Nearmap in Detail
Nearmap (ASX: NEA) announced the launch of its 3D online artificial intelligence product on the 6th of June. The market reaction to the news has been subdued; share price initially jumped to $3.32/share, but could not break the high reached on the earlier day. The ASX closed with the share gaining 0.31% to $3.21/share.
Nearmap: Better than Google Maps
Nearmap is a Western Australian tech firm specialising in aerial imaging technology and location data harvesting. Its main drawcard is its frequently updated aerial imagery, which may be refreshed up to 6 times per year from which Nearmap can conduct detailed change analysis. Imagery is of high resolution, with a sampling distance of 5.8-7.5cm per pixel. Their service is available on their cloud based MapBrowser platform available worldwide. The scope of their project encompasses about 88% of Australian population, as well as 68% of the US and 72% of New Zealand overseas. Nearmap operates on a subscription model on a quote by quote basis.
Its competitive advantage lies in its high degree of accuracy and update frequency compared to similar products such as Google Maps. Geographic imagery has always been an expensive and time consuming process. Google maps has in the past used the “Google Map Car” to take local pictures, which is time intensive and intrusive to privacy. Other methods such as satellite imaging are plagued by atmospheric and weather obstructions.
Nearmap’s patented camera and software integration system allows it to take aerial photos and stitch them together at a much lower cost, and allows for much more frequent updates. Nearmap’s vertical and oblique aerial imagery allows for confident measurements and decisions, by providing online tools that measure line, area, radius, height, width, and roof pitch/area. Its typical customers include environmental groups, construction and real estate groups.
New 3D AI technology: From Pixels to Data
Nearmap has proven that it hasn’t lost its touch of innovation. It has announced the launch of its latest product in development, Nearmap 3D, which gives clients the ability to view and export 3D images through its online MapBrowser platform on an unprecedented scale. The name is a hint itself; the new product allows for fully-immersive 3D viewing experience, with the ability to change viewing directions, measure distance and export images with highly customisable options. This is a vast upgrade to Google’s “Street View” offering, currently the most comparable product in the market.
In its current state, application of the technology has been on a domestic level. 58% of Australia’s population has been currently mapped. According to the official website, the imagery is geometrically accurate and not retouched. Complex features such as textures, corners, ledges and terrain will be accurately represented. Nearmap expects that this could fundamentally change how cities are shaped across the world by major industries such as governments and local councils, construction, architecture, real estate and urban planning. Scenario evaluation, cost estimation and change detection are potential uses for this technology.
Nearmap has also launched the beta version of its Artificial Intelligence product. Ongoing R&D investment have produced sophisticated and accurate machine learning models, which are already operational on a massive scale. The AI technology has finally turned Nearmap’s huge database of imagery, some of which have been repeatedly captured over many years, into usable data. Applicable commercial uses for these datasets include being able to measure changes in attributes, such as in the number of solar panels, pools, roofs or construction sites. CEO Rob Newman summarised the product as, “AI technology that will allow organisations to identify parcels with specific attributes and in so doing, reduce site visits, generate more leads, eliminate the time involved to inspect properties manually. Nearmap AI does the heavy lifting so that our customers don’t have to.” Despite the potential, the fact that the product is only in its beta could explain the muted market reaction.
Newman is quoted as saying, “Product innovation is in our DNA. Everything we do has the customer at the core. Our customers’ worlds are evolving every day. We need to keep innovating to continue to give our customers a competitive advantage through technology breakthroughs such as those that we’re launching today.” Fintech is disrupting the industry, and what many take for granted may not stay that way in a few years’ time.
The performance of Nearmap is comparable to other fintech stocks generating headlines, such as Appen and Altium Ltd. The future success of Nearmap depends on expansion into more countries overseas, advancement in camera technology and being able to further reduce costs. The release of this technology opens up new doors, as all manners of organisations are able to take advantage of AI-driven data. Imagery technology has now gone beyond getting you directions to the local Maccas; the potential in customer analytics and data analytics is waiting to be untapped.
By Oliver Ju
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