NEWS

25 January 2022

Darwin and Telefónica meet the mayor to propose autonomous transport in Málaga

Darwin and Telefónica meet the mayor to propose autonomous transport in Málaga

In December 2021, Darwin opened a Spanish office at the Technology Park of Andalusia, also known as Málaga TechPark. We’re delighted to have a presence at a powerfully innovative technology park in such a beautiful location.

In the same month, we had the honour of meeting Francisco de la Torre, the mayor of Málaga. Our co-founder, Daniela, visited Andalusia to speak to the mayor about establishing an autonomous passenger service in Málaga.

In December 2021, Darwin opened a Spanish office at the Technology Park of Andalusia, also known as Málaga TechPark. We’re delighted to have a presence at a powerfully innovative technology park in such a beautiful location. In the same month, we had the honour of meeting Francisco de la Torre, the mayor of Málaga. Our co-founder, Daniela, visited Andalusia to speak to the mayor about establishing an autonomous passenger service in Málaga. Also at the meeting were Joaquín Segovia, Director Territorial Sur at Telefónica, and two representatives of security services provider Telefónica Tech: María Jesús Almazor, Telefónica Tech’s CEO of Cybersecurity and Cloud, and Sergio de los Santos, Telefónica Tech’s Head of Innovation and Cybersecurity. The autonomous vehicle in Málaga would be similar to the ESA-supported Darwin Autonomous Shuttle currently operating in Oxfordshire: a fully autonomous passenger shuttle, developed by Navya, travelling a predetermined route. It can carry up to 15 passengers, and its ability to react to changes in its environment enables it to share the road with ordinary traffic. Similar Navya shuttles have already been used in an urban setting. If you’d like to see them in action, Navya has shared a video of its autonomous shuttles operating in the Swiss town of Sion. Telefónica Tech has partnered with Darwin to tackle the subject of autonomous vehicle cybersecurity. As part of this partnership, Telefónica Tech’s cybersecurity experts will help to ensure that the shuttle is securely protected. Mayor de la Torre was happy to support the project, having previously seen Málaga launch a self-driving bus in February 2021. It’s too early to say what route the Darwin shuttle will travel for certain, but the mayor suggested using it to connect two centres of culture: the Centre Pompidou Málaga and the Museo Ruso. María Jesús Almazor believes that the shuttle project will help to demonstrate the possibilities of self-driving technology, and the importance of collaboration between the connectivity, cybersecurity and artificial intelligence industries. Darwin is already working to register a shuttle for use in Málaga. For more about this project as it develops, keep an eye on our News page! Darwin Innovation Group is an Oxfordshire-based R&D company focusing on autonomous vehicles and communications, both terrestrial and satellite. If you’d like to keep up with our articles, you can follow us on LinkedIn or Twitter. If you’re interested in working with us, take a look at our careers page.
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18 January 2022

The outcome of Darwin’s ubiquitous communications demonstration in Cornwall

The outcome of Darwin’s ubiquitous communications demonstration in Cornwall

In July 2021, Darwin performed a live demonstration of its ubiquitous communications technology in Cornwall. By switching seamlessly between satellite […]

