15 4 / 2014

06 1 / 2013



(Image credit: A.Koblin for RadioHead)

This is a phrase that has stuck with me since Tim O’Reilly uttered some form of it two years ago. Tim was talking about online cartography, saying it’s not the maps that matter: it’s getting to our destination. Maps are a half-step short of that…

08 12 / 2012

Great overview by Jude Gomila.

Space exploration is going to open itself up for entrepreneurs, engineers and hackers in the next 10 years. With companies like SpaceX leading the way, a new generation of entrepreneurs has been inspired to go into the space sector. With privatization of space budgets and the efficiency that privatization can bring to the space industry, there has never been a better time to take the leap and make a space company. I believe there are many new startups that are going to create the “Space as a Service” movement. Here is a non-exhaustive breakdown of some of the companies and markets that will be built:


There is a ton of useful data that can obtained by analyzing the earth’s surface, e.g. 854 shipping containers in San Francisco seaport or 89 parking spaces open at your local car park. By opening up realtime, high-resolution satellite imagery, one could make an API to open hidden data about the earth’s surface and let developers build applications off the back of it. This is just the start of that idea: opening up more sensor data from space will provide new earth-bound applications:

Nanosatisfi - affordable access to space through a user-programmable imaging and data platform for $250/week. Fundraising right now on Angel List. The prospect of running an experiment in space for $250 is highly exciting. Imagine an AWS for satellites. Check out Skycube as well and ArduSat.

Skybox - developing microsatellites to deliver high-resolution imagery of any spot on earth in realtime. Closed recent funding with Khosla and BVP.

Terminal Velocity Aerospace LLC - basketball-size re-entry capsules for data and payload return for the nanosatellite industry.

Pine Aerospace - seeking to provide high-res imaging and analysis for the oil and gas industries, to help them monitor and clean up spills. The company plans to use microsatellites and unmanned aerial vehicles. These guys are chasing a valuable vertical that Skybox may want as well.


Part of the core problem with successful space commercialization is going to be getting up there. We need to bring the price of getting into orbit down by orders of magnitude. Just in the same way that we crushed the pricing of computation, digital storage, DNA sequencing and DNA synthesis, we will collapse the $/kg ratio of getting matter from the earth’s surface into orbit:

SpaceX - grand visions for making space travel cheaper and widening the exploration of space. These guys are going to drop the price of getting into space and take us to Mars.

Electric Take-Off - low-cost aviation and space launch with tethers. While writing this post, I got a quote from the founder John Carpinelli - “Electric air freight could be cheaper than trucking, and less costly than rail when you consider infrastructure costs. A nation-wide grid of electric launch systems could provide fast clean transport for people and goods without burning fossil fuels. Air taxi flights would only cost a few dollars per passenger. Winches are used today for launching gliders. Electric Takeoff extends the glider tow concept with higher altitudes and speeds. Supersonic and suborbital flights are possibilities as well.”

Liftport - lunar space elevator. They have plans to make it easier to land onto the moon. This might help OffGlobe’s plans to build a datacenter on the moon.

Unreasonable Rocket - developing a commercial nanosatellite launcher.

Space Tourism

One of the best ways of getting funding into the industry is to engage thrill-seeking space tourists.  Prices to get to orbit are falling rapidly and it wont be long before it costs $10k to get into space.

zero2infinity - high-altitude ballooning space tourism. Bookings are open for start of commercial operations in 2014-2015. Ticket price per person: $150,000 for a 2 night stay and a 6 hour flight, with 2 hours at maximum altitude.

Space Adventures - sending private citizens into space since 2010.

Virgin Galactic - Richard Branson’s outfit planning sub-orbital and orbital spaceflights to astrotourists.


Energy storage and generation in space is a fairly open commercial space. Not only do we have to generate energy in space, we also have to store this energy and transfer it between entities. Designers and engineers seeking scalability problems need look no further.

LaserMotive - wireless power-delivery systems using laser beams to transmit electricity without wires.

Digital Solid State Propulsion LLC - solid-state propellants that can be switched on and off using only electrical power.


This area is already thriving with the satellite communication companies. Moving datacenters beyond government controls and taxation jurisdiction. Having a lower latency data transfer between spacecraft. The possibilities are very open. Who will build the first space ISP? Who will own the off-earth datacenters? Who will be the Verizon of Mars?

OffGlobe - building the first commercial data center on the moon. OffGlobe will deploy a solid-state network storage array. Linked with stations on earth, customers will be able to purchase off-planet storage space and have access to the communication network we operate from the surface of the moon.


