I received an e-mail about an hour ago from a reader of my blog (Jimson Lee of SpeedEndurance.com) who told me about an article on Slashdot regarding Google and my city of Nanaimo. Apparently, Time wrote an article a couple days ago titled “How Google Earth Ate Our City“.
Nanaimo has a population of around 79,000 as is located on Vancouver Island in British Columbia, Canada, so it is certainly not the first city you’d expect to be crowned the “Google Capital of the World”. However, I’ve known about Nanaimo and it’s being labelled the Google Capital of the World for a while now, as it has been in the local papers and media here for some time. I believe the front of the phone book even mentions it.
Here are some of the more interesting sections from the Time article:
When they hear the telltale sirens of a fire truck bursting out of the station in Nanaimo, the locals don’t need to look out of the window or tune in to newscasts to find out where the action is. Instead, they can simply log on to Google Maps or Google Earth and track the firefighters in real time as they tear down the streets of this Vancouver Island port community. The Google-enabling of Nanaimo’s fire service, launched just weeks ago, is the latest venture in a British Columbia town that has been dubbed the capital of Google Earth.
“With Nanaimo, they have mapped nearly every conceivable thing using Google Earth and Google Maps,” Michael Jones, Google Earth’s chief technology officer, said last August at a conference in Vancouver.
The city’s planning department has, over the past five years, steadily fed Google a wealth of information about its buildings, property lines, utilities and streets. The result is earth.nanaimo.ca, a clearinghouse of city data viewed through the robust and freely available Google Earth 3D mapping program. The site sorts and maps every business, from restaurants to car dealers, while a click of the mouse brings up the lot size for every property in the city, including the building permit number and zoning history. Homeowners can use the facility to find out specific information about their garbage collection schedule, while the city’s 150-year-old downtown core is rendered in 3D and dotted with 360-degree panoramas.
“We actually gave them our base map, and we were probably the first municipality to give them that data,” says Per Kristensen, Nanaimo’s chief technology officer. “Over time, that has just continued to increase.” Nanaimo is betting that embracing Google, the ubiquitous search engine that has become the starting point for most internet searches, will be good for tourism.
But what does all this internet mapping and graphing mean for the people who actually live in this Google-ized community?
In theory, it could improve their lives by providing more information about the urban environment in which they live. The Google fire service allows people to avoid accident sites by tuning electronic devices to automatic updates from the city’s RSS news feed, says fire captain Dean Ford. Eventually, Nanaimo plans to equip its grass-cutting machines with GPS devices, so residents piqued by the apparent shabbiness of a particular park or grass verge can use Google to find out when last it was groomed by the city’s gardening staff. And the city’s cemeteries will soon be mapped to allow internet users to find out who is buried in each plot, says Kristensen. A new multimillion-dollar conference center, opening in June, will have 72 wireless access points to allow out-of-towners to use their laptops to navigate the Google Earth version of the city.
View the the original Time article for more details.