Decoded: Why Google needs local businesses to see Indian streets

Google maps launched Street View in India on Wednesday in partnership with Tech Mahindra and Genesys International. This is the first time in the world that the service will be fully supported by local partners. The tech giant announced the collaboration when it launched the feature, which has been waiting for 11 years.

What is StreetView?

Street View is a virtual representation of streets and surroundings on Google Maps, made up of millions of panoramic images, which create a real-world experience. The feature allows users to have a 360 degree view of streets, sights, restaurants and landmarks while parked in one place.

360 degree imagery is created by vehicles equipped with a 360 degree camera, which are driven down the street to take pictures. In other countries, Street View content comes from two sources: Google and individual contributors. However, in India, these will be collected by the tech giant’s new local partners. “Through our collective efforts, we enable people around the world to virtually explore the world,” explains the official Street View website.

Where will it be available?

The feature will initially cover over 150,000 km in ten Indian cities – 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 feature launch delayed in India?

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

It has been reported that authorities are skeptical of the usefulness of this feature for terrorists, as 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 is the feature launching now?

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

The guidelines included rules on the collection, use and licensing of map data. He also provided a list of areas such as government properties, defense establishments and military campuses, where geospatial imagery is restricted due to security concerns.

Why does Google need local partners to collect data?

In a bid to encourage innovation and domestic technologies, the 2021 geospatial guidelines limit foreign companies to a precision radius of 1 meter. The policy allows foreign companies to access data finer than the 1 meter threshold using application programming interfaces 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 associated data from Indian streets. They will take advantage of the infrastructure for Indian street imagery and mapping. Tech Mahindra has collaborated with Mahindra and Mahindra for cars and e-rickshaws. The vehicles will be equipped with cameras and driven through the streets to collect data. The company aims to collect 700,000 km of data over the next two years.

Are there any alternatives to Google Street View in India?

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

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

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