In July 2021, Darwin performed a live demonstration of its ubiquitous communications technology in Cornwall. By switching seamlessly between satellite and terrestrial networks, this technology enables devices or vehicles to stay connected even in areas with variable coverage. In this post, Rodrigo Barreto, Darwin’s lead architect, gives some background on the demonstration and talks about what we learnt from it. - It is commonly found that innovation needs to be physically demonstrated to gain traction. As with the saying ‘a picture is worth a thousand words’, a live proof of concept (POC) – the demonstration of an innovative idea by the live use of a minimum viable product in a realistic scenario – is worth more than a thousand slides. It unlocks cognition, enabling stakeholders to imagine the possibilities created by the innovation. It builds momentum, bringing partners closer to achieving a common goal. It quiets naysayers, showing concrete achievements that function as yardsticks solidly planted in the ground, marking the boundaries for further development. With all that in mind, we at Darwin were really anxious and excited to plan for a live POC. Unfortunately, not all was on our side in our efforts to get it done within the originally intended timelines. When we first conceived the live POC, the COVID-19 pandemic was still rife, claiming the lives of thousands of people living in care homes. Our original impulse was to plan for a mobile health unit which would be able to bring help, by means of mass testing, to care homes in countryside locations, where sometimes terrestrial cellular connectivity is poor. We envisioned that health professionals would benefit from uninterrupted communications with health service response centres by using Darwin’s converged satellite and mobile communications solution. While this was thought up around Q2 2020, human resources were tied up with design work and physical resources were still to be acquired; this included the vehicle, which would then need to be adapted to required health service standards and equipped with networking equipment and antennas. All while business activity, or business activity as we knew it before 2020, was severely hampered. Eventually, by May 2021, we had all the individual elements that we needed, plus the logical design and software implementations required for the end-to-end solution. The van that we had acquired was last to be delivered, as the physical installation of antennas, implementation of internal power circuits and outfitting of the interior proved to be time-consuming and, in addition, was impacted by a COVID outbreak within the team working at the vehicle conversion workshop. At this point in time, mass COVID testing at care homes had already been implemented and vaccination of vulnerable people was well underway. The opportunity to help had passed, and we had to adapt our plans to more generic use cases. One of the key points of the solution was being able to provide seamless connectivity in areas where either satellite or terrestrial networks presented reception not-spots: geographical areas where devices can’t connect to the network. To demonstrate this, we ended up selecting the Cornwall region, which, because of its topology, has areas which are challenging for both types of networks. If it takes a village to raise a child, it is not a very different situation preparing for the first live demonstration of an innovative solution. It took a real team effort from sponsors, partners and suppliers to design, build and test the solution prior to demonstrating it in the field. As much as we would like to take full credit for the achievement, it wouldn’t be right not to mention the enormous contribution of all parties involved behind the scenes: The European Space Agency: Due to the rigour ESA required in the definition of this project, progressing with the high-level and low-level designs of the connectivity solution was a straightforward step. Telefónica O2: In addition to providing the lab-based infrastructure we used at Harwell Campus, including a private 5G network which we could use to speed up our investigations into mobile connectivity, O2 provided strong project and solution management and extensive support. Hispasat: Provided extremely valuable support and consultancy, which helped Darwin to quickly move up the learning curve of satellite communications. The dedication of Hispasat engineers involved with integration for the data path and with the initial commissioning of the Darwin van’s terminal went well above their professional duties. Kymeta: Not only loaned the satellite antenna and modem used during the demonstrations, but also worked closely with us to fine-tune link budget calculations, and provided several hours of field and remote support to troubleshoot antenna alignment issues. FatPipe: Supplied the SD-WAN equipment in a timely manner and gave us access to an extremely dedicated support team, keen on going the extra mile to demonstrate equipment functionality and to diagnose configuration issues in the end-to-end path between vehicle and server at our laboratory. Amazon (AWS): A detailed account of our experience working with AWS is available here. For the live POC, AWS consultancy was extremely valuable in getting the IoT Core and Greengrass functionalities, required for the telemetry use case, working and integrated with the other parts of Darwin’s cloud-based ‘as-a-service’ solution. Cartwright: Working under very adverse conditions due to COVID disruptions, Cartwright’s engineers and technicians marched on, delivering the van adaptations to a high professional standard, and delivered the modified vehicle as soon as it was feasible to do so. The departure from Harwell to our initial destination, Truro, was filled with expectation. Although the end-to-end solution had been tested locally around our lab at Harwell Campus, there was always the worry that something might break up or malfunction once we were a fair distance from our base. In testament to the detailed design, meticulous integration and thorough testing done in preparation for the journey, not a single thing malfunctioned in transit to Cornwall, and we were all clear to start testing our use cases during the following days. Test cases included telemetry, communications, video streaming, file transfers (uploads and downloads) and general web browsing. For telemetry, we used ESA’s Air Quality Platform (AQP) to monitor location, temperature, humidity and the concentration of gases (CO2 and NO2). We adapted the AQP software to extract the data and send it through our connectivity solution to our cloud applications, and to present the results by means of web-based dashboards. As we carried out the test cases, we were ecstatic to confirm that the impact of switching between satellite and terrestrial cellular networks was unnoticeable from a quality-of-experience point of view. Later, when we analysed the massive amount of data collected during the two days of testing, we were also elated to verify that, although we were out of coverage between 10% and 20% of the time for each of the networks, the convergent solution increased the overall availability of connectivity to 99% of the time. If it is true that there is no rest for the wicked, it is also true that luck favours those who wake up early. Not only did we enjoy the great weather and scenery of Cornwall during our tests, but our last activity, taking pictures and filming our van using drones, happened by chance, with the on-the-spot kind consent of the estate manager, at one of the most gorgeous locations in St Mawes: the grounds of Place Estate. Rodrigo Barreto, Darwin Lead Architect Darwin Innovation Group is an Oxfordshire-based R&D company focusing on autonomous vehicles and communications, both terrestrial and satellite. If you’d like to keep up with our articles, you can follow us on LinkedIn or Twitter. If you’re interested in working with us, take a look at our careers page.
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6 January 2022

