Technology is developing so rapidly that it’s becoming more and more challenging to put a value on it. For instance, reflect on Google’s 2012 purchase of Motorola Mobility for around $12.5 billion. The acquisition gave the company access to more than 17,000 patents, plus 7,500 more that were awaiting approval. Admittedly, part of Google’s strategy was to use the patents to help ward off lawsuits from tech rival Apple. You have to think a company as savvy as Google did its homework before making such a big move.
But scarcely more than a year later, in January 2013, the company threw in the towel on its Motorola Mobility business and unloaded it, along with around 2,000 of its patents, to China’s Lenovo Group Ltd. for just $2.9 billion—less than one-fourth of the original purchase price. Earlier in the month, however, Google didn’t hesitate to cough up $3.2 billion to purchase Nest Labs, a company that makes smart thermostats and smoke alarms.
Regarding that deal, aerospace giant Honeywell CEO David Cote joked on CNBC’s Mad Money TV show that he’d sell his entire company to Google if he could get the same multiple. The two deals underscore the risk/reward appetite for a technology advantage in the marketplace. Although the Motorola transaction didn’t pan out for Google, the company’s Nest purchase clearly demonstrates it’s not afraid to offer a premium for the next potential high-tech home run.
Spotlight on the Geospatial Industry
It has been said the future belongs to those who challenge the present. In terms of technology advancements, the geospatial industry is on the cutting edge of tomorrow. For example, consider The Sanborn Map Company’s recent technology upgrades.
Early last year, Colorado-based Sanborn became the only company to acquire three Eagle aerial sensors in one purchase from Microsoft’s award-winning UltraCam product line. Then recently, the firm further boosted its technology arsenal by becoming the first company to acquire an iOne n-Oblique sensor from Texas-based Visual Intelligence for oblique and 3-D imaging. According to Visual Intelligence, the camera can be flown without an operator on board the aircraft and can capture 360-degree, four-sided building views with 1.25-inch nadir resolution when flown at 1,500 feet.
Additionally, Canada’s Applanix Corp. recently announced it successfully tested its DMS-UAV sensor for professional-grade mapping applications on board an RS-16 unmanned aircraft system (UAS) from Pennsylvania-based American Aerospace Advisors Inc. Interest in UAS Earth observation applications continue to peak as the Federal Aviation Administration moves closer to clearing commercial UAS flights in the U.S. National Airspace System.
Earth imaging with a UAS, however, presents an entirely new set of physical and financial challenges that require smaller, more powerful sensors and a highly stable aircraft platform. Nevertheless, there are many firms working on this, and there’s little question that the technology to enable commercial success is right around the corner.
State of the Industry Report Offers Key Insights
The annual Earth Imaging Journal “State of the Industry Report” focuses exclusively on technology this year. We solicited members of our Editorial Advisory Board for their insights and predictions about game-changing geospatial technology. Their outstanding feedback includes commentary on crowd-sourcing technology, indoor mapping, 3-D capabilities, cloud computing and, of course, UAS. Additionally, Mike Tully, CEO of Iowa-based Aerial Services Inc., offers his vision of the coming era of civil UAS in “Approaching the Age of Personal Remote Sensing.”
— By Jeff Specht, publisher, Earth Imaging Journal