The field of Earth Observation (EO) has seen two big changes in recent years: first, the massive increase in the number and variety of space-based sensors and, hence, the proportional increase in the amount and refresh rate (cadence) of EO data and falling prices for them; second, the shift by EO companies from selling pixels to selling finished intelligence products that answer specific questions—in other words, from data to analytics. This first article in this new series presents the perspectives of two long-time players in this industry:
Herring grew up hearing about all kinds of space missions. His father was a senior leader at Ball Aerospace for about 25 years and his older brother has been at Lockheed-Martin for almost 30 years. When Ball Aerospace became the major owner of EarthWatch, the predecessor to DigitalGlobe, his father was the founding CEO. “I was working at IBM. He brought me over for lunch and I was very interested, so I switched to EarthWatch.” His passion for the field has kept him in it since. “It is exciting, interesting, and fun to be involved in the birth of a new industry and watch it take off.”
In his early days at DigitalGlobe, as Herring understood his customers’ questions and problems, he began to think of what later became AllSource Analysis. While many of his customers were savvy about the technology, others did not fully understand it. He and his colleagues began using subject matter experts and image and geospatial analysts to extract information out of the imagery, so as to provide their customers with answers, rather than just pixels. The savvy customers – generally, governments and large corporations that were already using aerial imagery – often needed help extracting the information that was most relevant to them, especially in real time. Toward the end of his time at DigitalGlobe, Herring and a few of his colleagues including Stephen Wood, formed a group called the Analysis Center, then decided to found AllSource Analysis outside of DigitalGlobe, because they felt that they needed to be “agile and small” and able to adjust their offering and their business model to their customers’ needs. Stephen was a co-founder who has stepped away from day to day, and is still involved and on the board.