With some loose change still rattling about in its pockets, Google has added yet another element to its global takeover: A $500 million satellite imaging company. Yes, thats on top of the car, the expensive glasses, the Fiber broadband, and the sky balloons it's just bought.
‘Skybox Imaging’, the most recent purchase from Google’s shopping spree, generates thousands of high-resolution photos per day, which will be undoubtedly beneficial to Google, in terms of its Maps and Earth features. Working on their design since 2009, Skybox produces real-time images at a much lower price by stitching small, low-resolution photographs together with algorithms to create one big, beautifully detailed photo. Still not convinced? Just check out Skybox’s Instagram, which publicises some of the incredible, detailed images they have captured since their launch into space last year. The sheer amount of data the mini-fridge sized satellites omit will be able keep these image databases accurate and up-to-date. But seeing as Google has just signed to continue its multi-year contract with current satellite supplier DigitalGlobe, why is it so interested in getting in on the satellite action?
Prior to its Skybox splurge, Google purchased Titan Aerospace, whose solar-powered drones can apparently stay in flight for five years, and are part of Google’s Project Loon, which plans to supply web connectivity to remote areas from the sky: “Atmospheric satellites could help bring internet access to millions of people, and help solve other problems, including disaster relief and environmental damage like deforestation”. And Skybox Imagery’s data will certainly add to these capabilities. Due to their frequency and regularity, satellite photos can be used to assess many worldwide issues such as oil spills, (see below) which can aid disaster relief, another thing Google gives its attention to.
Before Skybox, the crucial information in these images was expensive and government owned and thus almost impossible for the public to get their hands on. But Google’s ability to collect cheap, real-time data from all over the globe could be part of an innovative new project. It could create its own unique cloud service with valuable data about industries and the environment, which could be used to monitor anything from parking habits and insurance claims to natural disasters and deforestation. Google’s quest to “organize all the world’s information” would literally come into effect. This cloud data service would not only place it in a clear winning position against its fellow cloud competitors, but may even save the rainforest, too.
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