How A Sky Full Of Micro-Satellites Could Predict The Planet’s Future

How A Sky Full Of Micro-Satellites Could Predict The Planet’s Future

A new start-up, Skybox, harnesses the power of imaging data to support a wide variety of operations in business, science, and government.

Plus Aziz
  • 3 july 2013

Silicon Valley-based startup, Skybox, is developing a system of imaging satellites to provide real-time information about activity on Earth. Real-time access to data can be used to upend industries, transform economies, and predict the future. Having raised $91 million, Skybox wants to launch numerous microsatellites into space to provide high-resolution images of any spot on Earth, multiple times per day. The website lists services that can be provided to 15 industries ranging from aid emergency responses for relief efforts to species monitoring.

According to Wired, the market potential for such as innovation is estimated to grow to $4 billion a year by 2018. There are currently about 1,000 satellites orbiting Earth, but you may be surprised to know that only 12 of these machines send images back. Moreover, due to the government’s claim over imaging operations from space, the process of purchasing such images is cumbersome and longwinded, but satellite imagining can be transformational:

Remember how dazzled we were when Google Earth first let us explore one high-definition image of the planet?… Many of the most economically and environmentally significant actions that individuals and businesses carry out every day, from shipping goods to shopping at big-box retail outlets to cutting down trees to turning out our lights at night, register in one way or another on images taken from space. While Big Data companies scour the Internet and transaction records and other online sources to glean insight into consumer behavior and economic production around the world, an almost entirely untapped source of data – information that companies and governments sometimes try to keep secret – is hanging in the air right above us.

Given this, it is clear that the real power of Skybox stems from the potential of integrating remote bird’s eye view observation with data already being captured online or on the ground. So for example, a company can monitor the flow of traffic in its parking lots and link it to in-store sales data. Insurance companies can purchase images to confirm damaged property, environmental agencies can monitor the movement of forrest fires or oil spills.

To get a deep-dive into Skybox and the entrepreneurs behind the comany, we recommend you check out their talk from Stanford Technology Ventures Program earlier this year:

Skybox Imaging


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