India’s CIRUS reactor in Google Earth (top) and Bhuvan (bottom)

I love Google Earth and don’t know how I could have ever done my job before it was invented. (The love is apparently not mutual since Google censored my work on China’s ASAT, at least in China.) However, not everyone loves Google Earth (GE). Perhaps you remember India strongly objecting to GE when it first came out. Of course, India has always objected to people photographing its bridges and military instillations and perhaps it has a point considering how the Mumbai terrorists apparently used GE to familiarize themselves with their targets. These are some of the issues we who use open source information have to face. that is why it is so surprising that India has, apparently, introduced its own knock-off of Google Earth with the introduction of Bhuvan, Sanskrit for Earth. It seems like India has decided that if you cannot ban GE, you should emulate it, but at a much reduced resolution. And as far as I can tell, no coordinates. (In the interest of full disclosure, I have to say that I am just getting familiar with Bhuvan and some of its features might not have revealed themselves to me.)

Both the low resolution and the lack of geographic coordinates would make Bhuvan much less of a security threat, but of course do nothing to get rid of GE. As the above two images show, GE has little to worry about as far as competitors go; the resolution of Bhuvan is reported to be 5 meters which severely limits it usefulness for, at least the kind of work I do. (Interestingly, the little blurb I saw that stated the resolution was 5 meters also bragged about how you could zoom down to 10 meters while GE was limited to 200—is that true?—it didn’t say, however, that 5 meter resolution looks awful at 10 meters height.) Bhuvan does look like it will eventually have some interesting features such as reporting the type of soil in different locations. But if this proves useful, GE will undoubtedly incorporate such information too.