Local online mapping service providers are putting on a brave face, welcoming the launch of Google’s Street View and saying it creates an awareness of spatial information that can only be good for business.
Wellington-based mapping solutions company ProjectX, which offers the ZoomIn online map, sees Google as an ally rather than enemy, says chief executive John Clegg.
ProjectX specialises in developing “user-centric” map solutions, and it leverages the Google stack — Street View in particular — to build customised products and services for local customers, he says.
ZoomIn features user-generated content, such as places and points-of-interest, he says. It is also focused on “getting found”, ranking places, POIs or companies highly in Google Search.
Because Street View is free, it can open the imagination to thinking of new ways of using it, says Clegg.
“We can’t compete against Google, but we can provide extra value and services for local businesses,” he says.
Smaps, which ProjectX built for Trade Me, closed down two weeks ago, as Trade Me opted to use Street View for its property section instead. But following the close-down, ProjectX has seen an increase in traffic to its ZoomIn site, says Clegg.
The business has been forced to change its direction slightly but it is in a better place now than it was six months ago, says Clegg.
Google’s Street View is great because it creates awareness of spatial information to the general public, says Mike Donald, managing director of mapping solutions and land database company Terralink, also based in Wellington.
Terralink’s offering differs from Google’s in that it targets the business-to-business space, rather than consumers, he says.
Terralink’s Streetcam project, which started in January, is filming the view from every road in New Zealand over the next two years, using a van with six video cameras strapped to it. The resulting imagery is expected to be used by police, councils, tourism, utility companies and road accident research, says Donald.
“Street View is just a visual tool. You can’t generate further information from it or integrate it into other GIS platforms,” says Donald. “No data or imagery can be extracted from it.”
Streetcam incorporates a number of data sets, such as GPS, geometry and imagery, he says. For example, the road geometry data captures slopes and horizontal and vertical curvature, which is linked into GPS data, he says. This is used for the next generation in-car navigation systems, which require the radius of every bend and the slope of every road segment, he says.
Streetcam is also not limited to an online view, the data can be used offline as well, he says. All images captured are geo-referenced, linked to x,y coordinates, and contain information that can be extracted, for example road signs, road lanes or property information, says Donald.