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Outer Space Economics - 7/22/15

Economists and others are accustomed to receiving economic data from government agencies, non-governmental organizations and business associations – now we have a new source of data – outer space.  As reported by Bloomberg Business, some two hundred and fifty miles above the Earth, a flock of shoebox-sized Dove satellites is altering out understanding of economic life. 

For instance, in Myanmar, the slow spread of lighting at nighttime indicates slower growth than Word Bank estimates.  In Kenya, photos of homes with metallic roofs can indicate transitions from poverty.  In China, more trucks in factory parking lots can reflect shifts in aggregate industrial production.  Aid organizations can use this information to better distribute donations.  Investors can use the data to select emerging markets in which to deploy capital. 

A new industry is growing up around this technology.  Planet Labs Incorporated, a San Francisco startup founded in a garage by former NASA engineers, operates more than fifty Dove satellites that orbit the Earth every ninety minutes.  Seattle-based BlackSky Global, backed by Microsoft co-found Paul Allen’s Vulcan Capital, intends to begin launching its fleet of sixty satellites next year to scan most of the globe forty to seventy times each day.

Anirban Basu, Chariman Chief Executive Officer of Sage Policy Group (SPG), is one of the Mid-Atlantic region's leading economic consultants. Prior to founding SPG he was Chairman and CEO of Optimal Solutions Group, a company he co-founded and which continues to operate. Anirban has also served as Director of Applied Economics and Senior Economist for RESI, where he used his extensive knowledge of the Mid-Atlantic region to support numerous clients in their strategic decision-making processes. Clients have included the Maryland Department of Transportation, St. Paul Companies, Baltimore Symphony Orchestra Players Committee and the Martin O'Malley mayoral campaign.