ALMA-originated projects contribute to other productive sectors

16 April, 2019

Technological transfer from astronomy to other areas of production and human capital development is the goal of two projects that involve ALMA: “Astronomy 4.0: Automatic Fault Detection and Diagnosis Systems for the New Generation Telescopes” and the Chilean Virtual Observatory (ChiVO).

Astronomy 4.0 project, is promoted by the Ministry of Economy through the Data Observatory. Today the Chilean Minister of Economy, Development and Tourism, José Ramón Valente, together with the Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation, Andrés Couve, presented the founding members of Data Observatory (DO), a non-profit organization that will have the mission to generate a new pole of economic development based on data science.

The origins of the Astronomy 4.0 project lie in algorithms developed to anticipate faults in ALMA system components and make timely repairs. The project tested a proof of concept for the technological transfer potential of these algorithms to apply them to other sectors of the economy and thereby optimize and improve productive processes.

Adolfo Ibáñez University (UAI), in collaboration with Metric Arts, lead this initiative, which is based on the previous work of José Luis Ortiz, ALMA’s Electronic Engineer, and Rodrigo Carrasco, professor of Industrial Civil Engineer at the UAI, whose results were presented at the SPIE (1) 2016 and 2018. “We are really going to be able to transfer technology and bring it closer to people through an area that is seemingly as remote as astronomy. It would be great if, in the future, this algorithm created for ALMA could also be used by a small farmer in a field,” said UAI Civil Industrial Engineering professor, Rodrigo Carrasco, project leader.

For Jorge Ibsen, Director of the Computer and Information Sciences Department at ALMA, “fault prediction for ALMA is no different than fault prediction for a mine or a textile factory. The difference is that ALMA has many sensors and other industries may be simpler. So if it can resolve the complex case, it can also be applied to a simpler one.”

The case of the Chilean Virtual Observatory (ChiVO)

Another project involving ALMA in the development of human capital and solutions for the astronomic community is the Chilean Virtual Observatory, led by professor Mauricio Solar from Universidad Técnica Federico Santa María, in conjunction with other local universities. This astronomical platform manages and analyzes a large amount of data from astronomic observatories in Chile, facilitating discoveries through advanced computer tools and algorithms for research.

This interface, which increases astronomers’ productivity by accelerating the scientific discovery process, can indirectly contribute to other economic sectors through the people who design the algorithms. If software engineers and computer scientists are able to provide algorithms for complex mass data such as astronomical data, they can also use these same skills for other types of data, for example medical or geological imaging.

“In a country where astronomy holds such a key role, ALMA doesn’t only collaborate to increase the quality and quantity of its scientists, but also to increase the quality and quantity of opportunities to provide solutions to other industries,” concludes Ibsen.

Additional information

(1) SPIE is the International Society for Optics and Photonics that organizes, every two years, the most prestigious world conference in the area.

More information on the Astronomy 4.0 project here (Spanish only).

More information on ChiVO here

ALMA is a partnership of ESO (representing its member states), NSF (U.S.) and NINS (Japan), along with NRC (Canada), NSC and ASIAA (Taiwan), and KASI (Republic of South Korea), in cooperation with the Republic of Chile. The Joint ALMA Observatory is operated by ESO, AUI/NRAO and NAOJ.