The Gravity Well Getting You Down? Robot Asteroid Mining for Fun and Profit

Asteroid Mining

For all the awesome superpowers that understanding physics grants us, there are some things that drag us down. Gravity really wants to keep us on this planet.  It takes 50 kilograms of rocket propellant to deliver just one kilo of cargo to low earth orbit.  As gravity gets weaker however, things get easier.  Another four kilos of fuel will get that cargo into geostationary equatorial orbit (GEO).  After that though, the physics of inertia in a vacum takes over.  Just two more kilograms of fuel could deliver our hypothetical cargo to pretty much anywhere in the solar system. The problem is that you have to bring fuel with you. Those six kilos of fuel needed to escape the gravity well from Low Earth Orbit (LEO), require 600 kilos of fuel to escape earth gravity.

There are lots of companies like SpaceX and Blue Origin tinkering with the economics of scale for LEO and GEO delivery systems but only a few thinking further than that.  What if we didn’t have to escape the gravity well with all that fuel?  What if we could establish factories and mine the needed materials for space exploration – in space? That’s where astroid mining comes in.

Arkyd-6 Satellite
Photo Credit: Planetary Resouces

There are a couple of different approaches in play at the moment.  According to Wired, Planetary Resources raised $21 million of venture capital for an Earth-observation program called Ceres. They are planning to launch ten earth observation satellites with an observational capacity specifically designed for prospecting. Their approach is essentially to sell earth observation data to terrestrial customers while testing and refining the technologies that will enable them to identify and later capture the water or heavy metals contained in near-earth asteroids. This in turn will facilitate the production of fuel and spacecraft off-planet.

Another player is Deep Space Industries.  Later this year they are planning to launch Prospector-X™. This is a spacecraft financed through a partnership with the Luxembourg Government and designed to test the technologies needed for mining asteroids and building a supply chain in outer space. The company then plans to license or sell its water-based propulsion system, radiation-tolerant avionics, and optical navigation system to others who want to take part in the bonanza to come.

Spiderfab Robotic Platform Assembler
Photo Credit:
Tethers Unlimited

Once we have enough information on the location of these resources, mines will have to be set up and infrastructure must be build off-planet.  According to The Economist, one company, Tethers Unlimited is building and testing robots to build structures with robotic arms using 3D printing techniques while in orbit. Exactly this kind of orbital technology could be supplied with the raw materials obtained from the mining of asteroids.

All these projects are still in their infancy. But just imagine what kind of value could be created if the economics of building things in space was made 1000x more efficient than the approach we’ve been using up until now.

Against the backdrop of a crackdown on ICOs, CBN Foundation’s CloudEO token gets ‘no action’ letter and regulatory support in Liechtenstein

The crypto world has been rattled in the past few weeks. A number of national watchdogs have issued notices about coin and token offerings (ICOs), including several Chinese authorities’ joint statement on ‘Preventing Risks of Fundraising Through Coin Offering’, followed by ordering cryptocurrency platforms to shut down trading between virtual and traditional currencies, and declaring ICOs ‘illegal’.

Crypto enthusiasts are becoming anxious, and worry that these reviews and resulting pressures on ICOs and tokens – often used to fund blockchain innovation – will stifle blockchain development and the crypto industry as a whole.

Against this concerning backdrop however, positive news came from Liechtenstein last week! The CBN Foundation – an organization preparing to distribute CloudEO tokens received a “No Action” letter from the Financial Market Authority of Liechtenstein (FMA), indicating that it would not take legal actions should the CBN Foundation engage in the activity outlined within its Whitepaper.

Liechtenstein has so far been relatively quiet in entering the ICO scene. Its authorities have been carefully studying the new blockchain phenomena to establish the merits and regulatory principles for ruling in the field. As a result of its studies, the FMA has been supportive in providing an open and constructive framework for those with innovative business models, like that of the CBN Foundation.