Darwin and Telefónica Tech collaborate on autonomous vehicle cybersecurity

Darwin and Telefónica Tech collaborate on autonomous vehicle cybersecurity

Darwin Innovation Group’s ubiquitous communications technology enables CAVs to switch seamlessly between satellite and 5G networks. Telefónica Tech is part […]

Darwin Innovation Group’s ubiquitous communications technology enables CAVs to switch seamlessly between satellite and 5G networks. Telefónica Tech is part of Telefónica Group and provides cybersecurity and cloud solutions to Telefónica’s customer base. In a newly announced strategic partnership, Telefónica Tech and Darwin are building a security solution that will encompass terrestrial and satellite communication channels. This security solution will help to protect autonomous vehicles from cyber attacks. Communications R&D company Darwin Innovation Group and Telefónica Tech, Telefónica’s digital business unit, have signed a strategic agreement to develop a security solution for connected autonomous vehicles (CAVs) equipped with technology that combines satellite and terrestrial channels to achieve greater coverage. The combination of satellite networks and 5G opens up great possibilities for innovation and, in particular, for the use of autonomous vehicles. This combination requires its own security solution, so Telefónica Tech’s capabilities will be key. As a result of this agreement, Telefónica Tech’s security experts are working in coordination with Darwin’s development team, performing penetration tests on Darwin’s technology and using their experience and knowledge to address any identified vulnerabilities. With Telefónica Tech’s help and capabilities, Darwin will be able to ensure that its technology takes cybersecurity into account at the design level. The resulting cybersecurity shield will span multiple sectors, securing both terrestrial and satellite channels, so that different networks can be used to support each other without compromising security. Daniela Petrovic, co-founder of Darwin, says: “We are delighted to have Telefónica Tech as our partner in providing security solutions that span satellite and terrestrial communication channels. Providing a security shield for two very different technologies, with different security protocols and integration points, is no small challenge. As with everything we do at Darwin, we embrace new challenges, and we are confident that with the help of Telefónica Tech we will be able to deliver the ubiquitous and secure communication systems of the future.” María Jesús Almazor, CEO of Cybersecurity & Cloud at Telefónica Tech, stresses that “all technological advances must always be accompanied by robust cybersecurity measures and, of course, this includes critical assets such as autonomous vehicles. This agreement with Darwin will allow us to put our cybersecurity expertise to work to first secure and then enhance, from a completely innovative point of view, the communications and identity processes of these types of vehicles.” Darwin Innovation Group is an Oxfordshire-based R&D company focusing on autonomous vehicles and communications, both terrestrial and satellite. If you’d like to keep up with our articles, you can follow us on LinkedIn or Twitter. If you’re interested in working with us, take a look at our careers page.
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4 January 2022

How do satellites save lives?

How do satellites save lives?

Since the 1957 launch of the first artificial satellite, Sputnik 1, satellites have revolutionised the world. Even people who don’t […]

