Lucy Kennedy, co-founder and CEO of Spottitt, starts by observing that, every year, £260B of avoidable damage and disruption happens to the UK's utility systems. Things like water, sewage, power and fibre networks. This is £2,000 for every kilometre of linear infrastructure in the country. This episode is a story of entrepreneurship helping utilities to reduce these losses. Spottitt does this with a service that essentially enables satellites to write directly to a utility company condition monitoring database.
Generally speaking, each utility operates an enterprise asset management system (EAMS). It is an exhaustive record of every powerline span, every pipe segment, every cable. As far as relational databases go, these are amongst the largest and most complex in any country. Against each element of, say, a gas utility network, the organisation will record details in the EAMS. Examples include when it was first installed and by whom, plus nature of the asset like grade of steel and pipeline diameter. Damage reports and repairs are also recorded. The entire life of a pipeline segment is stored here, including details of periodic condition inspections.
This is where Spottitt can save these companies money. A constellation of earth observation satellites covering the whole country day and night can powerfully augment a utility’s condition assessment teams on the ground. There are only so many kilometres of rail that a condition assessment crew gets to in a day. Leveraging a camera from space can help them, but it is not easy.
Satellite imagery is hard to get, and harder to analyse. Very few people know how. Spottitt’s service removes the complications that utilities face with data from cameras in space. An example is their new SaaS offering, Spottitt Metrics Factory. In essence, this allows satellites to write things like condition assessments directly to the Enterprise Asset Management System of a utility. In the past, such updates required an expensive team of remote sensing analysts. Now it is a devops pipeline, for pipelines.
As such, we are continuing a thread started in my interview with Will Cadell from SparkGeo:
Here he said no one wants to buy pixels, they want to buy the meaning in them. Funnily enough, he has an MBA from Oxford and it just so happens that Spottitt is from the same place. Am I sensing a location pattern in the UK geospatial industry?
Finally, Lucy proposes to hire a product manager as part of Spottitt’s next round of expansion. This is a new type of role which people sometimes confuse with project management. Amongst other things, a product manager functions as the customer advocate in an organisation that develops products. They could be software or hardware. This is important because of the temptation to develop product functionality for other reasons than clear, prioritised demands from customers. A developer may add all sorts of functions for academic or personal reasons. A product manager herds the team such that only the functions that customers most want get built. Iteratively. As such, a product manager causes the organisation to do what will cause customers to pay it.
I have an interest in this field due to studying Fundamentals of Product Management at Stanford Continuing Studies. This video demonstrates the capabilities that the course gives students:
So that’s enough summarising. Listen up as Lucy walks us through how to be a successful geospatial entrepreneur or, perhaps more importantly, how it depends on hunger.
THE GEOSPATIAL INDEX
The Geospatial Index is a comprehensive listing of all publicly traded geospatial businesses worldwide. Why? The industry is growing at ~10% annually. For only $58,000 to start, this growth rate is $5,000,000 over a working life.
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