Solving Problems From Space With Remote Sensing, IoT & AI

By Sophie Curtis on November 05, 2015

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The future of the Internet of Things (IoT) promises a whole new wealth of data on all of the "things" we own. But what about the things we don't own, like deforestation, global oil supply, and even closed economies?

The view from space lets us take a step back and see the world through a macroscope. Remote sensing – the analysis of satellite images at scale – is the technology behind the macroscope. Orbital Insight applies advanced artificial intelligence and big data analytical technologies to satellite imagery to deliver actionable intelligence for investors, governments and environmental groups alike.

At RE.WORK Connect Summit, Jeff Stein, VP of Business Development at Orbital Insight, will explore how remote sensing can deliver new insights for decision-makers across all industries. He says: "There are many reasons for why we need access to data on things we don't own directly – national security, sustainability, stability, and growth – but it all comes down to the desire to make better-informed, data-driven decisions."

We caught up with Jeff ahead of the Connect Summit next week to hear more!

Can you provide an overview of your work at Orbital Insight?
As the VP of Business Development, I build the business side of the company. I work directly with our existing customers, create agreements with satellite companies and data providers, and talk to new industry leaders about how our software can help build transparency within their markets. I basically do everything but coding.

Tell us about how “remote sensing” works and how you use this in your work.
As technology creates new ways for us to monitor and measure things that we own – also known as the Internet of Things movement – there’s also the possibility to apply that same idea to the things we don’t own. Remote sensing is the process of putting sensors on things that aren’t physically tangible, like supply and demand of commodities or deforestation. Think of it as IoT for city, national, and global trends.

Orbital Insight’s remote sensing consists of aggregating millions of images from the satellites that orbit our earth several times a day, analyzing them with machine vision and extracting valuable insights for decision makers around the world. Our software detects the number of cars in parking lots to determine quarterly and yearly sales for major retailers; tracks roads being built in forests to predict illegal deforestation; and measures shadows on floating oil tanks to measure global oil supply. There are many other applications we’re currently working on, and even more we’re still discovering.

Which groups or sectors are the main recipients of the satellite data?
Right now we’re working with all kinds of companies, from hedge funds on Wall Street to insurance companies to environmental non-profits. There are literally thousands of applications. Remote sensing provides the ability for industries to gain competitive intelligence. For example, Walmart can’t put a traffic counter inside a Target store, but our satellite data can show Walmart how many cars were parked in Target parking lots – which has a direct correlation to the company’s sales.

Additionally, real estate is a key indicator of growth, and monitoring growth is interesting to a variety of companies and industries which don't have that local knowledge, such as investors. Orbital Insight can see how quickly houses are being built to determine growth in different regions – even in closed countries like China. Our data can also help insurance companies better protect their customers and do damage assessments from natural disasters. It can also help nonprofits make better decisions about resource allocation and the effectiveness of aid.

In general though, who’s interested in this kind of information? Everyone. Policy makers and city officials, environmental groups and conservationists, real estate and insurance companies… The list goes on.

What challenges does the data solve?
The Internet of Things is about measurement and communication. Orbital Insight is part of both, in a way. We have the tools that help decision makers measure and understand the world at large, so that they can build transparency within their industries. Our mission is to build a macroscope for national and global trends so that people can make more informed decisions about our world.

How have advancements in sensors and AI aided the progress of Orbital Insight?
Hardware advances in space have directly lead to our company’s software advancements. As more and more satellites are launched into space, we’ll be able to create persistent surveillance of the globe to provide radical transparency for our economies and our governments. Satellites, airplanes, and drones are all tools for remote sensing and there are many other tools that can help us build the macroscope. Our challenge is knowing how to apply the right tools to the right problem set. If all you have is a hammer, everything is going to look like a nail – so we have to get good at knowing what tools are useful for what problems.

What industries have the potential to be affected the most by the satellite data collected?
Pretty much every industry that has concerns about things they don’t have direct control over have the potential to be drastically changed by our macroscope. Investment firms benefit significantly as it provides them with a competitive edge, but policy makers, members of the media, and environmental groups are also gaining more visibility and a better perspective on their industry with satellite data. Anyone with a large company, lots of business, and thousands of employees can use our data because they are making decisions over large geographies. But it also applies to more localized individuals, like farmers looking for crop insurance in developing countries.

Jeff Stein will be speaking at RE.WORK Connect Summit, in San Francisco on 12-13 November. Tickets sold out for last year's event, book now to avoid disappointment!

For further discussions on Internet of Things, Wearables, Connected Devices & more, join our group here.

Space Big Data IoT Sensors Connect Summit


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