Google will purchase satellite company Skybox Imaging for $500 million following weeks of speculation surrounding a potential deal. Uses for Skybox's technology extend from Google Maps improvements to Internet expansion. Google announced the agreement Tuesday and said the $500 million will be all cash.
Skybox's satellites will be of interest to Google as it moves toward adding real-time updates to Google Maps. For a company that relies on data, Google also may take advantage of the data-processing capabilities that Skybox has in its arsenal.
There are two uses for Skybox Imaging that Google has publicly acknowledged. To begin with, the company's high-tech satellites will be used to enhance Google Maps. In the future, the satellites can also be used in conjunction with Google's Project Loon, the use of balloons and drones to expand Internet access in developing nations. Internet expansion projects are now more important at Google, and satellites are one more tool the company can use to get people online.
"Skybox's satellites will help keep Google Maps accurate with up-to-date imagery," Google said in a blog post. "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."
The satellites that Skybox Imaging has created are more than capable of capturing images for use in Google Maps. There are few locations that have not been photographed by Google, but the company needs a way to keep those pictures up-to-date. Satellites may be the right tool for the job as they would allow Google to capture detailed images of large areas without much effort.
Google has explored at least two ways to expand Internet access, drones and balloons, but satellites could be a third way. Skybox Imaging's satellites are already well suited for use in Google Maps and data processing rather than Internet expansion, however. Since Google has been upfront about other potential uses for the satellites, there are many ways that Google could eventually use them.
Skybox Imaging is directly associated with satellites, but the company has developed other technologies that are just as useful to Google. Skybox is collecting 1 terabyte of data every day, according to Khosla Ventures investor Pierre Lamond. That data could be used by Google in many ways, and it is well known that data is at the core of Google's business model.
Satellites may be used to take pictures of the Earth but the pictures themselves are not the only thing worth selling. Just as Google uses its services to collect personal data from users, satellites can be used to collect large amounts of data about different parts of the Earth. Even if Google does not use the data internally, the company has never had a problem selling it to other companies.