‘We are moving towards advanced imagery and information products’

‘We are moving towards advanced imagery and information products’


We are now moving into advanced imagery and information products. One of our products, called Global Basemap, is essentially the most current and historical coverage of a particular area of the world delivered to customers on demand, online.

John Oechsle
John Oechsle
Executive Vice-President
Strategy and Product, DigitalGlobe

Apart from the basic imagery products, what are the specialised and value added products that DigitalGlobe offers?
We are now moving into advanced imagery and information products. One of our products, called Global Basemap, is essentially the most current and historical coverage of a particular area of the world delivered to customers on demand, online. Based on our customers’ needs, we can get the country mosaic’d or moved down to the metro level and other similar areas of interest. It is beginning to transform the industry and is helping us deliver imagery via a subscription model. Another product, called FirstLook, is subscription based. Powered by our Cloud Services platform, FirstLook helps customers monitor and manage natural disasters, political hotspots and major world events. It provides fast, online access and download of pre- and postevent imagery. Depending on factors such as cloud cover and satellite orbit, FirstLook can deliver imagery in as little as three hours after event tracking has been initiated. This rapid collection and delivery allows planners on the ground to assess impact across an entire region more quickly or to closely monitor small, focused areas. Further, FirstLook customers can access all archive imagery for the respective region from DigitalGlobe’s vast ImageLibrary, which helps them detect changes in geography and man-made structures more accurately after an event occurs. These kinds of products are helping set the foundation for our information and analysis services, where we plan to leverage our new advanced technologies, including 8-Band.

How is the demand for 8-Band imagery?
8-Band Imagery, available exclusively from Digital- Globe, can enhance analysis and classification research and enable the development of next generation geospatial applications. The technology is so new that we are still discovering new ways to use it, through our research challenge and other projects. It can be applied in a wide variety of fields, from mapping coastal waterways to understanding the health of vegetation underneath water bodies.

Today, technology is not driven by application but application is picking up from the available technology and then the policy is coming with a time lag. Is there any strategy to minimise these times for effective utilisation of technology and the products you are providing?
Our customers, academics and our own R&D organisation are working together to accelerate the utilisation of 8-band technology and the development of practical applications that use it.

Government continues to be the major user for satellite imagery. Do you see this trend changing?
Governments will continue to be the major users of this industry, but as we move into information products derived from imagery, new industries will want to use satellite imagery to help drive business decisions. We are seeing that happen already. It is a very exciting time.

Another trend we see is that data is being looked at as a service. Is DigitalGlobe also looking in this direction?
Over the past couple of years, we have been focusing on lowering the entry barriers for our customers into this marketplace. Three or four years ago, the only way we interacted with our customers was to bring down the content, do a little bit of processing and then ship it to them. The customer was required to have a complete infrastructure in place to process the content and use it. We have now created offerings based on our cloud services. This allows customers to access imagery online and on demand. This will transform the industry and enable a whole new set of customers to get access to the visual information they need to make faster, more informed decisions.

Geospatial industry is showing renewed interest in emerging economies that are building infrastructure and developing very fast. What strategy does DigitalGlobe have for economies like Africa, Asia and Latin America?
The emerging regions of the world are faced with phenomenal problems such as exploding population, infrastructure that needs to be built and updated and food and environmental issues. There are countries which need to address environmental issues and those that have resources but are trying to figure out how to monetise their assets. We are working with them all. We are a global company with region based marketing organisations that can get very close to the customers. We see significant growth opportunities across Asia and in Brazil, Russia, India and China. We will play a leadership role in forming those markets.

As part of its social responsibility, is DigitalGlobe looking to provide imagery free of cost or at a minimal cost?
Although we are running a for-profit business, there is a lot of good, critically important work that requires imagery or information. Our FirstLook product is at the helm of this effort. While it is a subscription-based product for people who want to use it continuously, there is a subset of customers to whom we provide imagery for humanitarian needs. A great example of that is our work with the Satellite Sentinel Project, which is proactively monitoring events in southern Sudan to deter the resumption of war. The Satellite Sentinel Project was conceived by actor and UN Messenger of Peace George Clooney. Digital- Globe and other Satellite Sentinel Project partners deliver regular imagery and analysis of the evolving situation in that country. This is an important work that benefits humanity, work that we will always do in some capacity for the long term.