2014 also saw expansion of Street View coverage within countries, and greatly increased use of the Street View Trekker, with coverage of landmarks like the Pyramids of Egypt, national parks, beaches, coastal areas captured by boat, underwater locations, and buildings. For a tour of iconic places where the trekker has been used, see here.
A map of Street View coverage can be found here. Thank you to GEB reader Lynne for letting us know about this.
The most significant development in Street View, however, was the introduction of the ‘Historical Street View’ feature in April. This feature is only available in the Google Maps version of Street View and not in Google Earth.
Also of great importance are the contributions to Street view by individuals via Photosphere, as this provides coverage in places where Google has not yet sent its cars or trekker, or of events, such as the protests in Hong Kong.
Shirito Falls, Mt.Fuji, Japan. Captured with the Street View Trekker.
Google have sophisticated software that automatically detects and blurs faces and number plates in Street View imagery in order to protect people’s privacy. It is not perfect, however, and we often get emails asking us to blur peoples faces or number plates in Street View. Occasionally people want all images of their house removed. Although we have explained how to do this several times in the past, it is worth reiterating:
Open the location in the Google Maps version of Street View.
Click the ‘Report a problem’ link found at the bottom right of the screen.
A form appears asking you what you want blurred and where it is on the image. Fill in the form and click “Submit”.
Google will take appropriate action and let you know.
Occasionally we get queries from readers asking whether it is possible to obtain copies of the original unblurred imagery. This is usually a request from relatives of a deceased loved one who appears in the imagery and they would like to have the unblurred imagery as a remembrance. Although it would be nice if Google were able to grant this sort of request, it is not possible. It would not be feasible to create a reliable system to verify the person in the image has granted their permission, whereas simply granting requests without verification would defeat the purpose of blurring the imagery in the first place. In addition, many of the countries in which Google has Street View, have privacy laws that require Google to blur faces and number plates and to destroy the original images within a reasonable amount of time and thus, releasing such images would be illegal.
Google get their imagery from a wide variety of sources, and due to there being so many factors involved, it is impossible to predict when and where they will do updates. We have covered this a number of times on our blog, most recently in April. But before we start talking about imagery updates, it is important to realize that the satellite imagery displayed in Google Earth by default is often not the most recent imagery available. Why this is the case is explained here. So always be sure to check Historical Imagery to make sure that there isn’t already something more recent available. Instructions on how to use the Historical Imagery feature in Google Earth can be found here. It is important to note that the dates displayed on the imagery are not always accurate. The reasons for this are explained here.
Satellite or aerial imagery
If you are a city, state or country that has collected aerial imagery at your own expense, you own the rights to the imagery, and would like Google to put it into Google Earth, there is a pretty good chance that asking Google to do so will meet with a positive response. This is provided that the imagery is of good quality, is properly georeferenced etc. But for the rest of us, if we want more recent satellite or aerial imagery we typically just have to wait until either a satellite gets a good image of our area or some commercial project takes aerial imagery of our area, and Google either purchases it or enters some agreement whereby they can use the imagery. Capturing aerial imagery is still very expensive and such projects are typically done on a city-sized area or larger. Hopefully, the advances in drone technology will soon mean that the costs of capturing aerial imagery will come down dramatically.
If what you want is a satellite or aerial image of a given location and you are willing to pay for it, then it may be possible for you to purchase the imagery or even contract a company to capture imagery. Satellite imagery providers will often have imagery that is more recent than that found in Google Earth, but be warned that it will typically contain partial cloud cover. If you want satellite imagery, a list of suppliers for Digital Globe imagery can be found here. Another satellite imagery company is Airbus Defense and Space. And then there is Skybox Imaging, which is owned by Google.
The availability of aerial imagery providers will depend on your location, so if aerial imagery is required, we recommend an internet search for providers in your area. The resolution of aerial imagery is typically better than that of satellite imagery and is less likely to have problems with cloud cover, as the aircraft can either fly below the clouds or pick a day with clear skies. However, contracting someone to capture aerial imagery is typically significantly more expensive than satellite imagery.
What about Street View?
Street View imagery is gradually being expanded to much of the globe, and for many places, existing coverage is being continuously updated. They do give some information as to where they will are currently driving, which can be found here.
If you want Street View where you are, you have a number of options available. If you are a small to medium sized business, you can get Business View and hire a photographer from Google’s network of trusted photographers to come and photograph your business and have it uploaded into Street View. For large venues, such as a university, stadium, mall, or park, you can actually request a visit from the Street View team, and if you are lucky, they will come and photograph your venue for you. If you’re a tourism board, non-profit, university, research organization or other third party who can gain access and help collect imagery of hard to reach places, you can apply to borrow the Trekker via the Trekker Loan Program.
If all you want is a few panoramas, then you can take them yourself and upload them via Google Views. The easiest way to capture imagery for Google Views is using the smart phone app PhotoSphere, available for both Android and iOS. When you capture Photo Spheres they become part of Street View and are actually given preference by Google over images taken by their Street View vehicles.
A Photo Sphere taken by GEB writer Mickey Mellen is now part of Street View. To read more about when and where he captured it, see his post here
Argentina has just been added to Street View and there has been a significant increase in the coverage in Malaysia. Thanks to GEB reader Dave for letting us know. Earlier in the Week, the territory of Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands were added. Thanks to GEB readers Martin and Kyle. GEB reader Dave also tells us some locations in the US have been added, including Mason and Grand Ledge, Michigan. If you know of any other areas, please let us know in the comments.
Despite being recently released, a few locations in Argentina contain historical Street View. According to Wikipedia Google announced in September 2013 that Street View would be coming to Argentina, so it appears that the cars have been driving for the past year, as confirmed by the dates for the location below.
This location in Buenos Aires was photographed eight times in the last year.
We told you earlier in the week how the Google Maps data is not always 100% accurate. Google does, however, put in an extraordinary amount effort into making it the best it can be.
Google originally depended largely on external data providers for its maps information. But that changed in 2008 when project Ground Truth was founded. The Ground Truth project involves getting data from authoritative sources such as governments, postal services and map providers, which is then overlayed on satellite imagery and updated to make it more accurate. Google then uses satellite imagery and Street View imagery to add a lot more data to the map. It uses a variety of processes including a lot of manual editing by highly trained map editors, as well as a number of algorithmic methods, such as using computer vision to go through Street View imagery and pick out street signs, street names, business logos and more. Finally, they get feed back from users via the ‘Report a problem’ feature, or Google Map Maker.
It is important to realize that there is a lot more to maps than what you see directly in Google Maps. Google Maps also contains a lot of hidden information such as road rules, including speed limits, one way streets, traffic lights, stop/yield signs and no turn signs. These are used by Google maps when providing directions.
Google Maps contains a lot more than just street names.
The Ground Truth project is not yet used for the whole world, but they have been expanding rapidly. Ground Truth recently announced their 50th country. For the remaining countries they use a combination of external data providers and Google Map Maker.