Bill Gates Backs EarthNow, a Live Surveillance Project for the Entire Planet

bill gates earthnow

A new space imaging startup EarthNow recently announced its intent to “deploy a large constellation of advanced imaging satellites that will deliver real-time, continuous video of almost anywhere on Earth.” The startup, which is the latest company to emerge from the Intellectual Ventures ISF Incubator, is being backed by AirBus, the SoftBank Group, Bill Gates, and satellite-industry veteran Greg Wyler in its first round of funding.

According to a recent report from TechCrunch, the company hasn’t revealed the initial investment amount, but the announcement claims that the funding “focuses primarily on maturing the overall system design to deliver innovative and unique real-time Earth observation services.”

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Each satellite deployed by EarthNow will be equipped with “an unprecedented amount” of processing power, featuring more CPU cores than all other commercial satellites combined. The satellites will not only capture and broadcast live video, but will also do an onboard analysis of the live imagery using machine learning. While the company hasn’t revealed what exactly it’ll do with the data, it has listed down a number of potential uses for its network, including:

“Catching illegal fishing in the act, watching hurricanes and typhoons as they evolve, detecting forest fires the moment they start, watching volcanoes the instant they start to erupt, assisting the media in telling stories from around the world, tracking large whales as they migrate, helping “smart cities” become more efficient, providing on-demand data about crop health, and observing conflict zones around the world.”

The company hasn’t revealed Gates’ contribution to the project, but it’s believed that the global goodwill associated with his name will help the company overcome the privacy-related backlash it may face for deploying large-scale surveillance that affects the entire population.

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