Geo Week News

April 21, 2011

Google to compete in high-end GIS software space

Have you heard about Google Earth Builder? Announced at the Where 2.0 conference, it’s Google’s next step up from Google Earth and Google Maps, taking on GIS software firms like ESRI with a completely cloud-based enterprise-level GIS information management application. You can get the nickel tour right here (well, sales pitch anyway):

I think it’s probably the sharing capabilities that people will be drawn to. Without anything residing on a server in an organization’s building, people will be more likely to access the information in more places and get more people involved with working with the GIS data. 

As it relates to 3D, it’s not that different from the problem of getting more people interested in using point cloud data. Anything that makes it more likely people will see value in 3D data is a good thing for the industry as a whole. It’s unclear as yet to me how sophisticated Earth Builder will be in working with 3D GIS data, but one would think that Google wouldn’t jump into the market with an utterly inferior product. That doesn’t tend to be Google’s style (well, other than Google Wave, which completely sucked, I guess). 

Here’s the San Fran Chronicle’s take on the release. Looks like Earth Builder won’t be available until Q3, so there’s still much to wait and see about. 

Still, companies are already coming out of the woodwork to announced they’ll be using the software. Ergon Energy says it will be using lidar to capture its powerline infrastructure and then loading that into Earth Builder:

“Ergon Energy is the electricity distributor for 97 per cent of Queensland and its network traverses many sparsely populated areas. It’s both challenging and expensive to build, maintain and operate a large geographically dispersed network. The ROAMES project along with Google Earth Builder will enable Ergon staff to improve decision-making and realise operational efficiencies, by delivering to them rich, timely, spatial and precise information about its network in the context of the real-world in which it exists,” he said. 

According to that press release, Ergon expects to save $44 million over five years thanks to the combination of technologies. 

And the Google blog says the company already has a contract with the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency:

Google’s work with NGA marks one of the first major government geospatial cloud initiatives, which will enable NGA to use Google Earth Builder to host its geospatial data and information. This allows NGA to customize Google Earth & Maps to provide maps and globes to support U.S. government activities, including: U.S. national security; homeland security; environmental impact and monitoring; and humanitarian assistance, disaster response and preparedness efforts. This is particularly critical to provide damage and mobility assessments after natural disasters such as the earthquakes in Haiti and Japan or Hurricane Katrina. 

Nothing I’m seeing has yet mentioned indoors, where ESRI has lately been pushing, attempting to take advantage of the vast opportunity presented by all of that basically unmapped space, but we’ll have to wait for the official release, probably before we get a full understanding of what markets Google is attacking and what capabilities Google Earth Builder will actually have. 

Want more stories like this? Subscribe today!

Read Next

Related Articles


Join the Discussion