Aerial data capture by Nearmap

In 12 years, Nearmap has grown from a Western Australian aerial imagery startup into a AU$106M business with extensive operations in the US.

Nearmap logoFounded by Stuart Nixon in Perth, Western Australia, in 2008, Nearmap provides a cost-effective and high resolution aerial photography alternative to data from satellite imagery services such as Google Earth or drone-captured images. Nearmap deploys digital cameras in aircraft, taking various formats of photographs including vertical and oblique, then its software stitches the imagery together into seamless digital maps which can be published online in a matter of days.

Nearmap backstory

Extranet Evolution first mentioned Nearmap in November 2010 (post), when Australian software vendor Incite added geo-location services to its fast-developing project collaboration platform, Keystone. Nearmap allowed it to deliver relevant project data displayed on a map with a timeline that enabled users to view progress over time. On infrastructure projects, this Nearmap integration, which also used OpenStreetMap, would help construction professionals in the field to quickly find key locations such as service access chambers or the locations of soil compaction tests. However, the parent company pulled the plug on Keystone’s development in February 2011 (St Valentine’s Day massacre leaves Incite almost out-of-sight), the product was rebranded later that year, and the once-promising technology business was eventually sold off to Aconex in 2015 (Aconex CIMIC deal absorbs SaaS rival).

Kit Revell, NearmapMeanwhile, in 2012, following acquisition by Ipernica, Nearmap became listed on the Australian Securities Exchange, ASX, and moved its headquarters to Sydney. Two years later, it expanded into the United States, and in 2017 it expanded its Australasian operations by surveying cities in New Zealand, and adding 3D textured mesh models of Australia’s major cities.

Kit Revell, Nearmap’s senior director of sales, right, says Nearmap today regularly captures aerial imagery across large areas of the United States, primarily across its most populous regions. It has offices in Utah and New York, but most of its software development is still undertaken in Sydney, where the majority of the company’s 300-strong workforce are based. 

High-resolution imagery and mapping

Revell told Extranet Evolution that, unlike most rival imagery providers, Nearmap will overfly its terrain several times a year (up to six times a year in some urban centres), enabling it to capture ground details when trees have shed their leaves as well as when they are in leaf (“useful for arborists who want to check trees’ rates of growth”), and providing imagery that shows the evolution of landscapes and urban areas over time.

Nearmap aerial view of Illinois expresswayCustomers subscribe to access Nearmap imagery and geospatial mapping online; they can select areas for export and then import the files into their chosen GIS or design platforms. Customers range across sectors including insurance, government, property and real estate, roofing, solar power, telecommunications, and architecture, engineering and construction. Revell says Nearmap offers more accurate imagery than satellite, and quicker, more extensive and economical coverage than might be captured by drone-mounted cameras (UK contractor Balfour Beatty recently used drones to produce 3D mapping of the M25 London orbital motorway, capturing 85,000 over 30 days – link) or LIDAR services. While content captured by static site-based cameras (for example, see Evercam : site imagery, AI and BIM) might be just as effective on a small site, Nearmap potentially provides a better alternative for long, linear infrastructure projects, or for schemes that are still in the pre-project planning phases.

Nearmap’s technology was demonstrated during Autodesk University in November 2020 (link). It highlighted ways that its aerial content, 3D imagery, and a growing suite of Artificial Intelligence (AI) capabilities could be used to improve the quality of AEC proposals, designs and visualisations. The high-resolution imagery (“Nearmap Vertical consistently offers 2.2-3in [c 53-72mm] resolution”) clearly shows urban features, including trampolines and swimming pools in back gardens, solar panels, construction equipment, concrete structures, street lighting, etc. Nearmap’s AI is being deployed to differentiate between different types of surfaces (pervious vs impervious) and to recognise a growing number of common features.

Growth and partnerships

In the year to 30 June 2020, the company generated annual subscription revenues of Au$106 million (c £60 m, US$80 m, or €66 m) from over 10,000 subscriptions. Around two thirds of its revenues are derived from the Australasian market, but the company is gradually spreading further afield. For some of its US-based customers, the company has also started mapping parts of Canada, and Revell says it plans to expand its Asia Pacific operations as well as looking at other international market opportunities.

Just as it was by Incite a decade ago, the company’s data is also utilised by other software providers. Nearmap imagery can be brought into industry-leading third-party applications through API, WMS, MapBrowser Export, and ArcGIS Online Marketplace via various integration partners. Platform partners include Bentley, Cesium, ESRI and Autodesk, and the company also has an OEM program for solution providers to white-label or embed Nearmap content into their offerings.

PlexEarth imageAlso at Autodesk University 2020, Greece-based Plexscape announced that its AutoCAD plugin PlexEarth was switching from sole reliance on Google Earth, adding imagery from Nearmap, plus Airbus, Maxar and Hexagon (link).

Plexscape CEO Lambros Kaliakatsos says: “Google Earth has been great but bigger and better things are available, and to build a better world our engineers deserve them.”

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