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Google Uses Crowdsourcing To Create Maps In India

hyperabad india map

Google has been sending GPS kits to India that enable locals to make more detailed maps of their area. After the data has been uploaded and then verified against other participant’s data it becomes a part of the map. The process is very reminiscent of what Open Street Map, the community map-building project, has been doing. The biggest difference is that the data (to my knowledge) is owned by Google and is not freely available back to the community like it is with OSM.

This news comes to us via a speech Michael T. Jones (CTO of Google Earth) gave at the Cambridge Conference. Dan Karran transcribed an audio recording in this post. Here’s the most relevant portion of the transcription (there’s more on Dan’s site):

This is Hyderabad, and if you see the dark areas, those correspond to roads in low detail. If you zoom in, you’ll see the roads, and if you expand a little bit, you’ll see both roads and labelled places… there’s graveyards, and some roads and so forth.

Now, everything you see here was created by people in Hyderabad. We have a pilot program running in India. We’ve done about 50 cities now, in their completeness, with driving directions and everything – completely done by having locals use some software we haven’t released publicly to draw their city on top of our photo imagery.

So we’re building a little care package we can send to countries like Togo, and say if you want to have maps of your country, you may not have a national mapping agency of any merit, but if you have some inspired amateurs, you can map out your country. FIll out all the details and then you can do routing and navigation just like in the big countries.

It is interesting to see the continuing inclusion of user-generated content in mapping data. Google made it clear that it was going to pursue this method of getting data very seriously when they began building out Google Earth with user contributed 3D models (Radar post). But Google certainly isn’t the only one taking this approach. GPS manufacturer Tomtom just bought data-provider Tele Atlas, a move that will create millions of map contributors out of its users (Radar post). As-yet-to-be-launched startup Everyscape will be enlisting GPS-empowered photographers to document towns (Radar post). I’ll bet Microsoft is also experimenting with large-scale user contributions and we just aren’t aware of it yet.

How long till we are all contributing to some mapping database every time we go for coffee?

Sean Gorman (thanks for the tip) of FortiusOne and Frank Taylor of the Google Earth Blog have further commentary.

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  • http://enter-allthings.blogspot.com RC

    Google Maps is my map tool of choice. In the mid 90′s the top tool was MapQuest but as soon as Google came out was their mapping tool, it became an instant success with their drag feature.

    Google is now venturing out of North America in their mapping of the world. And it’s a good idea to ask the locals for assistance in mapping their city/town.

  • Jack Square

    Nice…now Google can track you as your surf the Internet and surf the streets anywhere on the planet. George Orwell would be proud.

  • http://www.seegest.com Raghu Srinivasan

    This is such a sensible project for Google to do. Since most cities in India are very old (several 100s of years) there’s no clean grid-like street layout and even in India you can only get city level maps with just the largest arteries, highways, hospitals, parks, universities etc marked out. The “South on US 101 15 mi, Exit at Shoreline, Left on Peach 0.2mi, Right on First 0.4mi …” type of directions we take for granted are just not possible. But with this, that’s coming into the realm of the posssible in the next few years. If only for the large cities. Excellent stuff.

  • http://webandlife.blogspot.com Andy Wong

    Yes. Even if in development countries, some footpaths of bush walking may not be necessarily counted by authorities of maps, only local communities could know about the footpaths.

    As Google Maps sometimes for some areas are quite old, I think the realstate development companies will be willing to update some newly developed areas for house inspectors to visit.

  • TangFuguClan

    They seem to be lured in by the success of Wikimapia (a Google maps mashup ). Wikimapia is extremely popular here in India ,atleast here at Cochin.

  • http://feedrer.com Anand Srinivasan

    For all the vastness of India, there are still very few resources of online maps such as this that are available for India. Even the very few available are there for a premium.

    This will really open up a great deal of interest and utility for the Indian internet user..

