French Competitor to Google Earth
Tuesday 20 February 2007
France has established a potential competitor to Google Earth, the web based mapping product that produces satellite and aerial images of the planet.
The French service is called 'Géoportail' but, unlike its more established relation, it only offers aerial based imagery of France.
When the service was launched by the French National Geographic Institute (IGN), such was the initial demand, that the computer system was unable to cope and collapsed for several days.
Unlike Google Earth, there is no need to download software to operate the service but, as with the bigger version, the quality of the imagery you get is very variable.
Thus, whilst there is a strong level of resolution on most of the major cities, the clarity of the images in the countryside is disappointing. You can normally delineate land and building contours, but do not expect to see much else.
Nevertheless, it is an useful tool for property purchasers, as it does give you a good idea of the setting of a particular property, which is often difficult to obtain from sales particulars.
You will, however, need the assistance of the seller or agent to be able to pinpoint the property. Whilst you can type in the name of a commune or hamlet and obtain an overview of the locality, you will need the coordinates to be able to zoom to a particular property. The seller or agent themselves can obtain the coordinates from the site.
IGN have promised a programme of development on the service. In particular, a range of administrative information about France is being superimposed on the pictures, which is likely to become more comprehensive than can be found on Google Earth, e.g. local plans, risk zones.
One slight setback to the service occurred recently when IGN was forced to admit that it was slightly distorting the pictures being received, in order to combat pirating of the images. The distortion is not apparent to the naked eye, but is enough to permit IGN to trace fraudulent use of the material.