Amazon Web Services‘ (AWS) annual re:Invent conference is currently underway in Las Vegas, Nevada, with the company making several announcements around its cloud-based offerings this week.

One of the more significant announcements this week is AWS Ground Station, which is the company’s brand new solution aimed at drastically reducing time to action and costs surround data.

More specifically AWS Ground Station leverages Amazon’s existing network of antenna sporting data centres across the globe, utilising them to tackle one of the biggest pain points for its customers, many of whom are said to rely heavily on satellites for data.

Addressing a key need

“Satellites are being used by more and more business universities, and governments for a variety of applications, including weather forecasting, surface imaging, and communications,” explains a AWS press release about the announcement.

“To do this today, customers must build or lease ground antennas to communicate with satellites. This is a significant undertaking and cost because customers often require antennas in multiple countries to download data when and where they need it without having to wait for a satellite to pass over a desired location,” it continues.

Addressing this key concern, AWS Ground Station is said to offer an easier and more cost-effective service for customers, says Amazon Web Services.

Currently there are 12 fully managed ground station antennas available across the globe, with AWS adding that it has several more planned for availability in the coming month and year.

Based on AWS’ graphic for the Ground Station (pasted below), one of those future locations will be found inside the company’s proposed data centre for South Africa, which will be erected in Cape Town.

As such, it should be interesting to see how many South African companies will be keen to sign up for the Ground Station once the data centre becomes fully operational.

The current AWS Ground Station network of antennas, and future sites.

Tackling infrastructure concerns

One of the benefits of AWS Ground Station currently being outlined by the cloud services firm is the cost savings that companies stand to make if they implement such a solution. More specifically AWS estimates it to be up to 80 percent in certain cases, with a pay-per-use model being touted.

“Satellite data is incredibly useful for building a wide range of important applications, but it is super complex and expensive to build and operate the infrastructure needed to do so. A few years back our customers asked us if we could remove that cost and complexity, and the more we thought about it, the more we realised that AWS with its global footprint was uniquely positioned to solve this challenge,” notes Charlie Bell, SVP of AWS.

“Today, we are giving satellite customers the ability to dynamically scale their ground station antenna use based in actual need. And they will be able to ingest data straight into AWS, where they can securely store, analyse, and transmit their products to their customers without needing to worry about building all fo the infrastructure themselves,” he concludes.

Therefore it looks like AWS Ground Station should be of particular interest for startups and university researchers, both of which were highlighted by AWS as potential customers that could make the most of the new service.

Some of the initial customers that will be making use of AWS Ground Station’s network include DigitalGlobe, Lockheed Martin, Capella Space and HawkEye 360 to name a few. Hopefully a couple of South African customers will be added to that list in the not too distant future.

One of the antennas that Lockheed Martin has created to use with AWS Ground Station.