By Bill Johnson, Carpe Geo Evangelist

I don’t know if kids play with Dominos anymore, but I sure did when I was a youngster.  Our family had a rather beat-up set in a wooden box with a sliding lid, probably a hand-me-down from some older cousins.  My brother Erik and I loved to line them up, standing them up on end and carefully spaced apart.  Once arranged, we’d gently push the first Domino to set off a chain reaction that caused them all to fall sequentially.  It’s mesmerizing.  It’s also a great metaphor to describe what’s happening in the aerial imagery market.  

Barriers to adopting imagery content programs

Last year I wrote about the tough choices between contracting for a custom imagery collection program versus subscribing to a licensed imagery content program.  That was 14 months ago, and at that time we were already seeing some state imagery programs shifting to licensed imagery content.  Utah and Texas were early trailblazers in this trend, but at least 10 states had made the switch.  Then momentum seemed to stall.

The “vanilla-is-the-only-flavor-offered” nature of content programs is a barrier to more states making the switch.  Most imagery content programs offer fixed specifications of imagery products.  This includes the timing of acquisition, resolution, refresh frequency, and definition of urban areas where higher resolutions are captured.  Licensed content programs also offer terms of use that need to be fully understood. 

If the imagery specifications and terms of use offered in a content program are close to what a state needs and wants, the decision is straightforward.  Licensed imagery data programs cost substantially less than custom contracting, so licensed content usually wins.  In other cases, though, licensed imagery content differs too much from what the state is accustomed to having.  In these cases, the lower price of content programs is not enough to overcome the differences in imagery specifications.  That changes with Hexagon’s HxGN Content Program launching its new Content+ (“Content Plus”) offering.

Hexagon is changing the aerial imagery marketplace

We recorded a webinar last month where I interviewed Katie Fitzsimmons, Business Development – Hexagon Content Program.  Content+ represents a big change in the marketplace.

Katie explained that Hexagon is introducing unprecedented flexibility in their imagery content program.  They are now enabling states to retain their native imagery specifications and still get the tremendous pricing advantages of imagery content programs.  This is one of those “best of both worlds” moments.  It means, for example, that a state that needs leaf-off imagery (generally not available in previous content programs), can get that.  A state can also define their own urban area footprints where they want higher resolution imagery.  And speaking of resolution, if a state wants to specify ultra-high resolution (up to 7.5 cm, or 3”), that can be done, too.  How about faster refresh rates?  Yes.  A downsampled version of the imagery that can be released into the public domain?  Yup.  If it’s in your specs, it’s open for negotiation.

What’s interesting here is that Hexagon is changing who determines the imagery collection specifications.  Previously, their major first-instance buyers of the data dictated the specifications.  Under Content+, the specifications can be determined by the individual states that join the program.  States are no longer second-instance buyers of “vanilla” imagery content data.  It’s a great strategy, in my view.  

Content+ is knocking down Dominos

Hexagon’s pivot to state specifications for imagery content reminds me of the Dominos that Erik and I lined up as kids.  Think of those Dominos as barriers to the adoption of licensed imagery content.  Content+ is knocking those Dominos down.