The ocean is vast, borderless, and largely unexplored, and there is a critical need for more reliable real-time data in the maritime sector. Ninety percent of global trade is carried by sea, with the world's global commercial fleet at 90,000 ships and growing. The lack of precise and up-to-date vessel location data is an environmental and security threat in the public and private sectors.
Our portfolio company, Unseenlabs, offers a new way to understand how ships move through our oceans. The company’s proprietary satellite-based radio frequency (RF) technology tracks a range of electromagnetic signals that allow them to geolocate and track any vessel, anywhere in the world, in any type of weather. S2G Ventures is excited to officially welcome Unseenlabs to our portfolio, building on two years of investment and partnership, and to support the company as it scales its maritime surveillance services to enable a more secure, healthier ocean and support the many industries that rely upon the ocean to do business.
Unseenlabs was founded in 2015 by three brothers Clement, Jonathan, and Benjamin Galic in their homeland of Brittany, France. Clement’s background is in civil aviation and space, Jonathan was a specialist in satellite missions at Airbus Defence and Space, specifically in electromagnetic eavesdropping, the interception of radio signals from space, and Benjamin is a business lawyer (while he does not currently work with the company, he helped found it). In 2015 the brothers noticed the New Space sector was starting to gain traction in the United States and they decided to try to bring signal interception capabilities, previously reserved for the defense sector, to the civilian and private sectors. Traditionally, signals are intercepted by satellite triangulation, but over the next four years, the Galics developed a technology that can do this with a single satellite. In 2019, Unseenlabs launched its first satellite.
Unseenlabs' satellite-based radio frequency detection system can detect and characterize a broad range of radio emitters anytime and anywhere. The data collected is lightweight (easy to download and readable) and interpretable, enabling unmatched real-time accuracy. Once analyzed, Unseenlabs' proprietary data can supplement and sync with current technologies to bring unprecedented precision to vessel monitoring and tracking. A unique signature is applied to each frequency detected to enable the tracking of vessels over time, and the technology can even track ships that have deliberately turned off their automatic identification systems (AIS) so nothing goes under the radar. Additionally, the solution is more cost-effective than others on the market. Unseenlabs' mono-satellite technology allows them to launch a satellite at a fraction of the cost of other operators and the data-enabled SaaS model generates recurring revenue and quick payback on capex investments.
The use cases for this technology range from monitoring illegal fishing to insurance, shipping, offshore energy, protection of submarine communications cables, business intelligence, and defense. Today's fishing industry is highly unregulated and unmonitored, and illegal fishing is rampant, accounting for one-fifth of global fisheries catches, worth up to $23.5 billion annually. Marine Protected Areas and Exclusive Economic Zones, which governments technically monitor, are so vast that in some cases the boats that monitor them can only pass through each area once per year, which means for 364 days illegal fishing could take place without penalty. Unseenlabs' technology allows governments to track boats’ activity and strategically deploy resources to intercept illegal activity, enabling highly efficient use of resources and capital.
Unseenlabs’ technology can also help governments monitor the ocean for security threats. Radiofrequency technology can significantly expand the search range, access, and volume of data to improve maritime domain awareness and assist in national security missions. If a vessel in question manipulates or turns off its AIS transceiver signals, which is becoming increasingly easier to do, Unseenlabs' RF detection system can still track it and gather data.
For ship owners and maritime agencies, Unseenlabs’ technology can assist in ship tracking and search and rescue. Lastly, predicting, evaluating, and pricing risk in marine insurance fundamentally relies on access to quality data. By combining historical vessel, cargo, and claims data with tracking and weather data, insurance companies can properly assess risk. The data derived from Unseenlabs’ satellites can help insurance companies accurately assess a vessel’s risk level on an ongoing basis and verify activity at sea to tie out insurance claims. A study by Valen Analytics found a strong correlation between advanced data analytics and profit for insurers. Companies using analytics saw their loss ratios improve between 3 and 9 percent more than their competitors.
Unseenlabs has launched eight satellites to date, with eight more in the works. Two satellites will be launched this year (one in April, one this summer), and six satellites are already under construction and should be completed by the end of 2023. More satellites will generate more frequent and accurate data as the company is working towards complete, close to real-time coverage. We look forward to partnering with Unseenlabs as they work to ensure the health and safety of our oceans and improve data availability and transparency in the maritime sector.