Transit New Zealand, operator of the state highways, is courting both Microsoft and Google in two geographic information management projects.
Transit says the projects are aimed at different customer bases.
Transit, Microsoft and Wellington-based GIS developer e-spatial are collaborating, under a Microsoft Innovation Centre scheme, on a project to correlate video views of New Zealand roads with location data. This will allow anyone involved in planning to locate a road on an online map and then “drive” it in simulation.
The development is currently known simply as the “video viewer prototype”. Video recordings are already available from vehicles which travel the whole network of state highways every year, using laser scanning to monitor the condition of the road surface.
This information has been matched with geographic references from Microsoft’s Virtual Earth and Silverlight rich-media browser plug-in.
A source at Transit, who does not want to be named, told Computerworld a parallel development has been underway for two years. Known as Roadrunner or, in its web version, Virtual Highway, it uses an off-the-shelf GIS product from Argonaut and draws its geographical information from Microsoft’s arch-rival Google Earth.
“The Microsoft viewer is a prototype which not only gives the user a ‘road trip’ through the state highway network using advanced spatial mapping technologies, but also access to various levels of data about the routes such as traffic counts and crash data,” says Transit spokesman Anthony Frith.
“Virtual Highway does not carry layers of data about the route; it is designed purely to help road users familiarise themselves with the route before travelling it.
“Virtual Highway was developed separately to Video Viewer because, aside from the superficial similarities between the projects, they are two completely different applications aimed at different sets of users, with different scopes and different timeframes.”
However, according to the source, Transit plans to integrate the Google-based Roadrunner/Virtual Highway into its Road Asset Management (RAM) system for planning of roadworks.
Under the terms of the Innovation Centre Scheme, Microsoft has paid most of the $100,000 development cost of the video viewer and it will be available to any other government agency which has signed up to the government’s Microsoft licensing plan, G2006.