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by | Jun 22, 2022

BlackSky accelerates towards Amazon RE:MARS: Q&A with BlackSky CIO Patrick O’Neil

BlackSky CIO Patrick O’Neil

BlackSky CIO Patrick O’Neil

We have had a busy month, recently winning a contract with the NRO. And now we’re off to Las Vegas for Amazon reMARS, where our Chief Innovation Officer (CIO) Patrick O’Neil will be giving a talk about why BlackSky’s real-time dynamic monitoring capability is changing the geospatial intelligence game.

 What does the role of Chief Innovation Officer entail for you at BlackSky?  

In a nutshell, I’m responsible for our advanced analytics strategy and innovative solutions. On a day-to-day basis, that means my team looks at BlackSky’s entire technology platform – from the rapid-revisit constellation all the way to our Spectra AI tasking and analytics platform – and designs novel solutions to problems which require real-time dynamic monitoring. Geospatial intelligence is core to understanding an evolving world. If a customer needs to get eyes on one or multiple sites within an hour or two, or needs to understand a constantly shifting environment, we’ll figure it out.

Why is real-time dynamic monitoring so important? How does it fit into both commercial and government applications?  

The world is moving faster and faster every day. Decision timelines are shrinking. To be effective, you need to have the best information possible at your fingertips at a moment’s notice and traditional remote sensing systems don’t live up to that need – they’re falling by the wayside.

On the government side, remote sensing data is used for planning but also for reacting to conflicts, crises, and other rapidly unfolding events. For example, getting eyes on a natural disaster helps first responders understand road blockages and the extent of damage. It is critical to get that data immediately – waiting days for insight simply isn’t an option.

On the commercial front we’re finding an increased need to track the movement of commodities so that traders can make more informed pricing and buying decisions. This data can often be obfuscated, so we make it easier by providing real-time visual confirmation of commodity supplies that are otherwise difficult to find or track.

There are also several commercial supply chain and construction monitoring use cases. For example, imagine that a logistics company or manufacturer is trying to understand when their parts will disembark at a port or cross a border by truck. Traditionally, that use case may require a whole team to monitor the port or the border crossing to understand the situation. Today, you can task BlackSky to take a quick image from the comfort of your office and have it delivered directly to your inbox for analysis.

You said that the uses of real-time dynamic monitoring are widespread, but could you give a specific example of a real-world use case of BlackSky capabilities that made a tremendous impact?

One of the recent, high-profile impacts of our system has been monitoring the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The ability to watch troop movement in near real-time and respond to the situation on the ground an hour ago, versus several days ago, can literally be the difference between life and death.

We have been working closely with news agencies and others to follow up on the escalating humanitarian crisis in the region, such as migrant movements and the unfolding grain and fertilizer shortages. Our monitoring capability helps our users understand how the war is impacting the security of the larger food supply chain.

As shown recently with CNN, we are also able to track the deployment of pontoon bridges, which I find quite fascinating since monitoring this deployment of temporary bridges requires capabilities that operate in near real-time to be able to see where the bridges are deployed.

So what’s going on at re:MARS?

How about answering a question with a question: Why would the U.S. Government award BlackSky the EOCL contract?

I’ll be answering that question and more during my video-on-demand talk called BlackSky: Disrupting new space with real-time dynamic monitoring (SPC215), where attendees can hear all about BlackSky’s dynamic monitoring capability central to our contract from the U.S. Government.

We’re also hosting two amazing events where people can get up close and personal with our constellation.

First, you can come hang out with us on Wednesday, June 22, 2022, from noon to 12:30 p.m. at the Amazon Web Services (AWS) Ask the Expert booth located in the Tech Showcase area. In addition to getting a satellite tasking demo, we have some BlackSky swag to share.

It gets even better.

On Wednesday night, from 5 to 8 p.m., BlackSky and AWS will be hosting a cocktail reception where, in addition to grabbing one of our signature AWS x BlackSky re:MARS cocktails, attendees can personally task our constellation, live.

There’s definitely a lot going on in Las Vegas this week. Be sure to follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn. We hope to see you there!