Did you know satellite images are being used to count number of ships living ports in China to get a real-time estimate of economic activity? Sometimes, I feel the world is moving just too fast and I am left behind.
Three thousand miles west in Mountain View, California, lies the source of that oil data, a company called Orbital Insight, which, according to its mission statement, finds “truth and transparency” in the world’s rhythms. What that means in practice is that roughly 30 engineers and scientists spend their days sifting through satellite images for information their customers — not just hedge funds but also asset managers, insurance companies, and government agencies — want. The number of ships leaving China’s ports. The total cars parked outside every Lowe’s in the United States. The income distribution of a district in Sri Lanka. In the case of oil volumes, the key is in the shadows.