DigitalGlobe Acquires GlobeXplorer

Welcome to GISWeekly! This week’s big news included DigitalGlobe’s acquisition of GlobeXplorer, a leading geographic data integration and publishing company, from Stewart REI Group, Inc., a subsidiary of Stewart Information Services, Corp. Read about it in this week’s Industry News.

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Industry News
DigitalGlobe Acquires GlobeXplorer
by Susan Smith

This week’s big news included DigitalGlobe’s acquisition of GlobeXplorer, a leading geographic data integration and publishing company, from Stewart REI Group, Inc., a subsidiary of Stewart Information Services, Corp.

Home Reef, Tonga
Images Collected November 24 and December 5, 2006
These are natural color, 60-centimeter (2-foot) high-resolution QuickBird satellite images featuring the formation of a new island in the archipelago. Image courtesy of DigitalGlobe

Chuck Herring, Director, Corporate Communications for DigitalGlobe, said that the combination of the two companies creates the most complete, current provider of high resolution digital earth imagery and products. “We’ve been focused on transforming our company, which focuses on commercial high resolution satellite imagery. For the first years of operation we rolled out our product to the marketplace but focused on the satellite itself, i.e., the capabilities, satellites, spatial resolution, and accuracy. It has been a features marketplace.”

Herring said DigitalGlobe is now viewing itself as a content company. “Two major initiatives have been around coverage and accessibility. This acquisition will accelerate our efforts to have a more complete provider with not only the satellite imagery but the content that GlobeXplorer brings us, such as from the AirPhotoUSA libraries. They have a substantial amount of coverage from not only high resolution aerial but medium resolution satellite imagery. That, coupled with our imagery, accelerates us to become a more complete provider.”

Internet mapping is driving the need for completeness of coverage, Herring said. Customers want to know if their area of concern is covered, is the imagery available and up-to-date. Besides more complete coverage, the combination of DigitalGlobe and GlobeXplorer provides an integrated web-based delivery platform for delivering geospatial information and products.

“The other area that we really focused on is accessibility because what we’ve focused on in initial operations have been traditional users of satellite imagery or aerial imagery who call and ask us if we have a particular area of coverage, and we search the library. This is known as a ‘discreet buying pattern.’ If we don’t have it we let you know when we can catch the satellite to collect your information. It may take weeks or months to get all your areas collected. Once we have collected it we put it on some kind of physical media, DVD or firewire, then it’s up to the end user. Generally we’re dealing with the government or other very savvy users who have the capabilities to take that product, host it, integrate into their workflow. As we move forward we’re finding especially in the commercial realm and many government realms, they don’t have the capability to take all of that data and host it all themselves. What they want is easy access to that data.” Subscriptions can also provide access to imagery and data that you can either host outside your enterprise system or build on top of your application.

Last week DigitalGlobe announced that Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corporation is building WorldView 2. According to the press release WorldView 2, the third satellite in DigitalGlobe’s constellation of spacecraft, offers the highest collection capacity of Earth imagery, and is the only next generation system to be built independent of U.S. Government financing. WorldView 2 is the third remote-sensing satellite built by Ball Aerospace for DigitalGlobe, and this satellite fits in with DigitalGlobe’s focus on overall capacity and completeness of coverage.

With the growing number and importance of internet mapping and geographic exploration systems and their ensuing search for content, this acquisition of GlobeXplorer by DigitalGlobe is not surprising.

Herring said that because of Google Earth more people are aware of satellite imagery and geospatial content and seek to integrate them into their workflow. “There’s a level they can accomplish within the free internet applications and geospatial content, but many of them need more information -- more coverage, more up-to-date imagery, or they need the actual product for the spectral capabilities, metadata, and the accuracies that come with the core product offering,” Herring pointed out. “We’ve heard from customers across the board is that Google and Microsoft have done for the industry in a year what the industry hasn’t done in a decade.”

This increased awareness has spawned numerous new users such as non-traditional agencies that may not have used geospatial content or satellite imagery before. The U.S. government as well as foreign governments have increased their demand for satellite and aerial imagery, as well as geospatial content. This new range of users also includes organizations in the commercial, civil government, defense and intelligence communities. In response, DigitalGlobe is increasing its coverage and ability to deliver imagery to those non-traditional users, both in the government and the commercial marketplace.

Both DigitalGlobe and GlobeXplorer are privately held, and DigitalGlobe may be looking toward an IPO in two years or sooner if the market warrants it. Also interesting to note is the fact that DigitalGlobe is partnered with Google to provide imagery for Google Earth, while GeoEye is partnered with Microsoft to provide imagery for Microsoft Virtual Earth.

Top News of the Week

1Spatial (formerly known as Laser-Scan) is delighted to announce that their Product Director, Graham Stickler, has been chosen to Chair a new Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC®) Working Group on Data Quality.

A motion has been unanimously passed at the OGC Technical Committee Meeting in San Diego, California, to create a Working Group (WG) with specific focus on spatial data quality. Graham Stickler of 1Spatial was elected Chair of this WG, with Patrick Cunningham, President of Blue Marble Geographics as the Vice-Chair.

MapQuest Business Solutions, a provider of enterprise software for location based services, announced the launch of its MapQuest(R) Advantage API(TM) v5 (AAPI 5.0) platform, which enables businesses to integrate high-powered, location-based technology into their web and wireless applications.

Serving key industries such as real estate, retail, hospitality, healthcare, transportation, insurance and banking, AAPI 5.0 not only introduces much sought-after new features like "grab and pan," aerial imagery and hybrid views, it also provides an overall interface that is much easier to deploy and use. The platform's new AJAX interface allows developers to quickly and easily location-enable their applications.

Trimble introduced its GuideWorx GPS(TM) application, further extending its Trimble Outdoors(TM) suite of GPS-on-cellular applications and demonstrating the company's leading position in the location-based applications space. GuideWorx GPS transforms a mobile phone into a powerful handheld GPS device specifically designed for both on- and off-road navigation. For the first time, consumers can completely manage their outdoor experiences -- from receiving content-rich trip planning information, to on-the-go driving and recreational navigation, along with sharing these experiences online, using one ultra-portable and cost-effective cellular device.


Garmin Ltd. announced that it has acquired location based services provider Digital Cyclone Inc. ("DCI") for $45 million in cash. The acquisition is expected to be accretive to Garmin Ltd. earnings in 2007.

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