With demand for electronic goods driving metals prices through the roof, we may have to start looking for resources outside of earth.  Likewise, 3D-printed self-building spacecraft will need resources to be mined locally.

Planetary Resources - asteroid mining. May be able to work in partnership with Universal BioMining.

There is going to be a massive array of supporting companies outside of the core areas. From astronaut training to synthetic modification of food, once a company ecosystem develops, many supporting companies will emerge. Here is a random selection of some of the startups:

WayPoint 2 Space - commerical astronaut training. WayPoint 2 Space is the only fully comprehensive spaceflight participant space training program in the United States.
Saber Astronautics - advanced artificial intelligence capabilities with 3D graphics to aid space operations. 
Terapio - mitigate the effects of radiation exposure using bioengineered therapeutics.
ExoCoat - developing bioengineered coatings to clean and disinfect spacecraft interior surfaces, which could safeguard crews by removing toxins or biohazards.
SpaceGroundAmalgam - developing inflatable components — such as reflectors, booms and solar arrays — to reduce satellites’ size and weight.
Nanoly Bioscience - nanoly is developing a nanoparticle-based chemical shield that could allow vaccines and other perishable mission-critical medicines to be stored without refrigeration for long periods.

Investment in space startups is starting to go mainstream. As I said before, Nanosatifi is raising a round on AngelList right now. The appetite for investors to go beyond funding predictable companies is rising.

The Space Angels Networks - an angel network specifically designed for space startups.

Khosla and Bessemer Venture Partners are some of the more space-friendly VCs.


Space is one of the most exciting areas to build a company in right now. The barriers to entry are falling like meteors and the recruitment potential for getting the best engineers working in a space company has never been better. It is possible to build a profitable, high-growth company that can’t be disrupted by trivial platform changes and has the chance to truly change the world. If you are thinking of starting a company don’t forget the biggest platform to build on is not on this earth.

(Source: judegomila.com)

13 4 / 2012


Livehoods examines the way neighborhoods work in real life

Researchers from Carnegie Mellon University have analyzed foursquare check-ins to build a visualization of the way neighborhoods function in the real world. Livehoods provides a fascinating real-time look at the way neighborhoods really behave instead of the way they’re defined by the street grid, offering unique analysis possibilities for city planners and businesses.


Livehoods examines the way neighborhoods work in real life

Researchers from Carnegie Mellon University have analyzed foursquare check-ins to build a visualization of the way neighborhoods function in the real world. Livehoods provides a fascinating real-time look at the way neighborhoods really behave instead of the way they’re defined by the street grid, offering unique analysis possibilities for city planners and businesses.

22 2 / 2012


One of the Navy’s first steps toward the information dominance idea was to start thinking of all of its ships, airplanes and other platforms as data-collecting sensors.

“So we’ve gone from netcentricity, to every platform as a sensor, to netting every sensor, and the point of all of it really is not just to have netcentricity but to enable good decisions based on the data that comes off of those sensors,” said Rear Adm. Jan Tighe.

A captivating story of freeing data from silos and attempting to gain insights from it in the new form.

Original title and link: The Navvy Big Data Story: From Netcentricity to Every Platform as a Sensor (NoSQL database©myNoSQL)

04 2 / 2012


David Patterson is a professor of computer science at UC Berkeley. He’s also part of the faculty at Amp Lab addressing the challenges of “big data,” using machine learning, crowd-sourcing, and cloud computing. His team is working on several major initiatives, including how these new technologies can be harnessed for better cancer treatments. After reading his op-ed in the New York Times, we reached out for an interview.

What’s the mission of AMP Lab?

Our approach is to look at technology trends and where we think they’ll be five to ten years out, then start a five-year research project. The target here is big data. Big data is not only big, but it’s messy and uncurated and it’s not like traditional relational databases where everything fits into nice little rows and tables. The problem is getting timely answers of sufficient quality within the budget you want.

Read More

10 7 / 2011

Kenya Launches Africa’s First National Open Data Initiative http://smf.is/1uroc5

03 6 / 2011

PSFK CONFERENCE NYC 2011: Rachel Sterne from Piers Fawkes on Vimeo.



The Chief Digital Officer for NYC discusses her hopes for the integration of digital platforms into city life and interactions with city government, while pointing out what NYC.gov has already accomplished.

via ditigalcity:

I saw Sterne speak a few weeks ago in NYC at Activate NY, and she was very impressive. Her approach — opening up the city’s data to developers — is a really good start for open source governance.

(via stoweboyd)