InsightaaS: The Wall Street Journal – thought to be the largest newspaper (by circulation) in the US – is an internationally-recognized source of news and insight on a wide range of issues, and particularly on business matters. This article illustrates why its perspective is so widely valued: in it, author Christopher Mims examines potential implications of Google’s new Skybox acquisition, and its potential to increase the use and value of geolocation data to the point where it will enable “competitive intelligence as spy craft.” The kind of data that Google/Skybox can serve can already be used by analyts to predict Wal-Mart sales figures in advance of quarterly releases, estimate oil pumped in Saudi Arabia, and pre-announce the release of the next iPhone. What happens when it is in the hands of every Google user?
Silicon Valley lately has seemed like the land of wild–or at least puzzling–valuations.
Facebook bought WhatsApp, a messaging service with paltry revenue and at least a half-dozen sophisticated competitors, for $19 billion. Uber was just valued at $18.2 billion in a round of private-equity financing. Even Beats Electronics, a company with a music service in its infancy and technologically inferior headphones that could fall out of fashion at any moment, was valued at $3.2 billion to Apple.
But Google just bought a company that could have a bigger impact on its bottom line and on the world than any other recent acquisition by the search giant or its tech brethren–for just $500 million.
For 1/38th the price of WhatsApp, Google acquired Skybox Imaging, which puts satellites into orbit 185 miles above Earth on the tip of the same Russian missiles that once threatened the U.S. with nuclear destruction. And here’s what Skybox could allow Google to accomplish: Within a couple of years, when you want to know whether you left your porch light on or if your teenager borrowed the car you forbade her to drive, you might check Google Maps.
That’s because by 2016 or so, Skybox will be able to take images of anyplace on earth Earth twice a day…