Sasha Borovik, a Harvard-educated lawyer, and general counsel for the CBN Foundation’s CloudEO token stated: “Liechtenstein is participating in the European Economic Area and around 5,000 of 23,000 EU legal acts are in force there. The country has the most developed and comprehensive legal framework for Stiftungen (“foundations”) – arguably the most suitable legal form for driving blockchain initiatives. Our experience with country’s senior representatives in government and regulators indicates their strong dedication to transparency in business and desire to promote the country’s image as a legitimate finance centre, with advanced regulation of virtual currencies and related business models.”

The CloudEO token team, led by Manfred Krischke, Head of the CBN Foundation, met with the Head of FMA and government representatives in Vaduz three weeks ago. “We shared our vision, exchanged ideas, and left our Whitepaper with them”.  Mr. Krischke added: “They move fast and seem very knowledgeable. We have managed to demonstrate that the CloudEO token is a ‘utility token’. In particular, we have agreed that there will be no fiat currency involved in our token distribution, and the token price will be denominated in only one virtual currency – Ether.”

General Counsel S. Borovik added that “It was very important for them that while the CloudEO token provides numerous benefits to its holders, is neither tied to profits or equity in any entity nor will it have any other attributes of an investment contract or a security. “

With what is going on in the ICO field, receiving guidance from a regulator is a huge step for the CloudEO token.  “I believe that this sends a positive message to those looking to issue coins and tokens who may review our Whitepaper for guidance,” adds Sasha Borovik.

For further information please contact Sasha Borovik at :  sborovik@cloudeo-ag.com

About the CBN Foundation and its CloudEO token

The CBN Foundation will be releasing its CloudEOtoken in the Fall of 2017.  The Foundation has been established to build an ecosystem of geodata providers offering affordable geoservices to individuals, businesses, industry, and the public sector.

Monitoring of the planet Earth is a rapidly growing industry. The data produced about Earth is referred to as “geodata” – information that has or could have a ‘geotag’, including: satellite and aerial imagery, elevation data, data on moving objects, tracking info, field indexes, etc.

The data collected is critical to building and expand the Internet of Things (IoT) which, combined with Big Data and Artificial Intelligence (AI), will be driven by geocontext. As the number of machines and services that demand connectivity and location monitoring increases, the geoservices sector is estimated to generate $150–$270 billion of revenue globally and is projected to expand. To stimulate this expansion, CBN Foundation strives to lower the entry and access barriers to the geoservice sector for the broader public. Its mission is to enable crowdsourcing, machine-to-machine communication, and exchange of geospatial information with automated transactions, providing affordable ‘micro geoservices’, which include geodata, software and IT infrastructures.

The CBN will be run by CBN Foundation, a non-for-profit foundation established in the Principality of Liechtenstein. To participate in the CBN, members must acquire CloudEO tokens generated by the Foundation on the Ethereum blockchain (“CloudEO”, cryptoexchange symbol: CLT).

The project team initiating the establishment of this Foundation has already built a marketplace using data from multiple sources and experimented with tokens, using them in a project with the European Space Agency (ESA) which enabled transactions between the ESA and international R&D communities.

For answers to frequently asked questions, the description of the token valuation method and the list of the defined terms used in the geoservices industry, please go to www.cbn.foundation

Press Release – September 12, 2017

An opinion on the Chinese regulator’s ICO ban

[Thus article is a translation of the original article on anycoin.news]

Sasha Borovik, General Counsel for CloudEO tokens, was asked by the Odessa-based Russian language #AnyCoin for his opinion on the Chinese regulator’s ICO ban in the country.

“Earlier this year, the World Economic Forum in its Whitepaper on blockchain addressing the regulators around the world asked them, when it comes to regulating the blockchain phenomena: “Do Not Harm!”.

