this, we’ve worked closely with IBM’s Digital Business Group to create space-themed IBM Code Patterns.

Meeting an Astronaut or Two…Joe Pavitt's encounter with NASA Astronaut Cmdr. Terry Virts

The work between CASIS and Emerging Technologies has, in the past, lead me to cross paths with Cmdr Chris Hadfield. I had the honour of demonstrating our ISS VR experience to him at the Watson Summit back in October 2017. Cmdr Hadfield, who has spent a total of 166 days living in space onboard the I.S.S., flew around our makeshift virtual reality ISS and asked Watson an array of questions about life on the ISS and even himself, which it correctly answered each time.

This time around, it’s my encounter with Cmdr. Terry Virts that I will remember the most.

Cmdr. Virts was at the conference to talk about his newly released book, View from Above, it was an awe-inspiring presentation and, as the astronaut that has taken more photographs from the ISS than any other, he has his fair share of incredible photographs to show.

I was due to have 2 minutes with him in his busy schedule, straight after his keynote talk to showcase our code patterns and briefly talk about the Call for Code – we spoke for 30 minutes. I talked him through our work and it was the Call for Code that really peaked his interest. Since the event, Cmdr. Virts spread the word for us, and has been sharing his thoughts on the Call for Code via Instagram and Twitter.

There was a very surreal moment when showing the “Cities from Space” code pattern, when Cmdr. Virts interrupted me to say “I took that photo“, referencing a stunning photo of Tokyo that I was using as a demonstration of the pattern. To receive such positive feedback about IBM’s technology and initiatives, such as Call for Code, was incredibly inspiring and the buzz that we created around our booth and with the audience, reiterated that, as a company, we really do have some amazing tech under our belts that has the power to change the world.

Todd Moore showing our space-themed IBM Code Patterns

IBM Code Patterns

As part of the initiative to get more developers onto the IBM ecosystem and working with IBM’s technology, the IBM Code Patterns library has been created to provide short, sharp snippets of code that helps introduce IBM’s technology to the community. As part of our work with CASIS we created three assets that are now open-source and available as Code Patterns. Todd Moore (shown, left) talked about these patterns in his keynote slot on the Wednesday morning.

Cities from Space [Pattern & GitHub | Blog]

This pattern uses IBM Watson Visual Recognition to demonstrate how you can create a custom image classifier for cities around the world using available images from the Cities at Night gallery on Windows on Earth. With approximately 40 images per city, you can train Watson to identify the pattern of a city based on an image of the city at night time. When you present a new image to the Visual Recognition service, you get a confidence score reflecting which city Watson believes the new image is of.

Anyone can implement this pattern, modify it with new classifications, and help organise the data available from the ISS. And you can’t help but be amazed at these pictures along the way.

ISS Tracker [Pattern & GitHub | Blog]

Use NodeRED and IBM Watson Assistant to create a satellite tracker chatbot and visualisation/map tool. This combines IBM’s technology with an available NodeRED node that can track any satellite in orbit around the Earth. As about the location and future path of the satellite, you can even ask for the orbit to be visualised in 3d.

Wildfire Predictor [Pattern & GitHub | Blog]

The final pattern shows how open data, like that of the FIRMS dataset, can be used in conjunction with IBM’s technology, in this case Watson Machine Learning, to create an inspiring demonstration of how to predict the intensity of prospective wildfires across the United States. The pattern walks you through the steps required to train a custom machine learning model in Watson Studio, a pattern that can be applied to any structured dataset that you may have on your own machines and for your own products.

imageIBM’s Call for Code

Mitigating natural disasters is one of the world’s greatest challenges. The past decade has been one of the worst periods for natural disasters and while weather events may be inevitable they don’t have to become so catastrophic.

As many will be aware, IBM this year launched the Call for Code, a worldwide, multi-year initiative that inspires developers to solve pressing global problems with sustainable software solutions. IBM have partnered with the UN, the American Red Cross and the Linux Foundation and encourage the submission of ideas on how code can assist with preparedness, support and recovery of natural disasters. It’s completely free to enter, and is so for anyone in the world, not just IBMers. With a significant cash prize and venture capitalist investment available it’s definitely worth a shot at submitting your own ideas.

Create applications that improve disaster preparedness, build resilient communities, and safeguard the health and well-being of individuals and institutions.

The submission deadline has just been extended to September 28th!

You can register and submit your ideas here!

Master Inventor & Emerging Technology Specialist

More Innovation stories

Rainbow Octopus – Animate a 3d character with ARKit & IBM Watson

Rainbow Octopus is an open-source project created to show how a developer could use IBM’s Watson services in ARKit and Unity to control and manipulate a 3d animated character. Specifically, via the Watson Unity SDK, we capture and send speech to the IBM Speech To Text, and interpret the results using Tone Analyser and Watson […]

Continue reading

Emerging Tech take home a Prize at the FCA Hackathon

The FCA held a TechSprint (aka a hackathon) for three days in May for over 300 industry players to collaborate and explore ways to reduce financial crime. Four IBMers from  Emerging Technology, iX, and Software Group teamed up with a fin-tech, US regulator and bank to explore how to use natural language processing to analyse a […]

Continue reading

What Makes a Great Wimbledon Champion

IBM has been supporting Wimbledon’s pursuit of greatness for 27 years. In recent years, much of that contribution has come from the Hursley based Emerging Technology team. This year’s challenge? To find out what makes the greatest Wimbledon champion of all time. A team of statisticians, tennis analysts, coaches, journalists and developers assembled to start […]

Continue reading