Hacking towards a more secure Europe

Hacking towards a more secure Europe

Increasing global instability means the EU must take increasing responsibility over its own safety and security – and EU Space can help. 

“By enabling unique solutions for protecting mobility, logistics, maritime and critical infrastructure assets, the data, information and services provided by the EU Space Programme play a key role in enhancing Europe’s defence and security capabilities,” says EUSPA Head of Market Downstream and Innovation, Fiammetta Diani.  

With this role in mind, the EU Space Strategy on Security and Defence aims to better protect space systems and services while also maximising their use for security and defence purposes. And to do so, it’s turning to hackers.

The 5th edition of the CASSINI Hackathon challenged students, start-ups, entrepreneurs and companies to develop innovative new concepts, products and services that positively impact the European defence and security sector. 

From 90 to 10 

Over 500 hackers actively participated in the 24 – 26 March events, which were held in Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, France, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Poland, Romania and Sweden. Each team was challenged to use Earth Observation data from Copernicus and/or the positioning and navigation services provided by Galileo and EGNOS, along with such cutting-edge digital technologies as AI and blockchain, to develop solutions to either enable cross-terrain mobility, make the seas more secure, or protect critical infrastructure. 

“With over 160 supporting experts and a prize pool that included mentoring, cash and in-kind support, participants were eager to showcase their innovation prowess and build game-changing solutions,” adds Diani.   

At the end of the event, more than 90 projects were submitted. From these, each location chose one winning team who moved on to the Demo Day round where, on 30 March, they pitched their solutions to a jury comprised of industry representatives, decisionmakers and other EU space stakeholders. 

And the winners are… 

After careful consideration and much anticipation, the judges announced the three winning projects.

The top prize went to Hiris Guider, a team from the Cyprus hackathon who developed a platform-based service for evaluating emergency evacuation plans and scenarios, identifying high-risk areas, and implementing effective mitigation strategies. The platform combines Copernicus data on land cover, vegetation, moisture and forests with data about population density. 

A team from the Italy hackathon took home second prize for its innovative approach to responding to wildfires. The FireWatch solution uses Earth Observation data to simulate the spread of wildfires in real time and based on real conditions. It also identifies all critical infrastructure at direct risk of the fire, noting its location, how many people will be affected, and when the fire will likely reach the area.  

In third place is UIS, a project coming from the Hungary hackathon. By incorporating AI with Earth Observation imagery, the solution can determine the location of unexploded ordinances (e.g., landmines) in post-conflict areas. In doing so, the project stands to protect the safety of armed forces, humanitarian missions and civilians.    

Combining innovative thinking with EU Space

The three winning teams now have access to a six-month mentoring programme where they will receive support from the likes of EUSPA as they continue to develop their space-based ideas. 

“Each of these winning projects exemplify what can be accomplished when we combine innovative thinking with EU Space,” concludes Diani. “I look forward to supporting their ongoing development and seeing how they ultimately contribute to a safer and more secure Europe for everyone.”  

Backed with an investment capacity of EUR 1 billion, CASSINI is a European Commission initiative geared to supporting entrepreneurs, start-ups and SMEs developing innovative applications and services that leverage the EU Space Programme. For more information, please visit: https://www.cassini.eu/cassini-initiative

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