Source: Pixabay. CC0
That’s what I thought when I read about Orbital Insight. They’re a software company that analyzes images from satellites that tell us something, anything about the world we live in – how much oil is in storage tanks in China, how many cars are parked in Walmart parking lots, or what’s the health of the crops planted in North Dakota. By using public and private imagery and sophisticated AI software, the company can evaluate what’s happening on the ground by looking at images from above.
Orbital’s services used to be available only to wealthy hedge funds and other wealthy clients, using custom coding and specialized services. But now they’ve created Orbital Go, a menu-driven site that makes their analysis available to anyone. For example, if you want to open a new Subway franchise, you could analyze the foot traffic near a local University around meal-times to determine the best location. In the past, you might have had to use your gut-instincts, but now you can make your decision – one critical to your success – on the basis of hard data.
This means that more information is available about more subjects more quickly and with less lag-time than ever before. Housing construction can be monitored nationwide in almost real-time, looking at site-prep, foundations, material delivery, and construction times. All this is available by looking at satellite images. Highway congestion can be evaluated in places where it’s never been seen before. The world is becoming increasingly transparent.
Like every new technology, promise and peril have to be balanced. More accurate mathematical models of how the world works must be weighed against the potential for satellite-based stalking. But ever since satellite images became available to the public, the potential for use and abuse became real. Unless we move underground, our locations and activities are visible from space. That may seem creepy, but it’s just part of the world we live in.
Technology doesn’t move backwards. We have to learn what it means to live in a transparent world.
Douglas R. Tengdin, CFA
Charter Trust Company
“The Best Trust Company in New England”