June 11, 2014
Merger Deal Worth $500M Struck Between Google And Skybox Imaging
Peter Suciu for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
On Tuesday Google confirmed that it would acquire Skybox Imaging, a satellite imaging and analytics startup, for $500 million. Previous reports had put the deal closer to the $1 billion mark for the five-year-old Skybox, which reportedly has the world's smallest high-resolution imaging satellite.
Skybox utilizes its satellites to collect a range of images and videos from around the world, and this acquisition could provide Google with images for the tech giant's online mapping service.
"Skybox's satellites will help keep Google Maps accurate with up-to-date imagery," the tech giant announced on the official Google Investor Relations site. "Over time, we also hope that Skybox's team and technology will be able to help improve Internet access and disaster relief — areas Google has long been interested in."
This is the latest in a series of acquisitions made by Google as it and rival Facebook have begun a race to acquire satellite and drone companies to expand their respective businesses. In April Google acquired drone maker Titan Aerospace, while Facebook announced the launch of its own Connectivity Lab, an initiative to provide Internet access to the developing world.
The acquisition of Skybox will provide Google with smaller satellites, one of which has been launched so far, along with plans to launch a constellation of 24 more in the near future.
For the employees at Skybox it might not be that much of a cultural change as both it and Google are based in Mountain View, California, and share a common vision – which could include improving Internet access as well as disaster relief.
"Skybox and Google share more than just a zip code," the Skybox Team posted on its official blog on Tuesday. "We both believe in making information (especially accurate geospatial information) accessible and useful. And to do this, we’re both willing to tackle problems head on – whether it's building cars that drive themselves or designing our own satellites from scratch.
"We are who we are because of the incredible customers, partners, & advisors [sic] who have given their time, wisdom, resources & encouragement over the years. To the people who believed in us before anyone else, you know who you are," the team added.
While Skybox has only launched one satellite, it's what it can do with that technology that made it so desirable to Google. It can provide high-resolution images as well as use its analytics to track movements around cities and ports, monitor refugee movements in conflict areas and track the stockpiles of resources.
"Skybox's technology is impressive by itself," wrote PC World's Zach Miners. By analyzing its images and video, the company provides intelligence on all sorts of industries and activities on Earth – data that Google could eventually incorporate into any number of its products."
"Google Earth Enterprise allows you to store and process terabytes of imagery, terrain and vector data on your own server infrastructure, and publish maps securely for your users to view using Google Earth desktop or mobile apps, or through your own application using the Google Maps API," the division noted on its home page.
Google did not provide any specific details about the launch schedule for the remaining satellites or the timetable to close the deal. On Tuesday Google noted, "The transaction is subject to customary closing conditions, including the receipt of regulatory approvals in the US."