11/10/2017 Picture by Charlie Bibby for the Financial Times. Planet labs story to go with John Thornhill copy. Customer of Planet, Ines Ruiz of GAF, photographed at Planets Berlin office.
Planet’s “Dove” satellite © Charlie Bibby

A long-predicted revolution in satellite technology is finally arriving. On Saturday, Elon Musk's SpaceX hopes to launch the first test for a space-based communications network that will eventually blanket the earth with more than 11,000 satellites.

That comes a month after Rocket Lab became the first to put small satellites in orbit using a new generation of low-cost rockets.

What will this new commercial foothold in space be used for? As the FT's John Thornhill reports, San Francisco-based Planet is already shaking up ideas of how we see the Earth. The satellite imaging startup is amassing a detailed view of the planet that could bring a new understanding of human societies. As co-founder Robbie Schingler puts it:

Rivers change. Cities grow. Things shift over time. With computer vision and machine learning algorithms on top of that, you can actually understand patterns of life and anticipate what’s about to happen.

But will there be a big enough market? The falling costs of both satellite imaging and communications have triggered a gold-rush mentality. It isn't yet clear whether any of the newcomers can create a good business out of it. 

Flag as Important

The €100m cookie: A court in Belgium has told Facebook to stop collecting data about its users as they browse other websites, through cookies that they might not know about. The penalty for failing to comply: €100m.

Alexa, when's the revolution? The FT's Henry Mance argues that fear of technology is overdone. It is often just the fallible product of its human creators. When it doesn't work, there's no need to rush to the barricades: better to just press the off button.

Forwarded

More Uber retrenchment? That's according to CNBC, which says Uber is getting ready to sell its business in Southeast Asia. After pulling out of China and Russia, it would help cut losses and move the company another step towards a hoped-for IPO. As the FT's Leslie Hook reported last month, the company's new shareholder, Softbank, is pushing for just this kind of action.

Let's take a Google What word will we use for hiring a car when Google's sister company, Waymo, launches its own ride-hailing app? The new rival to Uber has come a step closer, after Waymo was granted a licence to operate in Arizona using its driverless cars. Quartz has the details.

Tech tools you can use - Blippar AR

Let's face it: if you're standing in front of a 1,000 ft tall iron lattice tower in the middle of Paris, you aren't likely to get your phone out to check on what it is. Still, Blippar's new Landmark Recognition Feature is a handy demonstration of the technology the UK-based company has been building. Its best hope, in a world where Apple and Google are building augment reality capabilities into Android and iOS: providing the tools for other developers who want to create their own AR experiences and publish them to the main smartphone platforms.

Get alerts on Technology sector when a new story is published

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2019. All rights reserved.
Reuse this content (opens in new window)

Follow the topics in this article