Friday, 8 May 2009

Google Streetview, Property and spare time

As one of my responsibilities is a property website i often get to spend time looking at competing property portals to see what they are doing. This is of course quite boring unless you do it linked to that great English pastime of checking property prices near you, searching for property you can afford and looking at others that would require a lottery fortune.

Last night i was looking at such properties and found what looked like the rural cottage not far from Norwich in my price range. Before the internet i would not have even seen that unless i had happened upon an ad in the paper. Now it seems commonplace to see these things online. Last night however was the first time property hunting became really interesting.

Luckily unlike many agents, this one had provided the postcode of the property plus further map details in the online brochure. This meant that i could use google maps with the satellite view activated to find the property and see at least an overhead view of it to get a sense of its position. This again is nothing new and has been available on Google and indeed integrated into many property portals sites for a few years. What was different though was the addition of Google streetview.

I knew that the streetview service was available in 50 UK cities and they are slowly rolling it out so i did not expect it to work in this rural spot. Sure enough when i tried it over the property Google duly informed me that Streetview did not extend that far. However as i moved towards Norwich on the map i managed to activate streetview and turn round back to the cottage. Despite being told from the map/satellite view that streetview was not available i actually managed to "walk" right up to the property and take a good look at it virtually.

The result was that i realised the art of the estate agent was not dead because as good as it looked online and in the brochure with the numerous pictures they did not show the sub station right behind the house. Also the complete lack of back garden with dark north facing back of the house. So apart from saving me a trip on Saturday it clearly shows that Google is slowly but surly extending streetview albeit making it difficult to find that out.

Unlike the Daily Mail i actually believe Streetview is a real leap forward, not a threat to our privacy. Its uses with positioning software is the most exciting technology of this year, especially when linked to a mobile phone. When demonstrating the service Google showed the system on an Andriod phone allowing a user to tell the system to look for restaurants and then walk down a street with a virtual street on the phone taking you straight to your eateries of choice. When this is all linked to Ad Words and Ad Sense and Google positioning ads you can see why they are spending literally millions on this.

This technology is very much in its infancy but in a couple of years time it will be mainstream and not only will we never be lost again trying to find that bar in London but we will also will not be frustrated with a wasted house viewing.

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