Bird.i: Turning Intelligence into Imaging Through Application Programming Interface

by March 29, 2019

Corentin Guillo

Disruptive Innovation is a strengthened way of strategizing innovation-driven expansion of the company. It works as a guiding star for small and medium businesses these days. Such innovations take birth from low-end footholds or new market footholds. Bird.i is one such business firm which operates on disruptive innovation and even giving a tough fight to Google maps in terms of satellite imaging using the latest technology.

Based in Glasgow, Bird.i is a Scottish tech start-up collating the latest satellite imagery from multiple operators to provide insightful imagery for businesses across the globe. Working with the world’s leading satellite operators means the quality, frequency, and accuracy of the company’s images are far superior to free alternatives, such as Google Maps. The combination of these benefits allows the company’s customers to monitor changes on the ground and help to make important decisions, solve problems, gain competitive advantage and plan for the future.


Bringing Products to Users

Bird.i provides both imaging and intelligence services. The company’s Image Service allows users to view and download up-to-date satellite imagery from the online portal or API. Bird.i’s Intelligence Service applies powerful machine learning techniques to this imagery to extract meaningful insights, better and faster than the human eye. This insight assists in filling data gaps drives decision-making and satisfies business needs more efficiently.


Mission to Make Service Accessible

Having worked within organizations such as Airbus Defence & Space and the Satellite Applications Catapult, the company’s CEO’s experience largely concerns Earth Observation satellite development and innovation. The company was officially founded in 2016, but the idea for Bird.i came to him about 10 years ago. He recognized that up-to-date satellite imagery was only a privilege of those working within government, military or large commercial organizations that could afford the high price ticket.

The CEO knew the real value contained in this imagery was massively underexploited, and if he could lower the barriers to accessing this imagery, the corporate mass-market could really benefit.

He chose to base the company in Glasgow, Scotland, which is fast becoming a key destination for space-tech companies like Bird.i. More satellites have been built here in the last couple of years than any other European city, and with the UK’s first spaceport to be based in Sutherland, Scotland is becoming an increasingly important destination in the global space industry.


Leader at the Forefront

Corentin Guillo is the Founder & CEO of Bird.i who brings over 12 years of experience working with cutting-edge earth observation satellite technology. He always wanted to impact the world and quickly developed his vision into business with a focus on innovating and disrupting downstream satellite technology applications to create a mass market for the world’s best imagery.

Corentin is passionate about bringing together people from different cultures, skills, and experiences – Bird.i currently has employees from 9 different countries! By building company rich in unique perspectives, he hopes to create a culture that empowers his employees to excel.


Changing the Industry Perception

Bird.i’s work can be classified into two categories:

Big Data Analytics – As company’s users interact with its portal and consume the API, the Bird.i team monitors both the telemetric and location data and use this information to inform how it pulls fresh imagery into the system. This ensures that fresh imagery is always available for locations in high demand. Bird.i uses a combination of data streams, stream processing, and big data stores to achieve this in the cloud. For example, a spike in user activity around the city of Seattle will trigger more fresh imagery over Seattle to be pulled in the company’s system.

Image Intelligence – There is a wealth of information contained within a single satellite image. What makes it even more valuable when consumed through the company’s API/portal is that each image contains a specific timestamp, telling the user when the image was acquired. This makes it more interesting because now the images (and therefore the information in them) can be interpreted as part of a timeline and trends can be identified. Bird.i uses a combination of feature extraction and object localization using Machine Learning (utilizing Deep Neural Networks) and overlay that information onto a map. With other methods such as aerial photography or drone piloting being inordinately expensive, using satellite imagery means this information can be delivered to the customers at a much lower cost.

Bird.i’s ‘New Construction Tracker’, for example, utilizes powerful AI technology to automatically detect new construction projects and delivers these insights to customers in a simple, interpretable format. The company’s AI products offer its clients assurance of an accurate, up-to-date global data source, and the convenience of automatic detection means there’s a significant cost/time reduction for identifying and validating construction sites.


Prioritizing Technology Driven Innovation

Corentin believes Cloud computing, besides being cost-effective and scalable, is accelerating the pace of software development and deployment. This effectively reduces the gestation period between a concept on a drawing board to deployment as a product. This translates to rapid evaluation of ideas and products.

“Machine learning is simplifying human work by as much as a factor. For example, in identifying new construction work beginning, it has been noticed that Machine Learning Models take almost 10x less time as compared to humans; allowing for scaling and repetition,” he added.


Collaborative Approach

Bird.i is an innovation-driven enterprise, meaning that innovation is at the heart of everything it does. The company always try to challenge the status quo. Its internal motto is: “if it was easy, somebody else would have already done it”. This innovation is visible on the technology side with data agnostic platform, which aggregates many different sources of Earth observation data. The company harvests more than 10 million km² of imagery every day.

The innovation is visible on the business side as the company is redesigning the satellite data provision model as Spotify did it with the music industry a few years ago. By lowering all possible contractual, commercial and technical barriers to access the best of the world’s satellite imagery, Bird.i had to innovate with new business models in collaboration with the satellite operators.


Success Positioning

Although Bird.i has received a number of awards and competitions during its journey (such as MassChallenge, European Space Agency Business Incubation Centre and being a finalist in Start-up of the Year at The Scottish Tech Start-up Awards), the company has achieved a lot in a short space of time. In just 2.5 years, Bird.i has disrupted the satellite imaging industry by establishing a new marketplace for businesses and individuals to access (once unattainable) imagery and the insight it contains. The company has also managed to secure top-tier global customers from its target markets.


From Challenges to Milestones

As a first mover in the industry, Bird.i is trying to lower barriers, raise awareness and educate the market about the power and possibilities of up-to-date satellite imagery, as well as raising its own brand profile which can be challenging.

Since satellite imagery has a wealth use cases, channeling the company’s focus into one industry has been difficult. Bird.i got lucky to have so many opportunities and ways to address real-life problems by exploiting this imagery, but the company needs to be selective and maintain focus in one area for now while it is still in development stages.


Window to Future

 Bird.i’s technology is advancing continuously to provide the most accurate and up-to-date images and insightful intelligence possible. The ethos of the company is that the important information found in satellite and aerial imagery should be made more accessible, affordable and useable for all, to help businesses and individuals see a more accurate picture of the world, solve problems and plan for the future. To achieve this, Bird.i plans to expand the company’s offering to include further B2B products, and introduce the company’s product to consumer service industries such as travel and tourism.