Nearmap: Mapping Reality

Rob Newman, CEO No one buys CDs anymore. They Spotify. With a subscription to a digital music service, anyone can instantly access the world’s library of music content anytime, anywhere, on just about any device.

Now imagine if you could stream “reality” the same kind of way. By that I mean being able to get an up-to-date, high-resolution, three-dimensional view of the real world—to see streets, buildings, trees, infrastructure, all in sharp clarity—on demand, whenever you wanted it.

That is our mission at Nearmap. We’re a cloud-based, aerial imagery service that offers you truth on the ground, available from your desktop or mobile device any time you need it.

Picture the city or town you live in. What would it be like to see at scale an entire cityscape—to be able to swoop down any street and zoom up on any office tower or home, any highway or green strip and have an exact sense of the environment and the path of the sun as it casts shadows through the day? Imagine how easy access to views of the real world might revolutionize business: It can change the way a developer plans a new residential complex, a local government approves a massive road project, or an insurance underwriter treats a homeowner policy.

Nearmap is Transforming the Way People Work

Not that long ago, high-resolution aerial imagery was available mainly to a privileged few: large companies and governments that could afford to hire an aerial photographer, engage a fleet of planes, and wait weeks, if not months, for a bird’s-eye map to be constructed. The service was expensive—and obsolete by the time the customer received it. This was essentially the old model, quite similar to the way that bespoke enterprise software was once installed, before the advent of SaaS and the adoption of the cloud.

"We’re just at the beginning of a dynamic new age for 3-D aerial imagery, where future uses lie somewhere beyond our imaginations"

We’ve changed the model of a one-time installation to a subscription service that lets users access as much or as little as they need of our massive library of 2-D images. This has created a new market for such data, easily available and affordable for one-man proprietorships, as well as make the data more accessible for large corporations. Four in five of our users in Australia never bought imagery before.

Changing the Way People View the World, Profoundly Changes the Way They Work

Companies are creating derivative products from Nearmap location content, using advanced algorithms to analyze and classify the most relevant and useful attributes in the imagery itself.

We’re a cloud-based, aerial imagery service that offers you truth on the ground, available from your desktop or mobile device any time you need it"

Virtually any user can easily create massively scalable databases of attributes like decks, pools, trees, crops, types of buildings, and more—the democratization of data at its best.

Our subscription model is also changing how people work. Being able to download our service from the cloud on a desktop or a mobile device means that users can make critical decisions right where they work, avoiding the hours and expense of onsite visits. This allows our customers—architectural, construction, and engineering firms, insurance and financial services, telecom and utility companies, governments, energy, real estate, and hundreds of thousands of businesses in roofing, landscaping, paving, and more—to work cheaper, smarter, and faster.

Consider the case of Nearmap customer Lindy Paving. The largest asphalt paving contractor in Pennsylvania, Lindy needed an easy-to-use mobile map that would help executives, project managers, estimators, and field staff better communicate and track the progress of various projects. Its field engineer and senior IT business analyst developed a storage and retrieval system that integrated 2-D aerial imagery from Nearmap.

What did Lindy gain from the field-data collection app? A method for better planning and generating estimates, as well as a more efficient system to help crews see the critical details of sites before having to visit them. Armed with all the necessary data points, and view of a given project from beginning to end, Lindy has been able to prioritize work more efficiently. It has also been able to cut the number of additional workers it needs to complete 400-plus projects a year. These benefits have translated into increased revenue for the company.

Aerial Imagery Meets 3-D

Now imagine how the nature of work can be transformed with easy user access to a 3-D model, reconstructed from data that is captured continuously. Suddenly, the real world unfolds as it is today and as it’s constantly evolving. A variety of industries will be able to exploit a new mapping reality to plan, design, and communicate better, make faster estimates and more effective decisions about how to execute their projects.

There are, to be sure, many producers of 3-D models. But no one has been able to create the degree, quality, and scale of aerial imagery captured by our new proprietary technology, providing exact details of what’s actually on the ground.

Flying at heights of over 10,000 feet, our HyperCamera2 scans the topography below, taking hundreds of thousands of photos per flight—almost like a video.
The camera isn’t just taking straight-down shots of everything below; it’s collecting views from multiple angles. With this vast collection of visual data, our proprietary software constructs a detailed, photo-realistic, 3-D view—a model of reality on the ground.

This is a leap forward for Nearmap, as well as for our customers. Launched in Australia in 2007, the company was then one of the first businesses worldwide to speculatively capture, manage, and deliver stunning 2-D aerial imagery at scale. Every year we cover hundreds of thousands of square miles in the U.S., Australia, and New Zealand.

Where Might 3-D Models Take Us?

Think about the case of a developer who intends to put up a residential skyscraper. The developer can provide not just a 3-D model of the building, but various real-life perspectives taking into account the entire cityscape—reality in context. This could show the prospective project among existing buildings, showing a realistic view from every floor of what the scenery is like and the effect of sun and shadows throughout the day. The architect can get a clear grasp of what, if any, design changes might be needed. And the municipal housing authority has more information to make betters decisions about whether to approve the construction permit.

What about the telecom company planning for fifth-generation wireless networks? 5G will allow for much faster downloads on mobile devices. It’s coming within the next few years and requires the installation of new telecom towers, among lots of other equipment. One of the big challenges for this group is 5G technology is very sensitive to line of sight. Trees, buildings, overpasses, bridges—they can all impact the transmission of high-frequency signals, causing calls to be dropped. But an accurate 3-D model of the environment can help optimize the design, plan, and execution of a very expensive project.

Now consider how 3-D can radically change the work of a solar installer. An accurate estimate of the job depends, obviously, on time and materials, but also on the projected performance of the panels. A 3-D model can help with the assessment of the roof slope, any obstructions, sun angles during the day, and the shadowing effect of surrounding trees and neighboring buildings. A localized 3-D capture won’t give a complete picture, but a broad 3-D model for the whole area will.

Our recent entry into 3-D models promises exciting new frontiers. Perhaps it will take Nearmap into markets for autonomous cars or drone deliveries, where a clear snapshot of reality on the ground can be a matter of smooth performance or grave mishap. It might open new approaches to disaster relief and land uses. It could even lead to new developments in virtual reality or next-generation hologram technology.

We’re just at the beginning of a dynamic new age for 3-D aerial imagery, where future uses lie somewhere beyond our imaginations.

Nearmap Ltd

Circular Quay, NSW

Rob Newman, CEO

Nearmap is a global leader in the provision of geospatial map technology for business, enterprises and government customers

Nearmap Ltd