Sille is monitoring infrastructure from space By Ronald Liive
Datel, one of the oldest privately owned Estonian IT companies, expanded its core business this spring by stepping into space – figuratively speaking of course. With the help of the European Space Agency (ESA), Datel is providing high accuracy space-based infrastructure deformation monitoring.
To put it simply, Datel’s e-service Sille uses satellite data to detect displacement in bridges, pipelines, houses, and other infrastructure. Thanks to that, the user of the service can get a fast, reliable and accurate measurement without the need to hire surveyors to do geodetics analysis, which can take a long time to finish. Sille uses information gathered by radars to detect shifts and subsidence of objects with the precision of up to one millimetre. The service helps prevent accidents caused by deterioration of infrastructure and contributes to general safety. The service is intended for the global market and even allows users to look back in time 4 years (data collected from 2014); it can be implemented instantly anywhere around the world.
You don’t need a degree to use the service According to the CTO of Datel, Agu Leinfeld, the biggest difference with competitors is the simplicity of the service. He emphasises that you don’t need a degree to use Sille. ‘The user interface is simple: our service is built with the idea that the end user doesn’t need to know what technology is used in the background. The user needs to get an overview of whether everything is alright with the object or infrastructure they are monitoring or whether they need to react. The service is designed for people who do not know how the systems work,’ says Leinfeld.
LI FE I N ESTON IA N o 50
Even though the user sees data displayed on Google Maps like a map application, peeking into the system reveals that Sille actually sees the world through a radar and not a camera lens. The decision to use radar lies in the clouds above our heads. Cameras cannot see through them so a radar is needed to collect measurements. But for the user to understand the measurements, the team had to convert it into a map to make it simple to understand. The data is updated every six days. At the moment, Sille uses data gathered by European Space Agency (ESA) operated satellites but the service is built in a way that it could use data from other sources as well. Leinfeld gets really excited when talking about their R&D cooperation agreement with ESA. It came as a surprise when ESA mentioned Sille on their website even before the service was live for public use.
International clients and 24/7 working conditions Alongside notable clients in Estonia, the service grabbed the attention of the US State of Maryland where the system is used to monitor bridges, landslides, sink holes, road surfaces, on-ramps, and other infrastructure across the State. Even though Sille is not a startup, but rather a service from a company founded 28 years ago, at its core it is comparable to an agile startup. The service is challenging current working habits and the traditional approach to infrastructure monitoring. New value chain creators are usually called startups, but the Estonian technology sector is known for its constantly innovative experienced companies.