Google has a great online street map service at maps.google.com. If you’re in Europe or the US, that is. Google’s SA street maps show only arterial roads — not much use.
Thankfully, there is now an online alternative. Durban-based Always Active Technologies (AAT) has melded data from the surveyor-general, IT group Business Connexion and telephone directory maker Brabys to create Streetmaps.co.za, a free repository of SA maps and satellite images.
Like Google Maps, Streetmaps allows users to select a normal street map view, a satellite map view or a hybrid view. Satellite images of Gauteng are in black and white — the Johannesburg municipality won’t provide AAT with free colour images. Photography provided gratis to the site by the Durban and Cape Town municipalities is impressive. The high resolution satellite photos of Cape Town are particularly good.
AAT chief technology officer Greg Mahlknecht says the next step is to create an application to put the map data on cellphones. He says AAT has a close working relationship with the mobile operators and hopes to have a solution available in the next few months.
Without any marketing, the site is already attracting up to 15000 new visitors a month. The company hopes to make money from the venture by asking companies to buy points of interest on the maps.
Mahlknecht says AAT is open to offers from people interested in buying the website. “We definitely have an exit strategy,” he says.
I wouldn’t be surprised if Google, which is in the process of establishing a presence in SA, makes the company an offer.