Earlier this week, China has harmed its internal blockchain development. It is a move similar to the Chinese government building its own internet and blocking access to the www for the mainstream population in the country. The Chinese regulators are also blocking international social media for its mainstream. But today’s blockchain is powered mainly by geeks and, as they are overcoming the ban on Facebook, they will work around this ban on ICO’s. However, the ban will slow down the development of blockchain technologies in the country making Chinese crypto enthusiasts invest internationally.

Blockchain needs to be regulated by supranational bodies, the equivalent of an Electronic Freedom Forum. People need to be allowed to experiment. Yes, some are making irresponsible claims, and not all are equally understanding the technology. The ecosystem needs to watch what players are doing in the space, while regulators need to watch for securities regulations violations and prevent frauds, but blank bans similar to the one in China are not going to work and they are counter-productive”.

CBN Foundation has been working closely with outside counsels and regulators to structure CloudEO token in a legal and compliant way. The company expects a No Action letter from the regulator in Liechtenstein shortly.

Satellite Based Internet – What Does It Mean for Blockchain?

Stuff in Space

SpaceX is planning to launch 4,425 broadband satellites in 2019 with an potential further buildout of 7500 satellites to come later. The CubeSats are intended to blanket the globe with low-latency broadband internet. This could be a game-changer as only just over half of the world population currently has regular access to an internet connection.

It could also be a major step forward for decentralised networks including blockchain because it would allow users to access a connection to the internet (and hence blockchain) regardless of where they are located. One company called Blockstream has already pioneered running Bitcoin nodes via satellite. It’s an innovative enterprise but the implimentation is more focused and limited. Their system only includes four satellites. Based on the available technical documentation it is also less user-friendly and  significantly less scaleable than the system described by SpaceX.

There are of course also currently ISPs that provide an internet connection via satellite.  According to Ars Technica and FCC measurements, such ISPs have latency of around 600ms.  The 25 and 35ms speeds proposed by SpaceX for their satellite mesh network aren’t as fast as the latest glass-fiber connections but still outclass your average dsl or cable systems. The availability of low latency broadband blanketed over the entire world would mean new possibilities for IoT, distributed computing and Blockchain applications even in areas with little connectivity.

One final consideration is the fact that real estate in space is a bit crowded these days. The Union of Concerned Scientists maintains a public database listing active 1,459 satellites spinning above our heads. The SpaceX launch would mean nearly quadrupling the number of active satellites in use. This alone is not a problem but the mounting amount of debris in orbit is an issue.  NASA’s Orbital Debris Program is tracking over half a million pieces of space junk over the size of a marble. There’s a great visualisation of this data at the Stuff In Space website. The SpaceX satellites should however have a lifespan of 5-7 years and burn up in the atmosphere as their orbits deteriorate. It’s worth thinking about what we send up nonetheless.

What would a teapot know about socioeconomic dynamics?

Picture of near-siberian gas flare.

I say there is a teapot orbiting the earth, passing over us right now. It’s a normal-sized white one, with pink flowers and green leaves covering its body. Is there some (non-probabilistic) argument you can make to prove that my statement is false? I didn’t think so (neither did Bertrand). Is there something you can say that would prove that, if such a teapot would have a camera transmitting imagery of the earth, could it estimate socioeconomic parameters such as urbanization, economic growth or population? Didn’t think so either.

But at the Department of Geography of UCLA there are researchers who (I presume) don’t believe in the teapot, so they decided to use normal satellites instead, which you don’t have to believe in to use!

