AllSource Analysis (ASA) leads the commercial imagery intelligence market with a suite of multi-source information and analytic products. In partnership with the world’s leading data resources and an international network of analysts, ASA’s team fuses unique content into actionable intelligence for critical decision makers in energy, financial, government, humanitarian and insurance industries. Editor in Chief Joe Francica spoke with CEO Stephen Wood about the company’s plans for growth in an era of expansion for the Earth observation satellite business.
Directions Magazine (DM): AllSource recently identified what appeared to be a new North Korean submarine docked along the country’s east coast using satellite imagery supplied by DigitalGlobe. While this kind of intelligence isn’t the mainstay of AllSource’s business, what does this say about the availability of high resolution satellite data, with more repeat coverage than we’ve had in the past, to identify threats to national security?
Stephen Wood (SW): This, indeed, points to increased availability, and demonstrates a major part of the impetus for starting our business: I believe that we are in the midst of seeing an exponential increase in the amount and availability of satellite imagery in the market. Having extensive imagery coverage and frequent collection revisits improves our ability to monitor and analyze events and enables the intelligence to be even more accurate. Today, the amount of available coverage is so significant, we’re actually moving away from always having to task satellites to get what we need. Instead, we can often rely on recently collected archive data found in the commercial imagery providers’ libraries. Furthermore, the amount of daily coverage is set to grow dramatically in the coming years.
DM: The focus of AllSource’s business is in the energy and financial sectors. What is it that makes those sectors better opportunities for the satellite image analysis business rather than the traditional GIS markets of local government, forestry and land use?
SW: Through our experience over the last decade in the commercial remote sensing industry, we feel the energy and financial markets have the applications and requirements most analogous to what we’ve previously seen in defense and intelligence. We will continue to work in the government and private security markets, but we are responding to rising demand in the energy and financial sectors. Customers in these markets also have significant decisions to make and need information in a rapid fashion—much like a military or intelligence customer. They also tend to need deeper analysis and insight into long-term project areas, and in response we have packaged our products accordingly at Allsource Analysis. Our Discovery products provide customers with a very rapid answer detailing significant activity or change; our Analysis product offers a deeper analytic view into a client’s area of interest that is delivered in a few days; our Insight product offerings provide robust imagery and geospatial content that can be customized for each client’s specific monitoring needs. The problems that we help to solve and the resulting decisions that our clients then make are crucial to their survival and ability to achieve or maintain market leadership.
DM: AllSource’s expertise lies in image analysis, not selling imagery and pixels. How savvy do you find your clients to be? Is there much education necessary to sell your services?
SW: Our products and services expand and harness the value of imagery pixels with our expertise. We truly understand how to access the right imagery for the application; we have mastered the tradecraft of imagery analysis and have merged remote sensing with open source research and geospatial analysis. By packaging the information in an intuitive and easy-to-understand format, we don’t need our clients to be savvy about the underlying technology. Frankly, that’s our job and responsibility. Instead, we make it easy by understanding up front what problems our clients are trying to solve and then provide them with products that answer their critical questions. In the energy market, we are focused on serving the people outside of the typical applications such as exploration, and we concentrate more on applications in the security, competitive intelligence and strategy disciplines. The financial clients are typically not as experienced or savvy with the imaging and geospatial technology, so we take the time to listen to their specific needs, understand what types of problems we can solve and then provide information relating to security implications, capacity, volume metrics, competitive intelligence and historical trends.
DM: How fast has your business grown and do you see the likelihood that other business sectors will catch on to the competitive advantages that image interpretation affords them?
SW: Since we just started operations in July, the growth has been quite fast and the excitement about what we are doing is being echoed by not only our clients, but industry partners as well. The market demand is growing in other areas and we see plenty of potential in several other markets, but as a start-up we must focus our efforts on the areas that have the most demand and an unmet need right now. Our products and analysis are beginning to open our customers’ eyes to the value of satellite imagery, and also the greater geospatial capabilities. Merging imagery with other rich data sources provides clients with a new understanding of their world, and how they can make critical decisions.
DM: How do you see the next two to three years going, when “live” HD video and near real-time satellite imagery become available? There will certainly be a challenge with data overload. How will you position AllSource to accommodate this flood of data, and what other kinds of services do you think you will be providing?
SW: The proliferation of imaging data and geospatial technology is why we believe now is absolutely the right time for AllSource Analysis. Increasingly, there will be problems with clients overloaded with data sources, but this points to our core strength: understanding the right information and geospatial intelligence technology and knowing how to apply it to solve the client’s problems. Having partnerships with many of the imaging and data providers, along with cloud computing and geospatial technology companies, gives us access to a wide variety of geospatial content and solutions, and enables us to extract the information that quickly solves a client’s difficult question. We hear consistently from our clients that they don’t just want an image, they want an answer. AllSource Analysis provides our customers the access to the answers they need by quickly solving their technology problems in near real time, but without exposing them to the clutter of collection issues, procuring, managing, storing, merging and extracting information.