Right now we have a clear focus on TerraSAR-X

Right now we have a clear focus on TerraSAR-X

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Our aim is to be a world leader as one stop solution provider of geo-information services to global customers. Infoterra Group is hundred percent owned by Astrium, which is one of the major space companies in Europe belonging to EADS. Nikolaus Faller
Nikolaus Faller
Chief Operating Officer
Infoterra GmbH

Q. We would like to have a brief overview of the company, how did it start and the vision behind it?

A Our aim is to be a world leader as one stop solution provider of geo-information services to global customers. Infoterra Group is hundred percent owned by Astrium, which is one of the major space companies in Europe belonging to EADS. Infoterra Group consists of three companies – Infoterra GmbH, Infoterra France SAS and Infoterra Ltd, in UK.

Shortly after the foundation of Astrium from Matra Marconi Space and Dornier Satellitensysteme, it was quite clear that providing geo-information services is a different business to space infrastructure. It was realised that this business should be based on a more flexible and short notice delivery model. Over the last years, we have converted all our assets into our offices in France, Germany and UK, namely Infoterra. We began with Infoterra in the UK, which was previously NRSC. The service activities in Germany were outsourced and placed under the Infoterra GmbH with the clear target to focus on the business with the upcoming German satellite TerraSAR-X. In France we combined the service assets from Astrium France into Infoterra France, including the mapping business of former ISTAR.

We also have major shareholding, especially in France; where Astrium is a major shareholder of Spot Image SA and also holds shares in IIGN France International. Both are quite closely connected to the Infoterra Group. Actually we are performing an integration process, to integrate more or less nationally focused portfolios into one consolidated portfolio which is interesting for the world market of geo-information. Our UK office provides data hosting and dissemination services, as well as airborne and spaceborne remote sensing data services. From Germany, we provide data services based on the upcoming German TerraSAR-X satellite where Infoterra holds the exclusive commercial exploitation rights. From France, we provide photogrammetric and remote sensing systems and services.

Q. Is your customer base limited to government sector only?

A The business is still public market dominated but we are also trying to provide services to more and more private sector agencies, especially in the oil and gas exploration sector, which we are addressing mainly from the UK, as well as in the telecommunications sector, handled by our French subsidiary.

Q. How long have you been active in South East Asian market?

A For more than ten years, South East Asia, besides Europe, has been a major market for the SPOT satellite family, and still is for SPOT5. In Germany, Infoterra has been working on airborne radar based mapping services since 1995. We also started our radar mapping business in Indonesia at this time. A major and exclusive partnership we have in Asia regarding TerraSAR-X is with PASCO in Japan. Users of TerraSAR-X include major Japanese public and private agencies. By having a Japanese partner and doing all Japan-related things together, we will know about any upcoming opportunities in Japan. This growing business in the whole Asia Pacific region has pushed us setting up a local office to help our customers develop their own business from products or services derived from Infoterra’solutions. We are also looking for joint opportunities in other countries, especially in Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand where Japanese entry points are available, but not exclusively.

Q. How has been the response of Indian market?

A Yes, regarding the Indian market there is a huge interest within EADS and the Astrium Group to establish close cooperation with Indian companies. We have recently initiated a couple of workshops with Indian companies to review closer cooperation in the future in this market.

Q. What has been your personal experience in terms of working with this market in terms of awareness about the technology and in terms of policies existing in various countries?

A In the developing countries like Thailand, Indonesia ad Malaysia there is a huge need for mapping. From one point of view our assets – TerraSAR-X and the SPOT satellites could support the need for data; the second thing is that mapping also requires reliable and speedy processing, and this is where the Infoterra Pixel Factory comes into the game. After we sold two to PASCO, we have recently sold another two to China, and we are now looking to the East Asian market, not only for the Pixel Factory business but also for other products in the Infoterra portfolio. The Indian mapping market is developing and today it is opening to foreign companies allowing easier entry. We are carefully investigating how we can approach this upcoming market with our products and services.

Q. Do you have a preference for China; have any sale of your solutions been made in Chinese market?

A We are a member of the EADS group, so we have a presence nearly everywhere in the world. To bring our portfolios to countries world wide we are exploiting our network of offices and group partners wherever appropriate. We are also using connections of the Astrium group and in dedicated places when there is a demand or a dedicated challenge, we are also building special partnerships and/or are placing dedicated staff into the region. For example in the developing market of China, regarding TerraSAR-X we are working very actively with BSI in Beijing, and we are also looking closer into the Chinese market regarding the potential of our Pixel Factory and our mapping solutions addressing the telecommunication planning sector. In general we have a special strategy for every country.

Q. How important is TerraSAR-X as a product for you?

A TerraSAR-X based imagery and geo-information services are only one part of our portfolio, but it is true that in Asia, TerraSAR-X is a flagship product. Not every product has a competitive advantage in every region. Our airborne services based on laser scanning and the digital camera are, of course, also needed in some areas in Asia, but this is not the current focus of marketing in the region. I would not say that we would not include it, but not at this point in time. Right now we have a clear focus on TerraSAR-X, as the launch is still scheduled for this year.

We have recently started a campaign which allows interested people to apply for TerraSAR-X data free of charge. This enables people from this region that may not have large funds for experimenting to test and evaluate the data. Applications can be placed through our website www.terrasar.de .

Q. What strategy do you have to market TerraSAR-X imagery to the companies and public organizations in South East Asia ?

A In South East Asia we recognize that there is a huge interest in the TerraSAR-X system. Many customers are looking for weather independent very high resolution imagery and products, which will be available soon with TerraSAR-X. With its twin satellite TanDEM-X, to be launched in 2009, highly accurate digital elevation models will be available as well, which will give TerraSAR product its final face value. An interesting thing in Indonesia, where several huge airborne data mapping campaigns were conducted by foreign suppliers, the national mapping agency over the last few years made sure that data processing capabilities are widely spread through the local service providers. This makes Indonesian public customers and private service providers quite familiarized in using radar as support of solving their problem. They are ideally prepared for evaluating the TerraSAR contribution first.

Q. How do you see the develpments as Thailand coming up with THEOS , Malaysia with Razaksat, India having Cartosat and Korea launching its own monitoring satellite?

A Of course, these developments have impact. THEOS programme, for example also has the intention to develop applications. Similarly, pre-curser products based on SPOT 5 have already been developed. That means providing satellite based geo-information is the objective rather than only providing imagery. We are sure that a number of applications combining THEOS imagery with TerraSAR-X imagery will make much better products for this region. We have plans to cooperate with these satellite operators.