Google’s $US500 million acquisition of Skybox, a satellite imaging company could be transformative, argues Christopher Mims at the Wall Street Journal.
By 2016, Skybox will take high resolution photos of the Earth twice a day. With those photos comes intelligence.
Here’s an example of what Skybox could do:
In 2010, an analyst at UBS discovered that if he bought satellite images of parking lots of Wal-Mart stores, he could predict the company’s sales figures before they were revealed in its quarterly earnings report, because cars in lots equal shoppers in stores.
“We’re looking at Foxconn every week,” [the CEO of Skybox] says, because measuring the density of trucks outside the Taiwanese company’s manufacturing facilities tells Skybox when the next iPhone will be released.
Skybox can determine how much oil is being pumped out of the ground in Saudi Arabia by imaging oil-storage tanks from above. The company can peg the likely price of grain months in advance by measuring the health of every square yard of cropland on Earth. One city has used Skybox’s data to determine who built illegal backyard pools and might also use it to identify water-restriction violators during a drought.
Our emphasis is added in there.
This is some pretty scary stuff if you’re Apple. Suddenly Google has the intelligence to figure out when you’re ramping production of the next model of the iPhone. Google could use this information to start discounts, marketing and promotions of its own smartphones.