They, M.M. Bennett and L.C. Smith, looked at multitemporal data coming from primarily one satellite, the Defense Meteorological Satellite Program – Operational Linescan System (or DMSP-OLS as they like to call it for short). DMSP-OLS has been taking pictures of the earth’s surface and measuring light radiation coming from our houses, factories, cars and, to a lesser extent, moonlight reflecting in bodies of water for quite some time now. This data, along with data on infrared radiance from night-time earth, can be used as a pretty good proxy for the socioeconomic dynamics of humanity. Imagine flying 850 km above a Siberian oil-field, the only lights being gas flares and population centers. Or why not follow a fleet of hundreds of fishing boats on the pacific ocean on a clear cool night? These are all things that can be seen from a satellite. And the data can be used for good! In fact, measurements of gas flares, as poetic as they might sound, can be a good approximation for carbon emissions. Since burning gas that can’t be shipped to the market for economic reasons is not a great thing for the environment, it’s good to have an overview of it. Strangely enough, not all gas companies are happy to tell the World Bank or the NOAA exactly how much gas they’ve been flaring lately, or maybe they don’t know themselves. Luckily, using satellite data a survey can be made in little time.

To conclude the teapot-argument, no one could argue against the knowledge my teapot would have about the socioeconomic changes of humanity. It would, in fact, be omniscient!

Drones vs. Satellites

DGI Drone

There’s been a lot of talk recently about how drone imagery could replace satellite based earth observation and geoservices. What are the strengths and weaknesses of each? For what application are they appropriate?

Drones have a number of advantages. For some applications they are less costly and and have better availability than satellite based geo-imaging. Real-time imaging is one of the primary issues.  Since satellites travel along geosynchronous orbits, any given satellite only has a partial view of the earth. For many non-time sensitive applications this isn’t a problem but most organisations don’t have the resources to call upon a dedicated network of satellites. Search and rescue applications are examples where drone based imagery wins out due to the time-bound and local nature, for instance finding a missing person or group. Another area where drones win out is disaster response. These types of on-demand geoservices are ripe for the kind of micro-geoservices and crowdsourcing outlined in the CloudEO whitepaper.

Field
Photo credit: Planet.com.

Satellites have the edge however when it comes to scale and longevity. Each country has its own regulations but many are taking their lead from the US. Federal Aviation Administration.  The FAA has capped the altitude at which drones can fly to 122 meters (400 feet). In the area of precision agriculture that means for example that a drone would have to make multiple passes to capture areas in question and then stitch the images together with software after landing.

Another drone weakness has to do with time. In the agricultural and climate science areas, longitudinal data is very important. Satellite imagery providers like Farmlogs allow farmers to see high resolution images over time of exactly the areas they need without flying their own drones or using stitching. Other less specialised services such as Planet Labs offer next-generation imaging using cube satellites which piggyback on other space launches to reach orbit. Forestry, conservation, and business intelligence are just some of the areas which benefit from the scale and longitudinal nature of satellite images taken sequentially over a longer time frame.

Mozambique Islands
Photo credit: planet.com.

In the future the market for geodata will likely be supplied with imagery from a mix of sources. Conventional professional drones will supply certain industries while satellites and high altitude drones with flight time measured in days or weeks will probably continue to supply applications where scale and longevity are prized. A number of major technology and aerospace firms are exploring the limits of what drone technology can do and how it may be able to compete with satellites in both the communications area and the earth observation/imaging market. Facebook, Airbus and Google all have some skin in the game not to mention entrants like SpaceX so the next few years promise to be full of new possibilities.

Two Ways of Stopping Illicit Fishing: Satellites and Blockchain

Global Fishing Watch Map

Overfishing is one of the most difficult environmental problems to control. According to the World Wildlife Foundation, ‘More than 85 percent of the world’s fisheries have been pushed to or beyond their biological limits’. That means that fishers face an economic incentive to fish in Marine Protected Areas or to use destructive prohibited methods like bottom trawling and fishing with explosives or poison.

It’s unlikely that this problem can be solved through purely technical means but  some recent innovations are bringing together the tools for reducing economic incentive for cheating. One promising technology in the Earth observation field comes from the organisation Global Fishing Watch and their satellite provider, SkyTruth which leverages satellite data to track 200,000+ vessels, including more than 60,000 commercial fishing boats via the AIS system. The resulting data is then analysed using big data and AI to determine which boats are likely fishing and which may be trying to game the system (ie. turning off their AIS transponder). Anyone can view the data directly, which allows resource managers and law enforcement much better tools to do their jobs. This technology-enabled supply-side intervention is only half the story though.

