Singapore firm offers street-level maps, too

Local mapping startup Gothere.sg, provides street-level images covering 70 percent of country; intends to integrate these with Google's Street View service.
Written by Victoria Ho, Contributor

SINGAPORE--Singaporeans will benefit from Google's Street View service, says local mapping startup Gothere.sg, which intends to incorporate the tool into its own maps once the Street View makes its debut in the country.

Ang Junhan, products director at Gothere.sg, told ZDNet Asia in an e-mail interview the online mapping company has plans to make the feature--or a similar one--available on its own maps, which are based on Google's APIs (application programming interfaces).

The local site has its own repository of panoramic street-level pictures that cover some 70 percent of the island and are accessible by clicking on the camera icon, located on the company's digital maps where the function is available on the company's maps.

Ang said these pictures were not taken with the intention of replicating Google's Street View service but rather, were captured during Gothere.sg's mapping process to help plot a directory of Singapore. These photos were taken to mark out amenities such as carpark entrances and other landmarks.

Gothere.sg's business development director, Toh Kian Khai, said the pictures were taken late last year but the team decided to stitch and release the images on the site after realizing "users would love the feature".

Taken over the span of about half a year, the photos added up to "tens of terabytes worth of images", which took an average of 24 hours of processing time for each day of shooting, Toh explained.

The speed of processing was limited by the number of computers the company had, he said.

Toh said no images were captured for the remaining 30 percent of Singapore not covered by the company's street-level viewing feature, primarily in the northern part of the island, and there are presently no plans to continue its street-shooting efforts.

Developing the feature has taken lower priority to other aspects of its online map, he said, noting that Gothere.sg is currently focusing its efforts on developing the site's mobile accessibility.

However, the debut of Google's Street View is unlikely to cannibalize Gothere.sg's own street-level viewing feature. The local startup will not remove its own pictures from the site when Street Level is eventually launched here, Ang said, adding that it will instead meld pictures from both companies.

"When Google's Street View goes live in Singapore, users will have more choices," he said.

Google has not announced any details or timeframe on when Street View will be ready for launch here.

Privacy concerns
News of Street View vehicles making their way to Singapore's roads first broke late last year when Google said it had sent camera-mounted vans, taking pictures, around Singapore.

The search company said it sought clearance from local authorities and would put the pictures through its censoring process, which typically involves blurring out faces and car license plates.

ZDNet Asia observed that such details were not censored or smudged on Gothere.sg's pictures.

When asked, the team said it had not been contacted by government agencies regarding this issue, but noted: "We made it a point to take street-level images only on public roads and were especially careful not to venture into private property."

Google's Street View service has taken some heat over privacy concerns since the service debuted in 2007. Last year, a group of privacy advocates in Japan lobbied for the service to be shut down in the country. Also in Pittsburgh, United States, a couple filed suit against the search giant alleging Google had trespassed on private property.

Editorial standards