Cisco, Lockheed Martin and Amazon Partner to Bring Collaboration to Space | eWEEK

Cisco takes its Webex technology to the last frontier: space. Webex will be part of Callisto’s payload on the Orion spacecraft, launching later this year on a mission called Artemis I.

Formerly known as Exploration Mission-1, this launch will be the first in a series of several complex missions focused on human exploration to the Moon and Mars.

See Also: Cisco Releases New Hardware and Software on WebexOne

Orion will be voice and video enabled

The mission is a partnership between NASA and three key vendors: Lockheed Martin, Cisco, and Amazon.

Lockheed Martin is NASA’s prime contractor; built the Orion crew module, crew module adapter, and launch abort system. The Callisto payload onboard the Orion will contain a Cisco Webex-equipped iPad to enable voice and video in deep space. It will also include Amazon’s Alexa cloud-based voice service to provide astronauts with companionship and information.

The project has been in the works since 2018 and is expected to finally make its debut this spring or early summer. This effort will allow NASA and its technology partners to test technology already used on Earth in space to improve the lives of astronauts, said Aruna Ravichandran, vice president and chief marketing officer of the Cisco Webex Collaboration, in an interview with ZK. Research.

Artemis I will test the limits of collaboration in space

Artemis I will be a 40-day space mission, focused on simulation. The Orion will not have humans on board during the first mission, but rather a simulation of astronauts using Webex to communicate with the Mission Control Center at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston.

A VIP lounge in the center will house technology for this mission, including WebEx Board Pro and WebEx DeskPro. Cisco’s goal is to test two use cases for Webex in space: video conferencing and whiteboard.

“Testing these technologies will ensure that when real astronauts go to the Moon, this will make things easier for them and will be a successful mission,” Ravichandran said.

First, Cisco will facilitate communication between DeskPro and an iPad on Callisto, running Webex video meetings. Cisco expects latency to be a major challenge during the mission, given that the spacecraft will be more than 240,000 miles away from Earth. To meet this challenge, Cisco created a proprietary combination of next-generation resiliency and adaptive technology, incorporating buffering to address delays in deep space.

Additionally, Cisco will demonstrate how astronauts can create, collaborate and brainstorm while in space using WebEx Board Pro. Astronauts will be able to make a whiteboard on Orion and transmit it to the Mission Control Center.

See Also: Compliance Versus Enterprise Network Security: The Cisco Approach

Video collaboration taken to the next level

“Collaboration on Earth has become table stakes. We could not have survived without collaborative technologies during the pandemic, ”Ravichandran said. “We are taking it to the next level with NASA’s Artemis I mission. The first mission is about testing the technology and mastering latency. “

In addition to helping astronauts do their jobs, Cisco wants to improve their quality of life. Astronauts on missions often experience loneliness and isolation. Equipping astronauts with video conferencing tools will allow them to stay connected with family and friends.

Video communication in space has always been problematic due to the distance and challenging nature of the environment. It is common for communication systems to lose data after only milliseconds of delay. That’s why testing the buffering technology developed by Webex engineers will be an integral part of the mission.

A custom AV1 codec – the latest video streaming technology

Cisco will also address space-constrained bandwidth by using a custom version of the AV1 codec to greatly improve video quality. This will ensure the highest resolution video transmission at 128 kilobits per second (kbps). While AV1 is not yet widely available on Cisco products, the vendor is customizing its technology to implement AV1 on Orion.

This could be a small step for collaboration, but it has the potential to be a big step for videoconference. Traditional video systems don’t handle latency well. They drop packets, causing parts of the image to be lost, or they cut the connection entirely. Video streaming was never designed for an environment like space.

Cisco is using artificial intelligence technology to reconstruct video and audio to make decisions about what to send or not send. For example, instead of sending the entire image, use a lower quality for the background and keep a higher quality for the person’s face.

Lessons learned during the mission could be applied to use cases here on Earth, such as increasing the bandwidth used by Internet of Things (IoT) devices in the field across all industries. Ultimately, these advancements could remove the limits for hybrid work, Ravichandran said.

AV1 has been in the works since 2015, but is about to be standardized and could see deployments in areas where bandwidth is not abundant. An example use case is what Cisco is currently working on: bringing video to low-latency, low-bandwidth environments. And this effort would also make it possible to send HD video to places where it is not possible with the use of standard codecs.

“This is a huge area of ​​focus for us at Cisco. We want to be the leaders in defining hybrid work, ”concluded Ravichandran. “Now we can take another step towards the final frontier by enabling video communication and collaboration in space.”

See also: Digital Transformation Guide: Definition, Types and Strategy

Leave a Comment