A Manchester-based not-for-profit that is overseeing the SKA Project, an international effort to build the world’s largest radio telescope, has signed up the Netherlands’ Unit4 to deliver enterprise resource planning (ERP) software and services to the consortium.
The SKA Organisation is managing the project to build the world’s largest radio telescope, consisting of two arrays of thousands of antennas spread over hundreds of kilometres across South Africa’s Karoo region and Western Australia’s Murchison Shire.
The regions, among the most remote on earth, will eventually host up to a million low-frequency antennas (the SKA hopes to start conducting science observations in the mid-2020s) along with hundreds of high- and mid-frequency dishes.
From its central control hub near the Jodrell Bank Observatory, Manchester, the SKA Organisation supervises work on the SKA Project in over 20 different countries.
It has an increasingly diverse and international workforce that is currently finalising the design of the telescope; construction and operation start in the early 2020s.
Around 100 organisations across 20 countries are participating in this design and development phase of the SKA. The project will ultimately require supercomputers faster than any in existence and network technology that will generate more data traffic than the entire Internet.
SKA Project: First, The Cloud
But meanwhile… it needs some ERP help.
Unit4’s cloud-based ERP software will help the organisation improve data and project management, and ensure operational efficiency across its teams, while also supporting its ambitious international growth objectives, Unit4 said in a release shared with Computer Business Review on Tuesday. The company did not disclose contract value.
The company added that its Unit4 Business World toolkit will provide “real-time access to consolidated global project and financial data, so teams can respond to performance information quickly”.
Unit4 Business World provides financial management, HR and payroll, procurement management, enterprise management and other tools.
“This project is set to test the limits of human engineering and scientific endeavour over the coming decades. With so many people and organisations invested in the SKA project, we require technology that supports our fully transparent approach to collaborative working,” said Colin Greenwood, head of administration at the SKA Organisation said.
“The scale of the SKA represents a huge leap forward in both engineering and research & development. We must manage the constant stream of data which informs the strategic decision making required to ensure our success. Unit4 Business World will provide detailed reports and automate much of the necessary administration, freeing our team to focus on more value-adding work.”
What Is the SKA Project Looking For?
The SKA radio telescopes will provide continuous frequency coverage from 50 MHz (6 m wavelength) to 20 GHz (1.5 cm wavelength).
The first telescope, SK1, will primarily address[pdf] the following:
“The observations of radio pulsars and observations of the 21-cm hyperfine line of neutral hydrogen from the local Universe, to moderate redshifts, as well as high sensitivity observations of continuum emitting objects. It will also be well suited for conducting observations of various spectral lines in addition to the 21-cm hydrogen line (e.g. OH-lines), many classes of radio transients, magnetized plasmas both in the Galaxy and intergalactic space, and potentially protoplanetary disks.”
The project, more simply, will ultimately help scour the universe for the very first stars and galaxies formed just after the big bang, in a way never before observed in any detail, the organisation says. Data it gathers will help scientists understand dark energy, the vast magnetic fields which permeate the cosmos, and, yes, keep a watchful ear out for aliens; or as the SKA Project puts it, try to answer “one of the greatest mysteries known to humankind…are we alone in the Universe.”