Moving ever closer to its dream of being able to catalogue almost everything in the world, Google Inc. has just bought digital map-maker, Keyhole Corp.
Google had already recently acquired Picasa, a service that helps manage digital photos, but Keyhole is the first it has acquired since its August initial public offering. All of Keyhole’s 29 employees have joined Google, and its current customer base of about 10,000 come mainly from a coterie of government agencies.
Claiming to be the largest 3D, commercial imagery depository online, Keyhole, founded in 2001, maintains a multi-terabyte database of digital images of geographic locations captured from satellites and aeroplanes. Its 3-D technology provides far-away or close-up views of a region, neighbourhood or specific address. Images can be tilted into different positions, and its image resolution in some areas is as fine as half a foot. We previously saw Keyhole’s 3-D maps being used to zero in on the battlefront on CNN news during the early days of the Iraq war.
Keyhole received its initial financing from Sony Broadband but then raised additional money last year from In-Q-Tel, a venture capital company backed, interestingly, by the CIA.
The Keyhole database includes thousands of cities, and images varying in age from two months to three years. It gets these images from a variety of sources, including the private Colorado satellite companies DigitalGlobe and Space Imaging, while some lower-resolution images come from the U.S. government.
One of the first things Google did after the buyout, was slash the price of Keyhole 2 LT, the basic consumer downloadable software by a whooping 57%, reducing it from $70 (~£38) to $30 (~£16). The more sophisticated Keyhole 2 Pro is priced at $599 (~£327).
Yahoo and MSN already provide online mapping services, enabling users to zoom down to street-level scale, while Mapquest is a popular and established site for directions. Now Google users will no longer have to leave the Google site to avail of this type of service.
We wait with bated breath to see the uses Google put it to.