Language Selection

English French German Italian Portuguese Spanish

Google feature incorporates satellite maps

Filed under
Web
Sci/Tech

Online search engine leader Google has unveiled a new feature that will enable its users to zoom in on homes and businesses using satellite images, an advance that may raise privacy concerns as well as intensify the competitive pressures on its rivals.

The satellite technology, which Google began offering late Monday at http://maps.google.com, is part of the package that the Mountain View-based company acquired when it bought digital map maker Keyhole Corp. for an undisclosed amount nearly six months ago.

This marks the first time since the deal closed that Google has offered free access to Keyhole's high-tech maps through its search engine. Users previously had to pay $29.95 to download a version of Keyhole's basic software package.

A more traditional map will continue to be the first choice served up by Google's search engine. Users will have the option of retrieving a satellite picture by clicking on a button.

The satellite maps could unnerve some people, even as the technology impresses others. That's because the Keyhole technology is designed to provide close-up perspective of specific addresses.

Keyhole's previous government ties also have raised anxieties.

Founded in 2001, Keyhole raised some money in 2003 from In-Q-Tel, a venture capital firm backed by the Central Intelligence Agency. Leading up to the Google sale, Keyhole's roughly 10,000 customers included a cross-section of government agencies.

There is little reason for people to be paranoid about the satellite maps because the images generally are six to 12 months old, said John Hanke, Keyhole's general manager. "And it's not like you are going to be able to read a license plate on a car or see what an individual was doing when a particular image was taken," he said.

Google believes most people will like the convenience of generating a satellite image with a few clicks of a computer mouse. The company envisions people using the service as a way to scout a hotel's proximity to the beach for a possible vacation or size up the neighborhood where an apartment is for rent.

Google's free satellite maps initially will be limited to North America, with images covering roughly half the United States, Hanke said.

Although Google is offering the satellite maps on a test basis, the feature will probably force its other online rivals to upgrade their technology, predicted search industry analyst Greg Sterling of the Kelsey Group. "To play in this space, you are going to need some robust mapping capabilities."

Sterling said Google's satellite maps pose the biggest threat to Mapquest, a service owned by Time Warner Corp. that has long operated the most popular Web site for finding directions.

The satellite maps also up the ante for the many challengers chipping away at Google's share of the lucrative Internet search engine market by adding more bells and whistles. For instance, Amazon.com Inc.'s A9 search engine earlier this year introduced a feature that includes an index containing 20 million street-level photographs of building exteriors in 10 major U.S. cities.

Source.

More in Tux Machines

Ubuntu Touch to Land with Bq Aquaris e4.5 Phones in February

The first two companies that have been confirmed to release phones with Ubuntu Touch are Meizu and Bq. Until now, only Meizu showed any kind of involvement with Ubuntu Touch and they were the first to announce a launch window. On the other hand, Bq has been silent, but it seems to have been very busy and to be the first one out the door. Read more

Linux 3.19 Merge Window Closes Ahead Of Schedule

Linus announced on Friday night that he's closing the merge window early for 3.19. Torvalds said that he's pulling the last of the pull requests on Saturday -- related to KBuild and the READ_ONCE split-up -- but is planning to then close the merge window. Read more

X.Org Server 1.16.3 Released To Fix Security Issues

Julien Cristau of Debian announced the X.Org Server 1.16.3 release on Saturday morning. The primary focus of this release is on correcting the security issues within the GLX, DIX, XV, DRI3, RENDER, and other areas of the xorg-server code-base affected by outstanding security problems. Read more