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India’s “Google Earth” Bhuvan Gets Massive Upgrade: 2D, Rediff Maps, Community; Releases API

Quite a major upgrade has been released for Bhuvan, the Google-Earth-like satellite mapping tool from the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO):

– Adds 2D Interface: Bhuvan has launched a 2D interface and allows switching between 2D and 3D modes. The 2D interface is available online to even those who don’t install a Bhuvan plugin (which is still a pain to download and install; previous issues haven’t been addressed).

– Integrates Rediff Maps: The 2D interface has integrated a layer of Rediff Maps, from NASDAQ listed Rediff.com; other Indian map alternatives from MapMyIndia and SatNav are not available and/or integrated, though MapMyIndia has much more detail. To activate the Rediff Maps layer, users will have to enable navigation, and then choose “Rediffmaps” as an option. The problem with Bhuvan even in 2D is that it takes just too much time to load, and switching between elements is tedious – first enabling ‘navigation’, then Rediffmaps. (Below: Rediff Maps in Bhuvan 3D and 2D)

– Community & Interactivity: Bhuvan has integrated a community tool within its 3D interface, allowing multiple users to collaborate, and chat. I didn’t sign up, but according to Bhuvan’s upgrade note, they have allowing users to chat, annotate the terrain with text labels and share free hand drawings, point using a virtual cursor, and synchronize their flight. Bhuvan also allows the user to lead, follow, and share in real-time, interactive fly-through sessions, chat with other users, mark up areas on the terrain, and toggle information layers for further analysis. Interestingly, Skype appears to have been integrated with Bhuvan:

– Opens Up The API: Bhuvan has opened up its Application Program Interface, allowing developers to create applications based on functional code released by Bhuvan, allowing users to embed embed a true 3D digital globe, into web pages. Using the API one can draw markers and lines, drape images over the terrain.

– Bhuvan’s API reference Guide
– Example

– Crowdsourcing content: Again, available only in the 3D version, there’s an “Add Content” tool makes it easy for users to add their own information (Volunteered Geographic Information), allowing them to crowdsource information. I couldn’t find either of these options on Bhuvan 2D, on Bhuvan. Users can create their own content, by marking locations (adding placemarks) on the base map information, where certain features exist, but aren’t already shown on the base map. Adding content and sharing information is available upon registration.

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– More content: Bhuvan has expanded its content information by integrating information on land resources, Agriculture, Soil, Water, Ocean sciences, Ground water potential, Eco systems, Bio diversity etc, extracted from multi-resolution remote sensing images, which are taken by various ISRO Satellites. According to a note from Bhuvan, “Information derived from the satellite imagery helps in the creation of digital data base for facilitating hazard zonation, damage assessment, monitoring of major natural disasters and R&D towards early warning of disasters.”

– Adds Firefox, Netscape & Google Chrome Browser Support For 2D: One could previously access Bhuvan only using Internet Explorer. With this new upgrade, Bhuvan’s 2D maps can be accessed using Firefox, Chrome and Netscape browsers, though from when I tried, one still needs to use IE to run Bhuvan 3D, and also download the plugin needed to run Bhuvan 3D (wasn’t working with Google Chrome).

– Hindi Interface: A note from Bhuvan to registered users suggests that “The new version of Bhuvan is also available in Hindi to enhance the outreach of its capability among the Indian User community.” I tried, but couldn’t find a Hindi interface. We’re not sure if it has been operationalized yet, or in the works.

In conclusion

Our view of Bhuvan remains the same – it’s a good start, and the tools integrated help, but we expect limited usage and functionality, as long as installation, browser compatibility and speed of access and usage issues are not addressed.

Trying Out Bhuvan, India’s Satellite Mapping Tool

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Written By

Founder @ MediaNama. TED Fellow. Asia21 Fellow @ Asia Society. Co-founder SaveTheInternet.in and Internet Freedom Foundation. Advisory board @ CyberBRICS

MediaNama’s mission is to help build a digital ecosystem which is open, fair, global and competitive.



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