Bing Maps Imagery Release for August, 2009

Another month, another big imagery release for Bing Maps.  It’s not as large as the last one (101,485 square kilometers, vs. about 189,000 sq. km. in July), but it’s still very substantial.


This one covers 23 countries, but only Japan got more than just a smattering of new imagery.  There wasn’t even any in the continental United States, though there is some great new imagery of Mt. McKinley in Alaska.

As always, they’ve pushed out their cool World Tour Application to highlight the updates.  Also, as always, no new 3D buildings.  So sad…

Google ties business listings to StreetView

Google has just released a nice evolutionary trait to Google Maps — linking businesses to StreetView.

When searching for a business in Google Maps, you’ll now often see a link for “StreetView” in the description bubble.  Clicking that takes you to a StreetView of that location.  When in StreetView, you’ll see the familiar red placemark icon, which is even clickable.  Better yet, it’ll show your other placemark icons in StreetView as you pan around.

What I’d like to see now is a way to show ALL markers on the map while in StreetView.  It’d be nice to be able to move around in there and have everything clearly identified.  I imagine that’s on the list of things to come.

The video below shows a bit about how this new feature works:

New imagery in Google Earth

The Google Earth Blog is reporting new imagery arriving in Google Earth.  The extent of the update isn’t yet known, but people have found new images in Argentina, Poland, Germany, Chile, France and the USA.

As with most updates, this one is live in Google Earth but not in Google Maps.  This means you can compare the two to decide if a given location is fresh or not.

Keep an eye on the GEB post for more updates as people discover other areas with new imagery.

Nessie found in Google Earth?

loch-ness-monsterThe Sun is at it again.  First they claimed to have found the lost city of Atlantis in Google Earth, now they think they’ve found the Loch Ness Monster.  Or maybe it’s a boat.

It’s obvious they’re just trying to (successfully) draw attention to their site, but they sure look stupid.  I love the response that Keir at GoogleMapsMania gave – he posted a bunch of UFOs found in StreetView, then a time traveling dinosaur! :)

You can view the image to the right, check it out on Google Maps, or in the Google Earth Plug-in via

Improved traffic info on Google Maps: See the side streets and contribute

Google has just announced that arterial traffic is now available on Google Maps.  I’ve noticed more and more roads showing traffic data over the past few months, but today seems to be the day of the big announcement.  In fact, there are certainly more roads in my area with traffic data, which could be very useful.

Arterial traffic on Google Maps

In addition, Google is now looking to use crowdsourcing to keep the maps even more up to date.  By using Google Maps for Mobile on your device, you can choose to have it send anonymous speed data back to Google’s servers to help them update the current traffic levels in your area.  This works on virtually any mobile phone that can run Maps for Mobile with a GPS, but sadly won’t work on the iPhone.

Google Maps Mobile - Arterial Traffic

A big question people will have about this new feature is privacy.  Google tackles that on their blog by saying:

We understand that many people would be concerned about telling the world how fast their car was moving if they also had to tell the world where they were going, so we built privacy protections in from the start. We only use anonymous speed and location information to calculate traffic conditions, and only do so when you have chosen to enable location services on your phone. We use our scale to provide further privacy protection: When a lot of people are reporting data from the same area, we combine their data together to make it hard to tell one phone from another. Even though the vehicle carrying a phone is anonymous, we don’t want anybody to be able to find out where that anonymous vehicle came from or where it went — so we find the start and end points of every trip and permanently delete that data so that even Google ceases to have access to it. We take the privacy concerns related to user location data seriously, and have worked hard to protect the privacy of users who share this data — but we still understand that not everybody will want to participate. If you’d like to stop your phone from sending anonymous location data back to Google, you can find opt-out instructions here.

It looks to be some great features.  I’m hoping they get the crowdsourcing aspects of it over to the iPhone, though given the recent fighting between Apple and Google lately, that seems unlikely to happen.

A ghost town from space

Earth is Square has a neat post today about viewing Centralia, Pennsylanvia using fresh Bird’s Eye imagery on Bing Maps.  Centralia was an active town of about 1000 residents back in the early 1980’s, but now is home to only nine people.  The reason is due to an underground coal fire that’s been burning since the 60’s, and will continue burning for as many as 250 more years.

In 1984, congress provided $42 million to relocate residents out of town.  Once gone, most of the buildings were demolished.  A recent episode of Life After People (an excellent series on the History Channel) featured Centralia as an example of what happens 25 years after humans leave a city (building decay, etc).

I was hoping that Google’s Historical Imagery feature would show aerial footage from a time when the city was populated, but it only goes back to 1993.   Below are some before and after photos.  Check it out on Google Maps (with StreetView imagery) or Bing Maps to explore further.

centralia-beforeBefore the evacuation

centralia-beforeafterThen and now

centralia-ge-1993Centralia 1993, as seen in Google Earth using the Historical Imagery slider

centralia-bingCentralia today, in Bing Maps Bird’s Eye

centralia-streetviewCentralia today, in Google Maps Street View.  The fog makes it even creepier.

Swiss want StreetView Disabled

It’s only been up for a few days, but the Switzerland Data Protection office is asking Google to remove the StreetView imagery they’ve shot in the country.  Their primary concern seems to be that “many faces and vehicle number plates had not been covered up or were insufficiently blurred”.  If memory serves, that’s not even something Google is legally obligated to do — they simply do it to avoid outcry from privacy advocates like this, though I’m sure the laws vary from country to country.

Hanspeter Thuer from the Data Protection team plans to meet with Google next week and help them “improve” the service.  It’ll be interesting to see if anything comes of this.

New StreetView and 3D cities released

helsinkiIt’s been a busy day for Google.  Earlier in the day they unveiled Helsinki, Finland in 3D, and the coverage is quite comprehensive.  Google Earth Blog has the details.

Also, as pointed out by Google Maps Mania, StreetView imagery has been released for a few countries.  This update includes a few major cities in Portugal (Porto and Lisbon), solid coverage over much of Switzerland, and also around Taipei, Taiwan.

All in all, a pretty busy day for Google!

Google launches new StreetView site

To help people better understand how StreetView works, Google has launched a new site that has a lot of information about the service.  The site explains how they collect the imagery, how long it takes to process it, the areas of the world that are covered, etc.

It’s probably not overly exciting for most readers of this blog, but it’ll be a great place to point people that have questions about how it all works.

More details about the site can be found on the LatLong blog.

Bing Maps Imagery Update for July

ImageryJuly2009gHot on the heels of Google’s latest imagery update, we have a huge imagery update from Bing Maps (via James Fee). This update includes 41TB of raw imagery, covering 189,000 sq. km., and about 12,000 sq. km. of Bird’s Eye imagery.

One of the neat things that Microsoft does with each release is post a “World Tour” that highlights all of the changes across the globe.   However, despite all of the updates, we still don’t have any new 3D buildings.  I simply don’t understand that, and I’ve not been able to get any answers from Microsoft — but I’ll keep trying.  Their 3D cities are amazing, with 100,000+ buildings and a ton of 3D trees, but they haven’t updated them in over a year.

Still, this is an excellent update and gives you a lot of more data to play with!

Update: Google provides an update file as well, in the form of a KML file that shows all of the updated areas.