Beijing Space Eye Innovation Technology has been working on its diversification strategy more seriously than ever before. CEO Xiaoyang Cheng explains how BSEI intends to expand its distribution network and become a one-stop solution provider at a global level
What are the main focus areas of Beijing Space Eye Innovation Technology?
BSEI intends to not only provide high resolution imagery in China but also encourage the use of these imageries for various applications and government projects. In the last 10 years, we have successfully provided the market with imagery spanning over 10 million km. We serve more than 1,000 customers, among which the main focus has been on government agencies and institutions. We offer our products to all 31 provincial governments in China and many industries related to land-use, mining, telecommunications and transportation.
We believe that raw data alone cannot solve problems of the customer. In order to be a one-stop service and remote sensing data acquisition source for our customers, in addition to its own data sources, Space Eye aligned with several data collators from America, Asia, Europe, etc. For instance, in addition to DigitalGlobe, we are also working with Korean Satellite (KOMPSAT) and are in fact its official distributor in China.
Similarly, we are also working with some software providers such as PCI Geomatics from Canada to develop bespoke solutions for customers who need to process large volume of imagery within a short span of time. Recently, we also launched our online platform mapenjoy.com to put these data online for users to explore and order.
How would this affect your position in the Chinese imagery market?
We have the vision to become a one-stop service provider. At the same time, when we look at the Chinese market, we realise that we cannot serve all the industries and provide applications for them, since it would require a huge organisational strength. We prefer to stay professional and focus on the areas in which we have a stronghold.
Talking about diversification, are you thinking of collaborating and tying-up with different players?
BSEI has a stronghold in few industries such as mapping, land-use, etc. We very well understand our customers’ need, and therefore, call ourselves as one-stop solution provider. Our customers are not just in China but in other regions as well. To cater to these customers, we are further diversifying with a view on the future needs of the market, and we are trying to find out the best possible solution to meet their needs. In line with this philosophy, we have transitioned from providing data to software, and from software to solution and services.
Since last year, we have started distributing Chinese satellite imagery abroad as we found it is gaining traction in the global market. In fact, experts agree that the utilisation and market for the Chinese government-owned resources and satellite imageries would grow in the coming years. As far as collaboration with other industry leaders is concerned, we are open to the idea. We are open to collaborate with other industry leaders to procure resources, software or solutions. As I mentioned before, we are already collaborating with some global players. In turn, we help them to reach out to a new customer base.
So BSEI is acting like a window to bring foreign imagery to China, and also taking Chinese imagery to the international markets?
This is our plan. When we say that we distribute images from foreign satellites of Korea, America, etc., it means that we procure imagery from these imagery providers and supply it directly to the customer or government organisation. For example, BSEI buys 50cm imagery from DigitalGlobe and distributes it in China. Ten years ago, when we started distributing DigitalGlobe images in China, Chinese imageries were not available for commercial use. But lately, the Chinese government has invested in satellite technology.
Contrary to the impression outside, the Chinese market is quiet open. The government is very supportive of the free distribution and commercial use of both domestic and international satellite imagery.
There are, of course, regulations regarding the distribution of topographic maps etc. Also, the government has few other satellites which are not used for commercial purposes, and hence, we have no access to them. But imagery from government resource satellites like ZY-1 and TH-1 bear no restriction. We can freely provide raw imagery from a Chinese satellite to any other Chinese end user.
How is the Chinese EO market evolving?
The government in China is very supportive of developing the earth observation industry. We are happy to see private companies entering the EO market. Many of these companies are developing their own commercial satellites such as the Beijing-1 satellite. There are also companies which are working on building constellation of three commercial satellites capable of providing imagery at 1metre spectral resolution.
The challenges, as well as, the opportunities depend on how we process the imagery and make it a value-added product. For example, with the huge amount of data provided by the Chinese satellites, only 5% of the total imagery collected are being processed and used. The reasons for this include lack of a good solution for image processing, and bad product definition or service model.
What is the level of awareness in China among sectors like transport, construction etc about geospatial technology and its benefits?
Industries like transportation, animal protection, etc. are really interested in learning how EO data can be utilised to grow their business. In this way, they are closely monitoring the EO industry and trying to develop different solutions that suit their requirements. Different industries and companies are doing this in different ways. While some may partner with a commercial solution partner to develop a service model, others might be more interested in acquiring a company which holds an expertise in developing such a solution. A case in point is the latest acquisition by Alibaba of AutoNavi.
However, it will take a long time for geospatial solutions to find their due place in the industry solutions. It will have to go through the process of convergence. But as a geospatial or EO player, one has to find their own niche and remain patient. A real operational model will take a longer time than what we usually expect. It is another topic of discussion as to why geospatial is not even considered as an industry. That is why we think that we should not be too big, but instead be more professional and attain expertise at some points.
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