helps ESA better understand time with your smartphone

The European Space Agency has launched Camaliot, a citizen science application that allows everyone, including you, to improve global weather forecasts.

One of the beauty aspects of science is its universality. It’s not reserved for a handful of elites in white gowns locked in the back of a state-of-the-art lab, much less; Monsieur and Madame Tout-le-Monde can make perfect contributions to diverse and varied scientific projects.

The prestigious European Space Agency (ESA) is one of the institutions that regularly seeks to collaborate with the general public; after its work on a strange way of life launched in French schools last year, the agency now invites you to join a wide network of Android users who want to put their GPS receiver at the service of science.

Make an already universal system profitable

It starts with Camaliot, a public application programmed under Unity and which can be downloaded by any user equipped with a smartphone with Android 7.0 or higher. Finally, engineers even hope to integrate it into many connected objects. The principle is relatively simple and is based directly on a well-known location technique: GPS.

This technology is based on satellites carefully placed in very precise orbits. They continuously send messages indicating both their position and the time of signal transmission. By comparing the signal delays of different satellites with each other and with other monitoring stations, the device can know where it is on Earth with great accuracy.

It is an extremely robust system that has been proven for many years. But ESA researchers have come up with an idea that allows them to kill with one shot; they intended to make the return trips of this signal between Earth and space profitable by bringing it information about the atmosphere through which it passes.

In fact, physically speaking, a GPS signal is nothing more and nothing less than an electromagnetic wave. However, the behavior of the latter depends on the different environments through which they pass. Certain parameters, such as water content, can significantly change the way the wave travels.

A constantly evolving global database

Therefore, in theory, it is possible to analyze these differences to extract meteorological data. With its application, ESA researchers want to test this concept on a large scale. And for that, you need a lot of collaborators like you!

For each contact with a network of navigation satellites (GPS or other), the application determines the signal strength, the distance of the satellite and other external weather parameters. For ESA, the goal is to collect as many of these readings as possible and combine them into a single statistical model.

If they manage to create a large enough user base for the data to be meaningful, they will have the Holy Grail available every time. data scientists : an extensive global database that is constantly updated. It only remains to cross it with all the other data already available to meteorologists.

Ideally, this new dataset will be used to feed various machine-based learning systems to further refine the conclusions and thus provide even more accurate weather forecasts.

How to participate in the Camaliot study?

To bring your stone to this building, nothing could be simpler. Start by downloading Camaliot (in English) on Google Play. Once installed, the app will ask you to place your device in an open place with no ceilings or ceilings that could affect the signal. All you have to do is press “Start registration”On the first tab to start the measurement.

From then on, your device will try to connect to various communication satellite networks. This is not necessarily the GPS network; Camaliot can also consult the European network Galileo, Glonass, Beidou, etc. It will then use it to record data about the atmosphere as described above. You can then post your results online.

Please note that you will need to create an account to participate. Cameliot specifies that the application will keep the username, password, email address and weather data measured. The FAQ specifies that this data is “necessary for the application to fulfill its task in the public interest, in this case in the context of a scientific study”.

If you feel like it, you can even integrate the overall ranking of the application, which will reward the most active contributors! They can win prizes such as Android smartphones or Amazon gift cards. But in the end, the real reward will be to contribute to a great citizen science project!

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