Spy Satellites in the Supply Chain

We’ve all used Google Earth to look at our house or office building from space. But as a data tool, Google Earth is limited, since it might only be updated once or twice per year.

But the advent of small, inexpensive satellites has allowed the company Planet to take satellite imagery to the next level. Planet has a ring of more than 175 satellites that orbit the earth from the North Pole to the South Pole. Every day, each satellite in the ring makes a complete trip around the earth. Meanwhile, the Earth makes its daily rotation from West to East, underneath this ring of satellites. In this way, Planet is able to image the entire earth, every single day.

According to Catherine Scott, who runs the Image Analytics team at Planet, the satellites provide about 800,000 images every day. The images are then automatically stitched together to provide a seamless image that the user can browse and zoom in and out of.

(You can try it here. You can even use the search box to search for your house.)

The possibilities for this type of data are endless, including the opportunities for the supply chain industry.

Image courtesy of  www.planet.com

Image courtesy of www.planet.com

Maritime Traffic Monitoring

It is now possible to monitor port activity and shipping routes from space. This allows shippers and carriers to monitor congestion and delays. The visual information can also be combined with information provided by the port to present a more complete picture of port traffic. Historical satellite imagery also allows shippers and carriers to predict port traffic at key times of year.

Avoiding Piracy

It’s also possible to monitor suspicious activity and track illegal vessels. In this way, satellite imagery could be a real tool in the fight against piracy. Traditional methods of avoiding Somali pirates mean choosing longer and more expensive routes to avoid pirate infested waters. But if pirate vessels could be tracked daily via satellite imagery, it would give ships improved intel and help them to more effectively avoid piracy, while taking shorter, more direct routes.

Defending Against GPS Spoofing

According to the Maritime Executive, GPS spoofing is “the intentional transmission of false GPS signals to cause it to provide incorrect time or location information”. Multiple instances of spoofing have been reported over the last two years, meaning that GPS data cannot always be trusted. Satellite imagery can be used to confirm AIS/GPS data to protect against spoofing.

Image courtesy of  www.planet.com

Image courtesy of www.planet.com

Commodities Trading & Supply Chain Bottlenecks

Tracking images of activity around an oil refinery can allow companies and commodity traders to predict the supply for oil or gas. And the new age of competitive analytics isn’t limited to satellite imagery. Genscape takes a James Bond approach to business intelligence by combining satellite imagery with their own creative spy techniques. For example, they can use microphones to listen to pumps on an oil pipeline, and from there determine how much oil is being transported. Or they can analyze the angle of shadows on images of oil tankers captured via Planet’s satellite imagery. That allows them to determine  how full the tankers are, helping to predict the supply of oil.