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India Attempts To Rival Google Earth

November 19, 2008

Inspired by its very first mission to the Moon, India is set to tackle an object on Earth: Google.

The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO), based in Bangalore, will try to become a competitor to Google Earth, the insanely popular online satellite imagery service, at the end of the month.

The project, called Bhuvan (Sanskrit for Earth) lets users zoom into areas as minute as 10 meters wide, contrasting the 200 meter wide zoom limit on Google Earth.

It arrives as India intensifies its efforts to collect profits from its 45-year-old space program, long condemned as an economic depletion on a country where 700 million people live on $2 a day.

This comes after the country’s first Moon probe, Chandrayaan-1, landed the lunar surface successfully on Friday.

Bhuvan uses a system of satellites to produce a high-resolution view of India, and maybe, the rest of the world.  This will be available at no cost online and will provide competition to Google Earth. If a beginning version of the program passes the tests, Bhuvan will become completely equipped by the spring. There are plans to also include a global positioning system (GPS) in the online tool.

The information accrued by the state-sponsored project will be accessible to the Indian Civil Service to aid them with urban planning, traffic management and water and crop monitoring. G Madhavan Nair, the ISRO chairman, announced that: “This will not be a mere browser, but the mechanism for providing satellite images and thematic maps for developmental planning.”

There also could be room for commercial spin-offs. Specialists say that Google Earth is being constructed as an advertising platform worth billions, and that Bhuvan shall tackle one of the issues stressing out the web’s largest corporations: how to connect to users in the midst of the mass of digital backlog that has amassed on the internet.

Alex Burmaster, a web analyzer, said: “The amount of time that people spend online is reaching a plateau and websites are battling furiously for attention. Anything that relates to where a person is, saves a user time, and makes the web more relevant “” especially geographically “” is big news.”

ISRO officials state that Bhuvan will create images of far higher resolution than currently obtainable online; especially of the sub-continent, an area where expansive areas stay nearly unmapped.

There are major tactics in place to charge fees for thorough information.

The agency proposes to create new images annually, a characteristic that could give it an edge on its major opponent and help track the hectic pace in which Indian cities are mounting.

Approximately 2.5 million people used Google Earth last month in the UK, making it the web’s seventh most popular application.

Indian scientists will be careful that they are not the first country to take on the power of Google. In 2005, a French idea to make a Eurocentric search engine to protect the country against the “Anglo-American domination of the net”, part of a $1.7 billion investment of technological schemes, disappeared without trace. Not swayed by their loss, a year after the first failure France released G©oportail, its answer to Google Earth.

At the time, Jacques Chirac, then the President of France, announced that: “We’re engaged in a global competition for technological supremacy . . . It’s time to go on the offensive.”

Unfortunately, bloggers swiftly branded the site “another mind-numbingly stupid boondoggle”.

Earth Image Courtesy NASA

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