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Decoded: Why Google needs local companies to scan India’s streets

Google Maps on Wednesday launched Street View in India in partnership with Tech Mahindra and Genesys International. It is the first time in the world that the service will be completely provided by local partners. The tech giant announced the collaboration to launch the 11-year-awaited feature.

What is Street View?

Street View is a virtual representation of streets and neighborhoods on Google Maps, consisting of millions of panoramic images that create a real-world experience. This feature allows users to have a 360-degree view of streets, tourist spots, restaurants and landmarks in one place.

360-degree images are created by vehicles mounted with a 360-degree camera that drive on the street to collect photos. In other countries, Street View content comes from two sources – Google and individual contributors. However, they will be collected in India by the tech giant’s new local partners. “Through our collective efforts, we’re enabling people around the world to virtually explore the world,” Street View’s official website says.

Where will it be available?

The feature will initially cover over 150,000 km across ten cities in India – Bengaluru, Chennai, Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Pune, Nashik, Vadodara, Ahmednagar and Amritsar. The company plans to expand it to more than 50 cities by the end of 2022.

Why was the launch of the feature delayed in India?

Google first introduced its Street View feature in 2007 in several US cities. The company launched Street View in India in 2011, but it was banned by the government. At least twice in the past decade, Indian authorities have refused permission to launch the feature, citing security concerns.

It was reported that authorities were skeptical about the feature being useful to terrorists, as the 360-degree images could reveal the location of sensitive military installations. According to Google, the absence of a legal framework has led to “misinterpretations” at the government level.

How does the function run now?

In February 2021, the Ministry of Science and Technology introduced guidelines for the collection of geospatial data. The new policy removed the need for prior approval for surveying, mapping and construction applications involving geospatial data.

The guidelines included rules for the collection, use and licensing of map data. It also provides a list of areas such as government properties, defense institutions and military sites where geospatial imagery is restricted for security reasons.

Why does Google need local data collection partners?

In an effort to encourage domestic innovation and technology, the 2021 geospatial guidelines limit foreign companies to a 1 meter accuracy radius. This policy allows foreign companies to access data with a finer threshold than 1 meter using APIs that do not bypass domestic licensees. Thus, Google requires that data collection and ownership remain with local entities.

What is the role of local partners?

Under a licensing agreement with Google, Genesys and Tech Mahindra will collect images and related data of Indian streets. They will use infrastructure for imaging and mapping Indian streets. Tech Mahindra has collaborated with Mahindra and Mahindra on cars and e-rickshaws. The vehicles will be equipped with cameras and taken to the streets to collect data. The company aims to collect 700,000 km of data over the next few years.

Are there any alternatives to Google Street View in India?

India’s Google Maps competitor, MapmyIndia, launched its own 360-degree panoramic view offering called Mappls RealView on the same day that Street View came to life in India. RealView will be available on the digital mapping company’s consumer mapping portal, Mappls and the Mappls App, for Android and iOS.

Bengaluru-based mapping company WoNoBo also offers a 360-degree view of the streets of at least 54 Indian cities and towns.

Sanjit
Sanjit

I am Sanjit Gupta. I have completed my BMS then MMS both in marketing. I even did a diploma in computer software and Digital Marketing.

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