Google Earth: Real-time recycling and bus info

We’ve seen a lot of interesting real-time data feeds into Google Earth over the years, the most common being real-time air traffic and a feed of real-time satellite locations.

A new set of models from iNovmapping brings it to a different level — stationary objects with real-time data inside. For now, their demonstrations are for bus information, found by clicking on a bus stop, and recycling information, found by clicking on a recycling container. Here are a few screenshots and KMZ files to show you what we’re talking about.

Bus Stop – KMZ


Recycling Container – KMZ


What makes these very unique is that the KMZ files aren’t necessary to make them function — they’re just to help you locate the models. In every other real-time product we’ve seen in the past, it’s been managed via a network link. In this case, they’ve added an iframe to the description box on the 3D model itself, and then they can update the information inside of the iframe with up-to-date data about that location. You don’t need to load any external KML files or network links; you can just use the standard “3D Buildings” layer in Google Earth.

If I’m not mistaken, this is the first time we’ve ever seen something like this and the potential for it is huge!

• Find a house on the beach, click it to get real-time rental prices.

• Click on a restaurant to get operating hours for today.

• Click on a house for sale to get info about pricing, open houses, etc.

• Click on a conference center to see what events are happening inside today.

The possibilities are endless, though most of the business ideas mentioned above don’t have 3D models yet. Those that do would then need to find a way to keep the iframed page updated daily, which could be technically challenging and/or time consuming. While there are some issues to work out, this is still quite impressive.

iNovmapping wants to take it even further, though. Some ideas they have for the future:

For example, developers could incorporate feeds of shows in Theaters or of expositions in Museums. This would turn the 3D layer more useful and would create an incentive on the part of the real-estate owners to put their buildings on the GE 3D Layer. Another feature … is the possibility of clicking buildings on the Earth Layer of Google Maps. Everyone likes to see realistic models but we appreciate it evan more if they speak back at us.

They make some great points. While Google Earth is an amazing tool, it’s historically been quite anti-social. Any social games or social apps of any kind end up using the plug-in via the browser, rather than try to do it inside of Google Earth. I tried making a discussion forum inside of Google Earth a few years ago, but it was quite clunky. If (when?) Google ever moves “My Places” into the cloud, that could help with sharing, but until then it’s very limited. It’s great to see a company like iNovmapping try to push the envelope a little bit with methods like this.

Google Earth: Four new cities added to Building Maker: Rome, New Orleans, Long Beach, Malibu

Last month Google added some new features to Building Maker and this month they’ve added some new cities. The new cities added are:

• Rome, Italy

• New Orleans, Louisiana

• Long Beach, California

• Malibu, California


To try them for yourself, simply head over to the Building Maker site and get started!

If you’re not yet familiar with Building Maker, you can read this post on getting started with it, or watch the short video below.

Kite Photos of Tikehau Island Now in Google Earth

Tikehau motu kite aerial photo in Google EarthWhen Google updated its imagery last week, my latest set of kite aerial photos went live from our Tahina Expedition. This time a small motu island in the Tuamotus atoll of Tikehau, in French Polynesia is now visible in very high resolution. The photos were taken last June when we visited the island on our sailboat Tahina.

One day, during our week long explorations, we had a chance to take some kite photos. I had found a small motu that looked like a good candidate. Jason, one of our temporary crew, helped fly the kite. I drew “TAHINA” in the sand hoping it would show up in the pictures (read more about that day). Jason was holding the kite string while wading in the shallow waters upwind of the island so we could capture the entire island with the camera dangling from the kite string a 100m in the air. I was standing on the beach holding the remote to control the camera, and my image was captured in several of the straight down photos. Weeks later, I managed to upload all the photos to our server. My friend Stewart Long, of GonzoEarth, is a professional at processing aerial photography. In his spare time, Stewart worked over the imagery and, a couple of months later, we sent it to Google. Finally, the imagery went live in Google Earth early last week. So, now everyone can see it!

Kite Aerial Photo of Tikehau motu with Tahina on beach

I was pleased to see our name TAHINA showed up clearly, and not only that – because of the way the imagery stitched – pictures of me ended up showing up twice on the beach! (No, that’s not my twin – just Frank twice!) If you visit this place in Google Earth , you can see the rest of the motu in ultra high resolution (much higher than most Google Earth imagery, you can even zoom in further than seen above). Or try visiting the location in Google Maps.

This is the fifth set of kite aerial imagery we have had published so far. For some other examples check out: Manihi village, BBQ Island, and Petite Tabac. If you’re interested in how we take the photos, read this post and view the photo album to see how its done.