Here the FT reports on the revolution in satellite technology that is having a profound impact on many different businesses and industries. Investors, for example, can now estimate traffic at retail establishments or oil storage tankers moving into China.
Today, a new revolution in satellite technology is unfolding at warp speed, and its consequences are just as unpredictable. The rapid adoption of billions of smartphones and other connected devices over the past decade has boosted the market for telecommunications satellites, transforming the demand side of the business. But the supply side of space has also been upended as a new generation of innovative space billionaires led by the mercurial Elon Musk, the founder of SpaceX, has built cheap and reusable rockets, slashing launch costs.
That has enabled some smaller private companies to launch scores of tiny and cheap commercial satellites, known as CubeSats, reimagining business opportunities in space. One such entity is Planet, founded by three former Nasa engineers in a San Francisco garage in 2010. The company operates the world’s largest private fleet of satellites, which circle the Earth and take daily photographs of every spot on the planet. It is now selling this space imagery to almost anyone willing to pay, as well as offering it for free to some non-governmental organisations and researchers.
Farmers can use the imagery to estimate crop yields around the world, investors are counting the number of oil storage tanks in China and estimating consumption trends, while human rights campaigners have used it to map the flight of the Rohingya population from Myanmar. On a daily basis, we can now study the shrinkage of glaciers, the expansion of cities, the deforestation of remote wildernesses and the devastation of armed conflict in intense detail.
Read more here.