Since the 1957 launch of the first artificial satellite, Sputnik 1, satellites have revolutionised the world. Even people who don’t work with satellites still use them on a daily basis for tasks like navigation and watching television. There’s one particularly interesting satellite function we didn’t go into in our article on the applications of satellites, and that’s the way satellites are used to save lives. We’re going to take a look at that in this post. Emergency beacons Mobile phones have made it easy to call for help if you get lost or there’s an emergency. Even if you don’t have any signal with your network provider, most phones will still allow you to make emergency calls using other terrestrial networks. However, some places may not have any mobile signal at all, regardless of network. Unfortunately, these are often places where it’s easy to get into trouble, such as moors, deserts, mountains and oceans. This is where satellites come in. To communicate with a satellite, you don’t need a mobile tower within range; all you need is a clear line of sight to the sky. Most mobile phones can’t make contact with satellites, sadly; they can receive satnav signals from space, but they don’t have the power to send signals into space themselves. In the near future, phones may be designed to send emergency messages by satellite as a matter of course. Right now, though, if you want to make use of satellite coverage in an emergency, you’ll need to take satellite communication equipment with you into the wilderness: a satellite phone or satellite emergency beacon. Some emergency beacons will only transmit your coordinates to emergency services, but more elaborate versions allow you to send messages or make calls. Being able to send messages to emergency services allows you to communicate exactly what you need, but some opt for a simple ‘SOS only’ beacon with no requirement for ongoing payments, as in that case the only cost is the upfront cost of the beacon itself. Of course, if your beacon only communicates coordinates, it’s important not to move from those coordinates after activating it. In the UK, emergency beacons must legally be registered. They should never be activated unless it’s an actual emergency, as false alarms will pull emergency resources away from the places they’re needed. The International Cospas-Sarsat Programme If you use a satellite emergency beacon, there’s a good chance the Cospas-Sarsat search-and-rescue satellite network will come to your aid. Cospas-Sarsat satellites detect signals from emergency beacons and send the coordinates to the search-and-rescue authorities in the country where the beacon is located. They also alert the government of the country where the beacon was purchased or registered – so, for example, if you’re a UK resident who registered a beacon in the UK and then got into trouble in Nepal, the authorities in both Nepal and the UK will be alerted. Cospas-Sarsat is an international programme and started life as a collaboration between Canada, France, the USA and the Soviet Union: an impressive show of cooperation, given that it was begun in the late 1970s, squarely in the Cold War. The first Cospas-Sarsat rescue was on 10 September 1982, when three people were retrieved after a plane crash in the Canadian province of British Columbia. On the second page of this Cospas-Sarsat bulletin (issue 25) from 2013, you can read the personal account that the pilot gave thirty years later. According to the 2020 Cospas-Sarsat system data report, the system had a hand in rescuing at least 51,512 people between 1982 and 2020: an average of over 1,300 people per year. Satellites and disaster management From the vantage point of space, it’s often possible to predict, identify and monitor large-scale disasters: floods, hurricanes and wildfires, for example. In order to mitigate natural disasters and arrange rescues, authorities need information quickly. Where are the fires springing up? Where might people have been stranded after a flood? These are questions that satellites can answer. The European Space Agency (ESA)’s Earth Watching project aids in disaster relief by using satellites to monitor current and potential disasters. The project was started in 1993, in response to flooding in Germany. In its overview of fires, ESA clearly conveys how much of a difference satellite imagery can make in an emergency: Every year many hectares of forest and savannah are destroyed all around the world, with consequences on the entire ecosystem (human life, animal/plant habitats, carbon cycle disturbance, property loss etc.) ... Prevention and early warning are the only means of reducing these costs. Satellite data can rapidly provide a general overview of the situation over large areas of terrain, detect fires, identify risk areas and finally assess the damage by mapping the extent of the burned areas. Satellites can also be used to broadcast warning messages. Japan’s J-Alert system uses satellite broadcasts to give residents early warning of events such as earthquakes, tsunami, severe weather and volcanic eruptions. Despite their distance from us, satellites can have a very real, personal impact on the lives of people on Earth. This can be seen in many ways, but it’s perhaps most dramatically visible in the thousands of people who are alive today because satellites helped to rescue them at a desperate moment. Projects like Cospas-Sarsat and Earth Watching are an incredible testament to the power of cooperation, compassion and satellite technology. Darwin Innovation Group is an Oxfordshire-based R&D company focusing on autonomous vehicles and communications, both terrestrial and satellite. If you’d like to keep up with our articles, you can follow us on LinkedIn or Twitter. If you’re interested in working with us, take a look at our careers page.
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31 December 2021

Happy New Year from Darwin

Happy New Year from Darwin

Happy New Year from Darwin! In many ways, 2021 has been a challenging year for all of us, but it’s […]

Happy New Year from Darwin! In many ways, 2021 has been a challenging year for all of us, but it’s also been a year filled with bright moments. We’ve loved planting trees, welcoming guests onto the Darwin Autonomous Shuttle and delivering Christmas presents at Harwell via drone. To innovate, you need a realistic perspective, so you can look at the current situation and see where it could be improved. But positivity and playfulness are also important for innovation. A lot can be achieved with an interest in new ideas and in the good they can do. Innovation comes from a belief that things can be better: fairer, safer, greener, more efficient. At Darwin, we’re lucky to have a diverse, skilled, passionate team who are prepared to work towards that better future. From ubiquitous communications to air quality measurement to autonomous passenger services, we’ve been working hard to innovate at Darwin. We can’t wait to show you what comes next. See you in 2022! Darwin Innovation Group is an Oxfordshire-based R&D company focusing on autonomous vehicles and communications, both terrestrial and satellite. If you’d like to keep up with our articles, you can follow us on LinkedIn or Twitter. If you’re interested in working with us, take a look at our careers page.
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