Monday, October 4, 2010

A New Version Of Bhuvan Has Been Released

The Indian Space Research Organization has released a new beta version of Bhuvan a web mapping tool which serves images of India and the rest of the world taken from various Indian remote sensing satellites. It is available in 2D and 3D versions.

The new versions looks a little slicker and cleaner than its predecessor. But 5.8 meters is the highest resolution imagery available via Bhuvan while Google Maps and Google Earth both have long started serving 1 meter or so images of Indian cities and hinterland.

In case you are wondering why, here is the Remote Sensing data policy of the Government of India:

Government prescribes the following guidelines to be adopted for dissemination of satellite remote sensing data in India:

All data of resolutions up to 5.8 m shall be distributed on a nondiscriminatory basis and on “as requested basis”.

With a view to protect national security interests, all data of 5.8 m and better than 5.8 m resolution images will be screened by the appropriate agency before distribution so that images of sensitive areas are excluded.
a. Data of 5.8m and up to 1m resolution can be distributed to users after screening and ensuring that the sensitive areas are excluded.

b. Data of 1m resolution and better will also be screened as above and the following procedure will be followed for its distribution.
i. Government users can obtain the data without any further clearance.
ii. Private sector agencies, recommended by at least one Government agency for use of 1 m and better resolution data for supporting development activities, can obtain it without any further clearance.
iii. Private, foreign and other users can obtain the data after further clearance from an inter-agency High Resolution Image Clearance Committee (HRC).
iv. Specific requests for data of sensitive areas, by any user, can be distributed only after obtaining clearance from HRC.
v. Specific sale/non-disclosure agreements to be concluded between NRSC and users for data of 1 m resolution and better.

What this means is that under the current policy scenario, high resolution (1 meter or so) images collected from Indian satellites will not be available via open access free web mapping tools like Bhuvan. The only users of this high res imagery will be those who have obtained clearances for images of pre-defined geographic extent to be viewed in specialized GIS and Remote Sensing software.

This will severely limit the user base of Bhuvan and Indian imagery:

For example-

1) That means despite a developer API for Bhuvan being available there will likely be few takers especially for designers of urban applications.

2) And Bhuvan for the mobile market?... all those location apps, business listings, navigation already available via Google..?... forget it.. can't be done when your street and neighborhood looks like an undifferentiated granular blob.

3) Additional India specific thematic layers..?... many already  available at other free web mapping apps like Geocommons, India Biodiversity PortalBhoosampada, and  Census India Web Mapping.

unless there is a policy shift with regards to availability of high resolution images... I don't see the point of Bhuvan..

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