Outer space is an infinite source of optimism, learning, and imagination that unites us all.
The intrigue of ‘the great beyond’ is something that brands have been tapping into for decades. The visual splendour of the cosmos is interlaced with so much of our daily lives, from the ultramodern, minimal, and utility-driven design of furniture and gadgets we can’t live without, to the sleek, streamlined bodies and interiors of the vehicles we drive, to the fashions we wear. Outer space is the inspiration for so much of what we strive to be.
It’s the very notion of envisioning a life beyond this planet that is galvanizing brands and consumers alike. While life on Mars (and beyond) may represent a far-off future, tapping into a tomorrow we can barely conceive of today has all the elements of a great brand experience. Designing space-inspired experiences, stories, and products takes our minds to a place where creativity flourishes, where we’re tasked with thinking differently about ourselves and our future.
The industrialization of outer space still sounds like the stuff of science fiction. The very idea that a business could turn a profit amongst the stars is still, to many, an alien notion. But skepticism aside, experts insist that exploration of the universe beyond our planet will usher in a new era of historic human achievement and advancement, even within the next decade.
For the past fifteen years, many of the most forward-thinking companies on the planet have set their sights on the next frontier. Private sector interests have wrestled the reins of space travel from government control, each with their own ambitious plans to build bigger rockets and establish colonies on far-flung planets. Trailblazers like Elon Musk, Sir Richard Branson, and Jeff Bezos have become household names.
Granted, the industry is still niche and expectations continue to outpace reality — for now. Outer space is widely regarded as a playground for billionaire tech-tycoons with a penchant for PR stunts (like rigging a cherry-red Tesla convertible to a rocket bound for Mars), but the success of these high-profile companies has inspired hundreds of other entrepreneurs — or astropreneurs — to take a stab at achieving something unique for themselves in the new space race.
Exploring New Horizons
The bewildering nature of all that exists beyond our world is great kindling for ideas and ingenuity. As businesses evolve and begin to look skyward for new inspiration, resourceful partners will be a necessary part of that evolution. As emergent entrepreneurs and tech firms march forward into a brave new spaceconomy, this shift will undoubtedly influence client rosters for years to come.
To be sure, there is no grander vista of possibility and opportunity than outer space. As we endeavour to discover our place in the universe, our focus on emerging trends and technologies will endure, to augment our insights and enrich our perspectives.
Small Satellites, Big Data
Small satellites first garnered attention over a decade ago, when academic institutions began encouraging students to build nanosatellites (like CubeSats), miniature satellites ranging from a few ounces to several hundred pounds, that could travel out of orbit to gather scientific data.
Over the past few years, private sector companies have been eager to develop small satellites of their own to gather business intelligence and test out new technologies.
Small satellites are being used to more accurately detect weather patterns, closely monitor oil inventory levels, provide real-time images of Earth, track cargo ships, study deforestation, and even identify how many cars are in the parking lot of a retailer. These new data streams from outer space help generate unique insights and economic activity across a myriad of industries and sectors.
Big data is transforming the way many of our clients do business and the way we do business with them. At T4G, we’re helping our partners in the insurance industry evolve through new digital tools and tactics, and they’re exploring new technologies, like looking at satellite weather analytics to better understand and monitor natural catastrophes and assess damage in near real time. Our clients in the retail sector are also benefiting from satellite weather data, with hyper-accurate super-localized forecasting, companies are gaining valuable lead time, particularly when scaled across hundreds or thousands of locations, and taking advantage of shifting climate patterns before the competition catches wind.
Take, for example, Wal-Mart. According to sales data, consumers don’t like buying berries during hot, windy days. By utilizing advanced weather data analytics from satellites, Wal-Mart reacted and shifted its retail strategy, boosting ads for berries in locations experiencing low wind and mild temperatures, and reducing berry supply in areas where conditions were less favourable. The result? Store sales of berries in temperate areas as much as tripled.
As the orbital environment becomes increasingly crowded, taking advantage of this satellite data will become paramount. Not only to ensure we’re deriving the maximum benefit from space-bound technology, but also to ensure the safe deployment of these devices.
Space Angels—A Blessing in the Skies
Astronomical launch costs aside, once a business is already up and running, one of the biggest hurdles to overcome for newcomers in the space sector is access to capital. In the past few years, space start-ups have benefited from crowdfunding as a means of filling their coffers. Investments by way of private equity and venture capital (space angels) have also grown from a trickle to a steady stream, paving the way to viability for many astropreneurs.
Space-industry accelerators and incubators are also emerging in the market as facilitators of growth in space-focused start-ups. Although they vary in how they work, they can be instrumental in helping start-ups avoid common pitfalls, and grow their businesses rapidly.
Located in the heart of downtown Toronto, MaRS Discovery District, one of the world’s largest urban incubator hubs, plays a fundamental role in connecting budding astropreneurs with angel investors through the MaRS Innovation initiative. Part tech accelerator, part seed fund-raiser, MaRS provides an easy gateway for backers to finance young enterprises and recruit experienced entrepreneurs in the space industry. The largest initiative of its kind in Canada, MaRS has fast-tracked the growth of more than 1,000 up-starts whose technologies and solutions can meaningfully improve lives. T4G is excited to be a part of this exciting endeavour, managing MaRS’ complex IT infrastructure in addition to providing ongoing strategic advice and support to ensure growing start-ups stay connected and keep their data protected at all times.
Fly Me to the Moon
Less than 10 years ago, to purchase a single round-trip ticket to the moon — at $30M a pop — was a fantasy reserved exclusively for the extremely wealthy and eccentric. Today, pre-bookings start at (comparatively) more affordable $100K. These trips promise to deliver the sensation of floating, gravity-free, and a view from 120 kilometres above the Earth’s surface.
Another giant leap towards the future of space tourism practicality is the reusability of launch vessels. The capabilities of rocket technology being developed by big players like SpaceX, Blue Origin, and Virgin Galactic will significantly decrease launch costs and increase the number of missions one vessel can undertake.
Although we’re not sending anyone into space just yet, we do understand that the age of consumer passivity is long gone. Prospective travelers, both real world and virtual, demand immersive experiences. With many of our clients in the tourism industry clamouring to offer authenticity and cultural exploration, we use digital tools, technologies and content to deliver distinctive physical experiences and creative virtual interactions.
To Infinity—and Beyond
We live in an age where yesterday’s unknown can quickly become today’s major disruptor. Space technology is just the latest in a growing list of once-implausible innovations, joining the likes of artificial intelligence, blockchain, and virtual reality.
Today’s space endeavours strike both competitive and collaborative tones. Nations that once viewed each other as adversaries now cooperate toward mutual ends. American, Japanese, European, and Canadian astronauts live, work, and play with Russian cosmonauts on the International Space Station, a location itself built on international cooperation.
This readiness to work together, despite ongoing political tension on Earth, gives many hope that the current spirit of partnership in space will continue to influence the future of humanity —wherever we may go.