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Who needs Google Street View? Indian brothers launch rival service Wonobo
BANGALORE: Who needs Google Street View! Even as the global search major struggles with Indian authorities to get permissions to take images of Indian city streets, a small Mumbai-based mapping company has done all that Google had planned, and perhaps more, for the top 54 Indian cities.
Genesys International, founded in 1995 by brothers Sol and Sajid Malik, have captured numerous images of almost every street in these cities, and stitched the images together to create 360-degree panoramic views of the streets, almost exactly the way Google has done in many other parts of the world.
On Tuesday, the company launched the service under the brand Wonobo (wonobo.com). The site suffered from a little latency on Tuesday, but the company says the speed will improve in a day or so as they get everything in place.
So how come they were able to do something that Google has not been able to yet in India? Sajid Malik told TOI that one advantage Genesys had was that they had been working with the government for many years for their mapping services. "For street view, the government, including the defence ministry and the Survey of India, threw a lot of regulations at us. We painstakingly fulfilled their requirements, including not taking pictures in sensitive areas," he said.
Genesys may also have the advantage of being a local company that's hosting the data in local servers. The company has so far been in the services business, creating map content for others such as Navteq (provider of electronic navigable maps), Nokia and Bing, and was involved recently in creating digital maps of Dubai, Mecca and Medina.
Wonobo street view is being launched initially for 12 cities -- Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore, Chennai, Hyderabad, Ahmedabad, Surat, Jaipur, Costal Goa, Kolkata, Agra, Pune. The remaining 42 cities will be launched over the following weeks.
Wonobo's main street view service provides a map on the left side of the screen and the street view on the right (you have the option of having a full-screen street view and keeping the map as a small box at the bottom). You can click any part of the map and get the corresponding street view. You can look all around a point on a street. You can click or drag on the street view to go down a street.
There's a search box to find locations. With the help of field staff, Wonobo has tagged some 10 million points of interest. That includes 4 million business locations. You can walk into some of these locations - like Novotel hotel in Mumbai - and look all around. Though the company is not charging Novotel now, these are potential revenue sources. For many of the small businesses tagged, it's their first web presence. "Any merchant can mention his suite of services, show real time prices or available inventory, showcase interiors. One of our revenue sources will be based on such hyper-local engagement," Sajid said.
Random checks we did on Wonobo showed that some of the images are a little dated, some important roads have not been covered yet, some of the tagging could have been better done. Search for Barton Centre, a landmark building on Bangalore's MG Road, and you get a view of an ugly electric transformer at the back of the building. The company says their effort is to ensure that images are no more than six months old.
The Wonobo platform also enables anybody to create pictorial storylines and guides. You could create a 'Sachin Tendulkar guide' that shows everything from the nursing home he was born in to the house he lives in now. You could create a street food guide or recommend a walking tour in a city. You can invite others to participate in creating your storyline, and you can even share your storylines on social media.
Wonobo is working with the Indian tourism department to showcase heritage sites, something that Google is also now doing, though Google is yet to get permissions for wider street views.
Bangalore startup Vidteq has done video images of streets in Bangalore, Chennai, and Hyderabad. But video requires greater bandwidth, and Vidteq does not provide panoramic views.
Wonobo has captured images in very high resolution, but the resolution used on the website is lower in order to reduce latency given our generally low internet speeds. Mobile will require even lower resolutions. "We will do a mobile app soon," Sajid said.
- 51 days ago via site