China plans to launch its own 'Google Earth'

China is going to set up its own three-dimensional (3D) Internet mapping system to provide high resolution photos to domestic online users, Changjiang Daily reported on February 11.

The program, launched by the State Bureau of Surveying and Mapping, is equivalent to “Google Earth”, a global mapping server with a database storing numerous geographic images.

Engineers from the State Bureau of Surveying and Mapping discussed the technology in a conference held in Shanghai at the end of last November.

Assistant Professor Chen Jing from State Key Laboratory of Information Engineering in Surveying, Mapping and Remote Sensing, said: “In view of market demand, Google Earth only provides high resolution pictures taken from North America and Europe.”

According to Chen, compared with Google Earth, the pictures provided by the State Bureau of Surveying and Mapping feature higher resolution and cover a wider range of national territory. As long as the place is not subject to significant security restrictions, online users can search wherever they want in the country, said Chen. “We have the edge on building a domestic geographic database by collecting the pictures drawn with global position system (GPS) or taken from the sky,” she explained.

China used to operate tight restrictions on geographic photos with resolution higher than 30 meters. But the launch of Google Earth, featuring pictures with best resolution of 0.6 meters, acted as an inspiration on domestic researchers, Chen said. “We can provide pictures not involving confidential information to the public to meet market demand.”

Google Earth’s reports of its US$1-billion advertising revenue and India’s eager involvement in online mapping technology have motivated China to speed up its development in the mapping server program. To date, a research group led by Li Deren, an academician from the State Bureau of Surveying and Mapping, has designed a soft-ware called “Geo Globle” with the capability of dealing with the data involved, including 3-D pictures, aerial photos and information concerning borders, railways and aircraft routes.

According to Chen, although the soft-ware, having taken 10 years to complete, still needs to be tested, the technology will become the backbone of a domestically-designed mapping server program. The researchers do not want to take any risk with national security by using overseas software. So far, Geo Globle has been applied in the Heilongjiang Geographic Information System, the Fujian Electric Power System and the national defense system. The technology is now awaiting approval from the State Council.

( by Wu Jin, February 12, 2009)


Author: EARSC

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