    ———————-
    Anand
    Feedrer (Private beta)

  • http://www.jonahdienye.com Jonah Dienye

    I’ve been thinking about this forever for my country (Nigeria). Why Togo, Google? Nigeria has 120 million people, a rapidly increasing population who use the internet, and no mapping. We’re waiting eagerly.

    I don’t think many people here are interested in being “inspired amateurs” though. Someone from Google, email me, please!

  • http://streetviewgallery.corank.com Mapper

    What a novel concept. I wonder if this method will apply to other mapping products like Google Street View for example?

    http://streetviewgallery.corank.com

  • http://www.citysurf.com.tr gokhan daggez

    In a near feature, everybody living on the world will be free employee of the Google being unaware of the situation.

    Have you ever heard about the Turkish competitor of Google Earth?

    http://www.citysurf.com.tr

    Gokhan Daggez

  • http://jfaughnan.blogspot.com John Faughnan

    Google’s picasa web albums allow one to readily contribute photos that are then integrated with Google Earth. So they’re doing a community based street view.

    I’m looking forward to community contributed ratings of bridges and other infrastructure elements. How about a map layer that shows what bridges have the highest collapse risk?

  • http://blog.rekabu.com Arun

    This is a very relevant initiative. Using locals to create local knowledge is a powerful concept. It’s impact on services like real estate valuations is going to be significant.

  • http://www.satnavbanter.co.uk Kevin

    This is where I think Google excels.

    Most normal companies wouldn’t touch this project with a barge pole. The commercial return is just too uncertain and there are many more lower risk projects that you would choose to do over this.

    Google really takes the long view (or has too much money to burn!) and really love risks taking. I hope they get the support they need and see this through.

  • http://www.danielharan.com/ Daniel Haran

    Kevin – one of the immediate returns of this type of project has to be the implicit threat to the big data vendors. If Navteq et al. don’t play nice, Google can do the same thing for all their coverage.

  • Murtaza

    Can someone please map Pakistan? :)

  • http://www.yahoo.com Madarchod Kevin

    Kevin Leong is the biggest motherfucker……….

  • http://localocation.wordpress.com/ Philip

    Thanks for sharing these insights.
    I wonder whether Google tries to out-lever Navteq and Tele Atlas in the long run by building their own digital map database.

    I’ve had a closer look at TomTom’s approach and invite you to read about my point of view along with some hard facts I was able to find: http://localocation.wordpress.com/2007/07/26/is-tomtom-exaggerating-their-users-map-update-contribution/

  • Shaikh Salim

    It is wonderfull effort to map india… Salim

  • http://www.ceaser-web.com Alabi Yemmy

    We have blazed the trail of online mapping in Africa – our Nigerian online mapping portal features components like address searching, post code search, nationwide route planning/driving directions, find my nearest, points of interest search and satellite imagery of Nigeria.

    http://www.ceaser-web.com

    Try it out.

  • http://www.affiliateelitereviews.com Alfred

    How is that possible J.Faughnan? I don’t see why Google will do that.

  • http://www.zotagsearch.com/ Travis

    I personally use google maps the most also. im so excited for google 2.0. they are making a lot of progress.

    many people use google.com, and i am very happy with it.

  • Vijay Kiran Dakshi

    This has become very important and essential requirement for almost every persons of our nation in various aspects.

    This is really a brilliant idea of using the locals for use of imaging their own land which is helpful for the future generations.

    I think i need u r support in one of my nation oriented project. anyone from Google earth project. Pl mail me.

  • http://www.mapntl.com Ireti Ajala

    MapNTL is Nigeria’s most popular online interactive mapping portal, offering a range of free, useful services to assist with everyday life. Key features include street-level maps of Lagos, driving direction to businesses, places, landmarks, cities, Nigeria’s National Highway mapping data. We provide online point-to-point driving directions and routing services to guide our visitors to different categories of businesses and tourist attractions whose locations are shown on our interactive map.