Letter from the Publisher
When I attended the Geoint Symposium in June, the Director of the National Geospatial- Intelligence Agency (NGA), Robert Cardillo stated that the NGA wants to be as successful in the unclassified world as in the classified world. “Open is the secret sauce,” he said. “90% of the NGA Foundational Data is commercial.” This is a new viewpoint for the highly classified NGA, and one that should be applauded.
I also spoke with Matt O’Connell, consultant and former CEO of GeoEye. He thinks that the imagery market is in a very exciting phase. “Lower costs – for components, telecommunications, launches, etc. – have made it possible for a new generation of smaller satellite companies to emerge. Although not all of them will thrive, many of them will. The market is eager to benefit from the lower cost and increased revisit time that many of the smaller companies offer. The larger companies – like DigitalGlobe – will continue to take the lion’s share of the revenue, especially from government clients in the U.S., because those clients want the very high resolution and accuracy that can be achieved only by big, expensive satellites. But commercial customers and some of the smaller governments will gladly take lower resolution and accuracy if they can reduce their costs and increase their revisit rate.” He also noted, “As imagery becomes more plentiful, that will facilitate the development of analytics and products, which is what most customers really want anyway. Customers are increasingly looking for subscription-based delivery of information and information products rather than raw pixels.”
That is exactly what the companies are doing, which is detailed in our feature story. Turning pixels into usable, relevant information has been the focus of the imagery companies for several years now, and we are seeing new developments making this a reality. The cover story is about how the imagery companies are evolving, and partnering to offer new services that ultimately serve their customers better. They are offering image processing in the cloud, so that customers don’t have to download the huge imagery files in order to work with them. In addition, most companies offer some sort of analytics capability, in addition to image processing, to varying degrees and with various technologies and levels of expertise. Of course, they must evolve to stay competitive, as Dennis Jones, President of the Earth Observation Industry Alliance, points out in the story.
The companies are not just changing; they are transforming the way that they do business. There are mergers and acquisitions, strategic partnerships, and more. Let’s keep an eye on the early smallsat companies like Surrey Satellite and BlackBridge (with the RapidEye constellation), newer players like Skybox (now owned by Google) and Planet Labs, as well as OmniEarth, UrtheCast, Aquila Space, and satellites for weather, PlanetiQ, Tempus Global Data, and Spire… and let’s watch the UAVs with consumer cameras!
In this issue, we report on a few different workshops that bring together stakeholders who are using the geospatial data for important work in all corners of the globe. The Secure World Foundation Forum is about the importance of the newly released SRTM-2 DEM data- set, and how the NGO communities are training users in developing countries, in particular for flood modeling. The workshops are small, but important, in that they are training people how to use the data, and those people will train others. This is all towards the goal of being prepared for disasters or mitigating them, rather than focusing mostly on response.
We also report on the Climate and Human Security – Geospatial Data and Mapping Symposium, organized by several stakeholders, including the Department of State, NGA and NCAR. This event focused on how climate change is a risk to human security. Read more here.
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