Thinking Space: Space Must be on the Agenda of Every Future Board Meeting

Satellite imaging capabilities are expanding rapidly. Since the beginning of this year, a rocket has launched, on average, every three days, releasing 945 satellites in total.

There are just under 5,000 working satellites orbiting earth. By the end of 2029, conservative estimations are suggesting no less than 107,000 satellites will be orbiting earth as we enter the 2030s.

At the same time, hyperscalers such as Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft are building the Ground-Station infrastructure, designed to capture, store and distribute the data flowing increasingly from space.

Real-time or near real-time satellite imagery, supplied by thousands of cameras focused on Earth will power the next generation of apps, changing how we all plan our lives, saving us all time, money and possibly our planet.

This is why I believe space will change the business landscape forever.

It is exciting and threatening in equal measure as this will be an extinction-level event for thousands of established brands, whilst creating many more.

Most payloads are focused entirely on commercial, environmental and scientific projects, here on Earth. Space feels like an alien concept. However everyday items like memory foam, freeze-dried food and emergency space blankets, seen at the end of marathons, were all inventions from the space sector.

What is coming next? Space Race 2.0

The first ever smartphone was launched by Apple in 2007 and very few people could have imagined the impact this handheld device would have on thousands of products, devices and sectors with many being consigned to museums.

Space Race 2.0 is all over the news and employees and shareholders will expect their business leaders to have a plan. Consumers are excited by the potential for future gadgets and services, powered by space-empowered technology. They also want their future products and services produced with an environmental and societal purpose, wherever possible.

I visited the first ever Space-Comm Expo in July last year, focused entirely on the commercialisation of space, which underlines that a new multi-billion dollar business sector has just been born!

It proved to me that Space offers a massive opportunity, but it will also create the biggest accelerated change curve we have ever managed. We all need to buckle up, grasp the thistle and take actions now, as the VUCA concept is about to go into warp drive. If you believe the development of the smartphone was revolutionary, watch this space!

Internet access is deemed to be a basic human right by the United Nations and space will support this and a number of their Sustainable Development Goals, on multiple levels. The pandemic had a disproportionate impact on this segment of society, as they simply could not work from home or develop an e-strategy.

Satellites will open up new markets, providing stable internet access to 40% of the world’s population for the first time. Societally, space offers an opportunity to level up, supporting education, reducing poverty and inequalities.

This will result in more potential for commercial success across the globe as brands will have access to new consumers and previously excluded businesses will have access to a global market.

So, what can we do now?

It’s worth recognising that no one has all the answers. This sector is evolving incredibly quickly and only with hindsight will we know who the winners and losers will be.

We need to create some thinking space, encouraging a more agile culture, where strategists can safely challenge the boardroom.

CEOs must create a team of futurists, visionaries, early adopters and creatives and then encourage team members who demonstrate a deep knowledge of blockchain, artificial intelligence and machine learning to join the conversation.

CEOs must ask their teams to consider what current business models should be taken to the three billion people who will experience accessible and stable internet for the first time. What products and services could we develop, if there was an ‘always-on’ vision of our planet or ‘Google Earth Live’? How do we leverage this new data stream for the benefit of society and shareholders?

This is the time to float new business models and practices to take full advantage of the current and future capabilities, to avoid being locked out or left behind.

Once the strategy has been agreed upon with the board, the internal and external education, communication and execution steps can begin.

Playing by the rules

Linda McCutcheon sits on the Spelfie advisory board and Linda shared the stage with Bill Gates and Steve Jobs in her capacity as President of Time Inc. New media. She was the only female in the room when a group of digital pioneers agreed the global internet marketing standardisation rules in the 90s, which exist to this day.

The world wide web was the first digital revolution and I believe there is a need for a similar approach around the next digital revolution but powered by space.

Space offers us a fresh perspective, an opportunity to change our damaging business models and behaviours, which are having such a devastating impact on our planet. I wonder how an alien species would view humanity. I for one would find it difficult to justify our impact on Earth. The current space race feels like a gold prospector land grab. Collaboration is key, as our resources are finite, otherwise, there will be no winners in this zero-sum game.

Our space strategy

The space 2 consumer (S2C) group includes our first prototype, Spelfie. Our app captures a real-time satellite image of large-scale events and their attendees from space.

Our patent for merging satellite imagery with user-generated content also creates huge collaboration opportunities in respect of the relationship between humans and live satellite imagery. We offer a ready-made commercialisation model, focused on humanity, which will be a key ingredient in this new digital revolution, powered by space.

I believe we all need to focus on our corporate space strategy with immediate effect, if Amazon and Microsoft have laid the terrestrial foundations for a new era, I think we should all sit up and take notice.

My advice to my fellow CEOs would be to add ‘Space Strategy’ to every board agenda from today onwards.

Chris Newlands is CEO of Spelfie, Space 2 Consumer Strategies and in 2021 was listed in the Top 10 Space Entrepreneurs by leading UK Technology Magazine, TechRound.

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