Category: Google Earth

Feeding developers

Lunch MenuThe principle success criteria for a good developer conference, great food !

Ok there is more…

A commitment to open up interfaces to allow the developer community to really exploit the functionality that you develop, and an opportunity to share experiences and communicate with your peers are also really important.

Written and submitted from the Hotel Adagio, San Francisco, using its free wired broadband network.
Talking to the developers who attended this weeks Google I/O conference in San Francisco, the opportunity to sit and chat to the Google engineers who develop the API’s they use was really appreciated, and something Google is slowly getting better at.

Developing a successful geoweb API is an incremental process, a product of the natural tension between adding new functionality and data and making that functionality available to developers, in that context it should become clear that the big announcement of the Google Earth plug-in, is more about adding a API to earth, than bringing 3D functionality to the browser.

I can’t wait to see what the hugely active developer community makes of the Earth plug-in, no doubt we will see 3D with everything over the next few months as perhaps the functionality is used is places where on balance it’s not really appropriate but cool.

In time however truly innovative new applications will appear, and it’s really fitting that Paul Rademacher the guy behind the first map mash-up got to introduce it to the developer community.

On and another thing…

flight of the conchords

Entertainment – flight of the conchords better than Steve Ballmer any-day 🙂

Where 2.0 from a distance

Just watched the John Hanke, Jack Dangermond session from Where 2.0 using Seero, think Qik with maps. Actually worked really well, along with the IRC channel you get a good idea of what is happening.


As to the presentation, there is great benefit clearly from combining the strengths of ESRI tools is terms of geospatial data creation, management and analysis with Google expertise in organising and publishing information. From the “fat end” of the long tail, the ability to expose “professional” GIS data is vital for the ongoing development of the Geoweb.

Some good comments from Jack at the end in answer to a question from the floor, making this possible technically does not mean that it will be any easier from an operational perspective for some organisations to publish their data.

There is still much work to be done to solve that issue, especially here in Europe.

UPDATE : You can also follow Where 2.0 from a distance via Mulitmaps’ John McKerrell, who his doing an excellent job live-blogging at

Written and submitted from home, using my home 802.11 network.

Google Earth and GI Science

I have just returned from the beautiful town of Girona in Spain, where I was speaking at the AGILE 2008 Conference, a meeting of the key Geographic Information research laboratories in Europe, which was expertly organised by SIGTE the GIS Lab at the University of Girona.

As is increasingly the case at conferences I attend, researchers are using both Google Maps and Google Earth as mechanisms to communicate their results in an appealing way. I hope to be able to highlight some interesting examples over the next few days, but there seems to be a clear pattern emerging where spatial analysis may be carried out using programs developed by researchers or by using powerful analytic tool sets like ArcGIS or ArcGIS Server, but presented using Google Earth.

The products of the research are often rendered via KML for display, but what is perhaps still missing in some cases is for the results to be really published, i.e. for the KML files to be posted on a web server somewhere along with details of the research for others to discover.

Interestingly there was very little discussion of the neo/paleo-geography debate, which is great, I hope we have moved onto to a position where the users of “professional” high end tools such as those produced by ESRI see a natural final publishing step of creating KML output of their work, certainly with the tools now available in the next version of ArcGIS and the OGC adoption of KML this should be simple one.

Of course as you would expect there are limitations with the current generation of virtual globes, Google Earth included, for some aspects of GI Science. Notably in more complex handling of temporal and sub surface features, and in cartographic output more functionality is needed.

Some of these limitations reflect the largely mass-market focus of Google Earth, but such feedback is always useful to hear, todays research requirement could well be tomorrows mass-market standard feature, and it is wise never to underestimate how sophisticated users may become.

Written and submitted from home, using my home 802.11 network.

Can you tell where it is yet…

On of the most asked for features when talking to “professional” users of Google Earth, is the most basic piece of metadata, image acquisition date.

Well, one of the least remarked features in the 4.3 version of Google Earth which was released last week is the ability to at least discover the year the image you are looking at was acquired. This is unfortunately not available everywhere as we don’t have the data for all imagery, but from now on we will be making this available if we have it.

How old is that image

Just click on the little blue circle in the status bar, to see the year of acquisition for the imagery you are looking at..

But understandably much of the attention around this release has been on the improved visualisation capabilities, including the new atmospheric effects, improved 3D modelling and display and embedded street view imagery. Stefan has an excellent post discussing the relative values of these and the behind the scenes changes in this release, Brains & Beauty as he defines them.

Part of the value in the “Beauty” functionality, is the ability to provide the type of information traditional cartography and GIS systems which have automated cartography techniques have largely failed to do – provide a sense of place.

Regular readers will know of my interest in “sense of place” i.e. providing the information that better represents what a place in actually like.

Let me provide an example..

From the map abstract below, can you tell what type of neighbourhood you are looking at..

Map view

If you know this city you might recognise the street names, if you are a geographer you might make an assumption about the street pattern, and the type of city which would have a grid based system like this. If we add aerial imagery, perhaps you can now recognise a little more about architecture and building styles, the amount of green spaces, trees etc.


But even with aerial imagery it is still hard to interpret, and to get a feeling what the place would be like to visit.

However if better quality 3D visualisations or even better terrestrial imagery is available, you can actually get a very good sense of what the city is like and even perhaps recognise the city itself.

3d View

3D Views of the city provide a great overview of a neighbourhood, while street view images represent the world from a familiar perspective.


The informational value of being able to view buildings, street furniture, parked cars, shop fronts etc., is actually massive because it requires very little interpretation, it is something we are all familiar with and can therefore relate to.

We still have a long way to go of course, as Stefan points out it would be great to know for an individual building, its address, or a shops opening hours, that is clearly something for the future, but lets not under estimate the importance and the emotional impact of seeing the world represented in a way we are all more used to..

Written and submitted from the Executive House Hotel, Victoria, BC , using its free wired network

Quick and Dirty KML with Mano and Pamela

Mano and Pamela present the first in a series of “hands-on” videos on various aspects of the Google Geo products, this first video is brilliant, a really down to earth discussion of how to create and manilpulate KML in both Google Earth and Google Maps.

Almost everybody will learn something from watching this, from newcomers to the geoweb to the experts out there !

Low production values (note the use of a box for a lectern), but all the better for it !

I’m in Trinidad this week at the Global Spatial Data Infrastructure Conference, more about that later this week.

Written and Submitted from the Hilton Trinidad, using the hotels broadband network.