88. Geospatial Review: News & Updates - first half of 2017 (Part 2)

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If you thought last week's post contained details of everything which has happening in the geospatial world so far in 2017 then you're in for a pleasant surprise. The industry buzzing, with lots of new companies and innovations coming on the scene. The following post contains just another small sample of the significant geospatial news and updates from over the past six months.

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Chips, Maps, Cars

In January, Intel, the provider of cloud computing, data center, Internet of Things, and PC solutions, bought a 15% stake in HERE, the mapping service which is co-owned by car giants Audi, BMW, and Mercedes. This purchase provides a strong indication that the future market for geospatial maps among the autonomous vehicle sector is unlikely to be dominated by any one company.

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From Microsoft to maps

In March, a ground-breaking Bill and Melinda Gates backed geospatial-focused project called Radiant Earth was launched. The project seeks to encourage the sharing of satellite data for the purposes of understanding and solving the world's major environmental and social problems. And who said retirement was only about sleeping in late and playing golf?

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A welcome distraction...

While Uber has been in the news recently for all of the wrong reasons, the company has been doing some pretty impressive stuff for the geospatial community behind the scenes. In April, the company released an open source version of deck.gl, the data visualization framework which it uses internally. Geospatialists, data visualisation professionals, and even policy makers and planners are sure to benefit this powerful framework!

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'Zucks' luvs Maps

Last year, Facebook joined forces with Columbia University and the World Bank in order to develop detailed maps of all human populated places on the planet. In order to do so the social media giants used artificial intelligence software to scan satellite imagery and identify human-built structures. While the main intention of these maps is to develop a strategy for internet-beaming drone deployment there are possibilities that the maps could be used for more noble purposes such as socio-economic research and risk assessment for natural disasters. Today, the maps are freely available to the public. This beats the usual meal photos and selfies pics any day!

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Two eyes (in the sky) are better than one!

Since the earth observation industry is one with massive potential, it is natural that mergers and acquisitions are taking place in 2017. Perhaps the biggest one so far is that DigitalGlobe, the owner of several commercial Earth-viewing spacecraft in orbit, has been acquired by Canada’s MDA Corp. This acquisition is a vote of confidence in the growing markets for satellite manufacturing, ground systems, radar and electro-optical imagery and analytics. The next challenge is figuring out what to do with all of the imagery!



Big Data and Big Data become Besties

As recently pointed out to me by Joe Francica, Pitney Bowes has made big steps to promote the value of location in the fields of Big Data and business intelligence. The company's recent partnerships with Cloudera and Hortonworks, two companies which are emerging as powerful forces in the Big Data industry is a sign that mapping and location are being taken seriously by the business world. About time!


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Zenly and Snapmap

Love it or hate it, Snapchat, the app which people over the age of 30 don't quite understand, is moving into the geospatial world. This month the company acquired Zenly, a GPS-based app which allows users to see where their friends currently are on a map for an estimated $350 million. This acquisition is expected to complement Snap Map, the company's current location-sharing and location-based content discovery feature.

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Satellite Imagery on demand

As you have probably realised, satellites and earth observation are the buzzwords of 2017 so far. Another big development in this field is that near realtime, cloud-free imagery is now available to the public through Planet Labs. In February, the San Francisco-based company, launched a record-breaking 88 shoebox-size “Dove” satellites into space from Satish Dhawan Space Centre in India. Impressive!

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HOT stuff!

Finally, I'd like to give a shout out to the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap team of volunteers who are applying the principles of open source and open data sharing for humanitarian response and economic development purposes. For geospatial corporations who have lots of cash and want to support a good cause, then look no further.


NB: Again, this is not an exhaustive list of updates and news from the industry so please feel to comments below.