Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Delhi takes the lead in GIS

I was surprised and impressed when I first heard of the Delhi State Spatial Data Infrastructure Project (DSSDI). It is a project between Survey of India (Be honest, you didn't know such an agency existed, right?) and the Delhi Government to map Delhi to a hitherto unknown precision and here comes the exciting part, in 3D ! It began in 2007 and is now nearing completion and anything and everything is mapped right from traffic signs to light poles to underground systems. There are aerial photographs, terrain data, buildings, land use information all at high accuracies, enough to create a 3D virtual walkthrough of the city. The aim was to create a comprehensive information system that can be used by all Govt. agencies and from some samples I saw (which I unfortunately cannot share here), I have to say they are almost there.

In addition to this a number of monitoring and control centres as well as wireless cameras are to be installed throughout the city for security purposes for the commonwealth games (Maybe this can pursuade a number of foreign teams who have refused to come citing security reasons). I am expecting the hue and cry about violation of privacy by some organization in Delhi anytime now!

Before I recovered from this surprise, I saw another news piece that calls for installing GPS units in Autos in Delhi to use the distance traveled information to regulate fares. The installation apparently has to be done within the next 6 months and there will be a small hike in the fares so that the money comes from the customers in return for the service they get.

If you have any experience with Autos in Chennai, you can realize how this news brings a new hope to someone like me, hailing from Chennai and having to fight with Auto wallahs for every ride I take every time I go home! Appa used to always tell me not to haggle with street vendors for a few rupees since they depend on those for their livelihood while to us it almost means nothing. I would have gladly applied the same logic to Chennai Auto drivers had they not unabashedly asked me for four times the regular price without batting an eyelid ! I have a sneaking suspicion that in spite of installing GPS units, they would probably turn them off and still ask for a flat rate just like they do now with the auto meters but what’s life without a little hope….

On another note, I used the google maps app in the iPhone while driving from Ranipet to Chennai and I was completely amazed at how accurate it was and how it includes even the smallest kurukku sandhu (street)! Driving from Delhi to Noida though was a different challenge – the sector naming always drives me crazy especially when sector 86 follows sector 43 ! In spite of this, the google maps app had just 2 errors and still got me to the destination.

How does an autowallah usually give you directions ? He says, ‘nera poi koil anda thirumbu, aprum straighta pona oru postofffice varum, anga second right’ (go until you reach the temple, then turn and go straight until you reach the postoffice and then take a second right). Notice how directions are always related to landmarks ? Google uses exactly this logic to give directions in google maps in India (the screenshot shows how directions are given in other countries).

aga motham, vandhutangayya map poda....the vetti officers who pass time by giving right or wrong directions to people are going to be so disappointed !
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