Manufacturers are always trying to figure out what their competition is up to. Usually this includes such tasks as scouring trade journals, patent searches, and sneaking around their booths at conferences. In more extreme cases we can wander around unsecured buildings, dive into dumpsters for trash that should have been shredded, or sit across the street watching delivery and shipment activity.
Google has given us another tool: Google Earth. This is the result of their acquisition of Keyhole, which provided high resolution satellite images of almost any point on the globe. Google has taken the technology and data, made it free, and streamlined the user interface so it can be used on almost any computer. You’ll need a computer that’s less than about two years old, and a broadband connection.
Type in the address of your competitor’s plant, and you’ll feel like you’re flying across the globe then nosediving to about a thousand feet over the facility. Zoom in, zoom out, scour the surrounding neighborhood. Maybe they’re in the process of building an addition! The data is relatively current, and there is an ongoing updating process.
Take a look… you’ll be amazed. And in addition to competitive intelligence you’ll spend a lot of time visiting some far-off places. Climb the Himalayas, watch trucks cross a bridge in Baghdad, or see what your old house now looks like.