CloudEO Starts ‘Virtual Constellation’ Access with Beta Online Marketplace
[Via Satellite 03-26-2014] CloudEO has released the beta version of its online marketplace for Earth observation-based products. By supplying data on a pay-per-use or subscription basis, the company is working to bring together imagery providers, analytics companies and customers through one platform. As part of the European Space Agency’s (ESA) business incubation center, CloudEO anticipates opening the geospatial market to many new players.
“[There is a] huge entry barrier to the geospatial industry, and that is where CloudEO wants to change things,” said Manfred Krischke, co-founder and CEO of CloudEO. “It is very much about using specific technology, which allows entrepreneurs to establish new business models.”
CloudEO is pioneering the idea of a “virtual constellation” where customers can search for geospatial products from a variety of providers in one place. If a product is not available, customers can request it, and CloudEO will “play matchmaker” by going to individual suppliers on their behalf. As can be derived from the name, the company uses a cloud-based working space to aggregate various geospatial products.
“If they can get enough people contributing their imagery to it, and if they can get enough ’apps’ developed, then there is demand for the imagery and more people will submit imagery,” said Edward Jurkevics, an analyst at Chesapeake Analytics Corp. “There is this network effect if you can get this cycle going. It may be that the bootstrapping is tricky, but I think that if you can get that done you can have a good business model.”
On the data side of its business, CloudEO has imagery from Airbus Defence and Space, Deimos Imaging and Imagesat. The company also has an agreement with Aerogrid, the largest supplier of aerial photography in Europe, and an Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) license agreement with Google that allows for full use of the map engine and Google Application Programming Interface (API) for publishing services. The beta release includes products from companies like EOMAP, DMCii, and others.
“We now have a critical mass,” said Manfred. “We can, or the service provider can find on our platform everything from very high-resolution imagery to base data like digital elevation models.”
“There is an influx of geospatial imagery, which will be added over the coming years because of the proliferation of CubeSats,” added Ilya Golubovich, CloudEO investor and founding partner of I2BF Global Ventures. “There will be a huge demand for new tools to analyze this imagery. Eventually there is going to be a big data problem, and CloudEO is one of the tools to solve that problem. It’s not just the big companies that are expanding their constellations to provide better and more prolific geospatial data, but it’s also about the newcomers like Skybox, Planet Labs and Dauria Aerospace that are going to be launching cheaper satellites that can produce very high quality data.”
The CloudEO marketplace includes products across the spectrum for geospatial information services, not limited exclusively to imagery. Many Geographic Information System (GIS) applications are very granular and market specific, and CloudEO is working to bring analysts onboard as well. Often, projects in GIS are very specialized and need refined expertise on the number-crunching side. The effect this will have on larger verticals, such as the government or oil and gas that often have well-established providers already, is yet to be known.
“From the investor side, it was one question of due diligence for us,” said Golubovich. “What about the titans of the industry? At the end of the day the conclusion we came to was that CloudEO doesn’t cannibalize or compete with DigitalGlobe and the like companies, necessarily. CloudEO is a potential additional revenue channel to what they already are doing.”
Software companies that provide information on CloudEO will receive revenue from any products made using their imagery or analytics. Service developers can work on the platform, but cannot take anything away without first going through a purchase checkout. With the combination of new smaller imaging satellites and the increasing prevalence of digital services, CloudEO expects its platform to enable many new services as the applications for GIS grow.
“Our belief is that 80 percent of value in this industry is added on the ground, not in space,” said Golubovich. “CloudEO is an essential part of building the applications.”