Fish Scanning with Phone
Photo credit: http://provenance.org/

One of the other major problems lies on the demand side.  The in-transparency of the fish supply chain is huge part of the problem. WWF estimates that pirate fish products are worth $10-23.5 billion annually. Reducing the economic incentive for this activity requires transparent supply chain tracking for legally procured fish and a transparent chain of custody that is independently verifiable by the end consumer. In this area, a number of blockchain firms are starting to propose decentralised solutions for verifying the origin of fish from net to plate. The most prominent among them is Provenance.org which has already tested an Ethereum-based system for tracking batches of fish through the supply chain through to canneries in Indonesia.

At the moment there isn’t any direct collaboration between those working on tracking fishing boats via AIS and those using the blockchain to track fish from the boats through to the consumer. A blockchain-based proof of where fish were caught, independently linked to timestamped satellite images would undoubtedly increase the value of origin-proofed fish and contribute to the solution.

The Democratization Of The Value Of Geodata

With an ever increasing grade of automation combined with artificial intelligence we are about to enter a phase where machines will be not only communicating with machines in terms of an exchange of information but also in terms of exchanging payments for property, information, services and access.

This development will foster the need for payment solutions and legal contracts between machines and it looks like tokens are well suited for the task. Other than for example bitcoin, tokens are not only a mere vehicle for a digital exchange of value in the first place, but a smart contract defining the nature of an agreement between counterparties. These counterparties don’t have to be machines but they could be. IOTA took the lead among crypto currencies in enabling micro payments between machines and the CloudEO token is expected to take this idea even further. The CloudEO token will not only function as a payment method between machines but it will also serve as smart contract between machines.

The $270bn geodata and geoservices market is a sector where automation will most likely happen faster and with a greater impact than in any other industry. When you think about it, almost any exchange of information in a machine to machine communication environment has a geotag of some kind. We collect and share geodata all the time with the mobile devices we carry around. But until now there is no solution how to benefit from the value of this data as an individual. What do you want to do – individually negotiate terms and prices with google? And even if this would be possible, how to handle the subsequently triggered millions and millions of micropayments?

The CloudEO token seems perfectly suited to accommodate these requirements. Individuals, corporates and machines will be able to participate in the geodata ecosystem and benefit from it. It will change the way we think about the data we collect every day and it will bring to life new services and business models not existent today.

Is the Satellite based Earth Observation Industry finally coming out of the Eclipse?

Watching the footage of the eclipse and specifically the moment when the sun came back somehow reminded me of the status of the satellite Earth observation industry.

There are few technical developments which have changed more the way humans see the world than actually watching at it from above from satellites. Having the means to monitor the earth surface on a regular basis and combining these data with other data of geo context will affect almost every part of human activities.

Over the last decades’ optimism has always been very large that soon commercial service based on satellite images will evolve. But looking at today’s industry with its 5B$ revenues shows that it is still largely a project driven business where the government is still the most important customer. The reasons for that are surely manifold, but one the most important reasons lies in the structure of the industry itself.

It is almost like in pre-industrial times that for each new product the full value change is developed. A young entrepreneur has to handle everything from finding and processing the raw data, establishing the development and production facility and setting up the complete customer interaction from marketing to invoicing and accounting. On top, he has to buy expensive perpetual licenses for data and software. He is facing unsurmountable entry barriers. Some satellite operators consider to integrate over the full value chain and deliver end services but then find themselves struggling with the fact that they become competitors to their main customer base which they need so dearly to justify huge investments in expensive space infrastructure.

When we created CloudEO five years ago we started to disrupt the industry by bringing the principles of the Sharing Economy to this industry. An entrepreneur can come, find everything he needs to produce and market a competitive geo-service without heaving to do considerable upfront investments. He can rent data, software, infrastructure, market place or even without paying just simply accept a revenue sharing scheme. The market just starts to show that this will create a dramatic change in the industry.

