Years ago I interviewed imagery guy Gerry Kinn (then at EMERGE, now at ESRI) about the killer apps for aerial and satellite imagery. He told me a story of how you’d go into the Home Depot (or the like) and the clerk would use an imagery based app to determine how much fertilizer you needed for your lawn. I think we are a getting there!
Enter Sungevity. The company uses imagery (from MS Virtual Earth since it need the obliques from Pictometry) along with information from one’s electric bill to estimate the return on installing solar panels, which the company sells and installs. The “no visit” estimate cuts time and cost from an implementation.
The company’s secret sauce is a trigonometry-heavy application that can take satellite imagery and create a 3D model of a house. From the model, Sungevity calculates the pitch of the roof, the azimuth (for instance, where the house faces in relation to compass points) and the available area.
“You introduce errors when you put a guy on the roof,” Kennedy asserted.
Sungevity uses data from Microsoft Virtual Earth rather than Google Earth for its satellite imagery. Google Earth only provides a top-down view of a roof. Virtual Earth gives data from different angles, which lets Sungevity calculate pitch.
Currently working California, the company hopes to go nationwide. One mail campaign will include an image of the resident’s house with some quick math to determine potential effectiveness.