Eagleview Technologies: The Eye in the Sky
Eagleview Technologies, a provider of aerial imagery and 3D measurement software solutions, is currently transforming the $30 billion home roofing industry in the United States.
David Carlson was frustrated with the physical demands required by his career as a residential contractor. To provide potential customers with pricing quotes on roof remodeling and repairs, he was forced to climb on top of houses with a latter and use a tape measurer to record the dimensions of each roof-surface.1/2 This time-consuming task was essential to his business but frequently failed to yield results, as a substantial percentage of his targeted customers either went with competitors or decided to take no action at all. After years of struggling to complete this process both safely and accurately, Carlson finally decided to act.
In 2006, Carlson approached his brother-in-law Chris Pershing, a software engineer, to begin research on finding a simple and accurate technology to provide automated roof measurements. After realizing this software did not exist, they began to develop a system that could deliver remote roof measurement capabilities using digital technology. In late 2008, the two founded Eagleview Technologies with the mission of creating time savings, improved safety conditions, and increased customer closing abilities for all roofing contractors throughout the United States.2/3
This is Maverick requesting a fly-by…
In their initial research Carlson and Pershing attempted to use Microsoft Bing and Google Earth’s existing satellite image technology for their new platform. During this process, they made the surprising discovery that aerial photography could provide more accurate information than satellite imagery. The two co-founders also realized that federal, state, and municipal governments would have substantial demand for imagery services in natural emergency management, transportation, and infrastructure planning.4 These two revelations led to the establishment of the Eagleview Technologies’ groundbreaking business model.
Fast forwarding to 2016, Eagleview manages a fleet of over 100 airplanes equipped with USGS-certified camera systems that fly year-round to capture high resolution aerial photographs .5 This has allowed the Company to create a digital image library of over 40 million gigabytes in size (the largest commercially available), covering 90% of all homes in America.6 In correctly assessing the US government’s desire for access to this data, Eagleview was able to fund all costs related to the creation of its aerial imagery database through federal grants.7 However, aside from providing government information, this content library is primarily used to serve Carlson and Pershing’s initial target market, the home contractor industry.
Get rid of your latter…
Over the last eight years, Eagleview’s team of engineers has created 97 patents for algorithms, software, and technologies. These patents allow the Company to extract precise home roof and wall measurements from the photographs stored in its database. Through its proprietary software, the measurements are then used to generate detailed reports and provide interactive three-dimensional home models to its customer base.8/9
Roofing specialists order the reports through their computers and smartphones for $20-80, allowing on-demand access to the roof measurements of virtually any home in the country. These reports are far more accurate than those obtained through the traditional labor intensive and time consuming method of using a tape measurer. This has led to Eagleview Technologies’ services becoming an industry standard and a tool embedded in the daily operations of contractors throughout the US, as demonstrated by its 99% customer retention rate.10
With the emergence of new low-cost competitors like Geoestimator.com and Roofwalk.com, Eagleview must increase its scale to maintain its position as the leader in aerial imagery and three-dimensional measurement software. Given Eagleview’s database covers 90% of homes in America, there is little room for domestic growth and a heavy reliance on the cyclical US housing market. By expanding its content library to include all of residential Canada and Eastern Europe, the Company will be able to leverage its capabilities and continue to become engrained in the workflows of both governments and contractors across the world.10 One way to make this aggressive expansion possible would be through its recent royalty partnership with Australian technology company Spookfish. Under this agreement Spookfish will charge Eagleview a fee per square mile captured with its never-before seen patented “super camera” technology.11 The Spookfish technology enables rapid imaging of entire countries in high resolution and at a fraction of the cost of traditional aerial photography systems.12
Another key opportunity for Eagleview will be finding new uses for its content library to prevent competition from the entrance of large technology firms. One example of this has been the Company’s recent success in breaking into the insurance industry, where claim adjusters use before and after images from its database to assess home property damage. In light of the potential for future adoption, Eagleview could use its systems to enter new industries such as forestry, international trade, and agriculture.
1. The USGS (United States Geological Survery) is a scientific agency of the United States Government that provides funding to study geographical landscapes. (www.usgs.gov).
1. CNN Money, One small company reinvents a $30 billion market
2. CNN Money, One small company reinvents a $30 billion market
3. Eagleview Technology, About Us
4. Moody’s, Eagleview Technology Corporation
5. Moody’s, Eagleview Technology Corporation: Update on Key Credit Factors
6. Standard and Poor’s, Eagleview Technology Corp
7. Moody’s, Eagleview Technology Corporation: Update on Key Credit Factors
8. Moody’s, Eagleview Technology Corporation: Update on Key Credit Factors
9. CNN Money, One small company reinvents a $30 billion market
10. Moody’s, Rating Action: Moody’s assigns B3 CFR to EagleView Technology
11. Bloomberg, Spookfish Company Overview
12. Eagleview, Eagleview Announces Partnership with Spookfish
Student comments on Eagleview Technologies: The Eye in the Sky
Very interesting, TRooney. I had very limited knowledge of this industry, it is fascinating to see how technology is disrupting this industry. In the article, you mention that the company is expanding internationally. However, it seems that Western Europe is not part of this international expansion. Do you happen to know why ? Are there any privacy restriction ?
Talking about privacy, there has been some controversy in Europe recently on the fact that governments could use such technologies. An example of that is when the Greek government used similar technologies to track the owner of swimming pool for tax reasons.
This is brilliant. One would think that the roofing industry is one that would be least prone to technological disruption, but it goes to show that one good idea can revolutionize an entire industry.
It’s interesting to think how advances in imaging technology will continue to affect other industries and sectors. The military has gained a tremendous advantage in being able to access up-to-date imagery of buildings, as well as landing zones for aircraft. Check out LIDAR photographs, as well–it’s a bit more expensive than other types of imagery, but may be particularly useful for the roofing industry (and others) as costs continue to decrease.
In order to stay relevant, I imagine that Eagleview would also need to look at focusing more on satellite imagery (once it becomes more comparable in quality to aerial photographs); continuing to partner with companies like Spookfish to stay on the cutting edge.
Tim, thanks for the post. This seems like a very capital-intensive business model currently with the overhead flights by >100 planes flying constantly. I am somewhat surprised the market has become so competitive. I can see why Eagleview is pursuing less manual aerial photography with Spookfish.
It seems to me that this kind of technology has much greater uses than just for contractors. I think they need to think creatively and reach out to companies like Zillow and others to use their technology to enable them to better-value houses that are now mapped to very precise measurements. I would also be concerned about privacy and other legal issues if the Eagleview technology is used for nefarious purposes.
Very interesting post, Tim. Thank you for writing about this business model and teaching me about a new industry. I agree that international expansion is one solid option for growth. Canada seems like it would be an easy market to enter and may even need more frequent roof enhancements per capita given the inclement weather. I wonder if there are regulatory issues in international expansion that the company will have to deal with. I love the application of this technology in the insurance space and do agree that there is strong potential in that market. I look forward to see what the future will hold for this business.