Even more now the new blockchain based smart contracts technology is on its way to democratize this industry further and to connect it to the large 270B$ geo-spatial industry.

Since CloudEO strongly believes that this will further radically change the industry we decided to take the lead and to open that technology up to the benefit of the full community.

By creating the nonprofit foundation CBN (CloudEO Blockchain Network) and introducing a Crypto Token for intelligent smart contracts we are inviting the full community to participate in that open source development.

Blockchain based smart contracts will revolutionize the industry and enabling truly automated geo-services for the future IoT and AI markets. In the near future everybody can offer effortlessly paid-for geoservices and get access to services without the need for large centralized platforms.

We believe the industry is about to leave the eclipse and develops towards a bright future.

The CloudEO Crypto Token Generating Event – Made in Liechtenstein

As token generating receives traction in the crypto- and biz communities, the question often arises what jurisdiction is optimal for experimenting with tokens. “Currently, there is no such optimal jurisdiction”, says Sasha Borovik, the CFO and legal counsel at CloudEO, one of the initiators of CBN Foundation, whose tokens are to enable crowdsourcing, machine-to-machine communication, and exchange of geospatial information with automated transactions, providing affordable ‘micro geoservices’, which include geodata, software and IT infrastructures. “Tokens are such a new thing, that legislators are only beginning to understand and regulate them. When you look for the best jurisdiction, you should try to predict what regulations will be here in 6 months to one year”.

The initiators of the CBN have opted for Liechtenstein, a relatively unknown jurisdiction when it comes to tokens. This has not deferred the initiators of the CBN Foundation. Here is why we have chosen Liechtenstein after reviewing a number of other jurisdictions, including Switzerland, Singapore, Hong Kong, Luxemburg and even Gibraltar.

Liechtenstein has the most developed and comprehensive legal framework for Stiftungen (“foundations”) – arguably the most suitable legal entity for driving blockchain initiatives. The country is extremely well positioned – bordered by Switzerland to the west and south and Austria to the east and north. It takes the best from these two legal systems incorporating the laws and legal principles into its own regulation. Liechtenstein has an area of just over 160 square kilometers (62 square miles) and is the fourth-smallest in Europe with an estimated population of 37,000. Economically, Liechtenstein has one of the highest gross domestic products per person in the world, when adjusted for purchasing power parity, and the highest when not adjusted by purchasing power parity. It is easily accessible.

Liechtenstein is a principality governed under a constitutional monarchy. It has a form of mixed constitution in which political power is shared by the monarch and a democratically elected parliament. There is a two-party system and a form of representative democracy in which the prime minister and head of government is responsible to parliament. The judiciary is independent of the executive and the legislature. Liechtenstein is participating in the European Economic Area (EEA). As of June 2016, around 5,000 of 23,000 EU legal acts were in force in the EEA. There is some further cooperation with the EU via Switzerland, as Liechtenstein is highly integrated with the Swiss economy, being in the monetary union with Switzerland. Liechtenstein is one of the most educated nations. In 2006 Programme for International Student Assessment report, coordinated by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, ranked Liechtenstein’s education as the 10th best in the world. In 2012, Liechtenstein had the highest PISA-scores of any European country. The country has been known in the past as a tax haven; however, it is no longer on any blacklists of uncooperative tax haven countries. Our experience with country’s senior representatives of the government and regulators indicates their strong dedication to transparency in business and desire to promote the country’s image as a legitimate finance center with advanced regulation of virtual currency and related business models. We have found them easily approachable, willing to discuss ideas, strongly committed to compliance and ambitious when it comes to experimenting with new concepts and exploring the new opportunities that blockchain has to offer. These are the main criteria that we use when looking for a place to launch our blockchain initiative.