Orbital Insight Inc. founder Crawford says he wants to create the “macroscope” that will alter the world as microscopes did centuries ago.
The Palo Alto, California, company uses advanced image processing and algorithms to track national and global trends. One product estimates sales at 60 U.S. retail and restaurant chains. Others generate a global poverty map and predict illegal deforestation by watching for road construction and other signs of logging.
Customers include hedge funds, banks, government agencies, nonprofit organizations and Fortune 500 companies — “anyone who needs to understand the world at scale to make decisions,” said Crawford, who led the team that created the daily activity planners for NASA’s Mars rovers.
These images are a composite of oil storage facilities around the globe. Crude is stored in massive tanks whose capacity can be estimated from the shadows they cast. How much is stored can be gauged from the shadows on the interior lids, which move up and down based on the amount of oil in the tank.