Is Apple planning to compete with Google ‘Street View’?

Evidence emerged this week to suggest Apple may be working on its own version of Google Street View: the fun and sometimes useful feature which provides interactive, 360 degree panoramic views of any street, in more than 40 countries. The following statement appears on the Apple website… Picture1 London, Paris, California, New York and Washington are among the initial targets over January and February, so if you live in these areas, keep your eyes peeled for the Apple car! Since Google blurs out faces and number plates on Street View, the above information suggests Apple may be planning a very similar service.

How could Apple use this data?

Currently it’s tricky to be clear on Apple’s intentions, while such little information is available. Apple Maps initially struggled to gain traction and suffered numerous problems, but after significant improvements, it has become more popular than Google Maps on the iPhone. According to Apple it now receives over five billion map-related requests per week. Street View is one feature Google retains competitive advantage through at the moment, so Apple may be hoping to close that gap with the launch of a rival service. However, Business Insider speculates that Apple could just be enhancing its Flyover feature, which offers 3D versions of well-known buildings, such as Buckingham Palace in London or the Empire State Building in New York. It could additionally be seeking to improve its mapping data accuracy and navigation. Interestingly, Google has never released usage data on Street View, as it seems likely that its usage numbers don’t match with the amount of resources it has invested in it.

Opportunities for businesses

This might be leaping ahead a bit, but if Apple decides to compete with Street View, there’s potential for future business opportunities too. Towards the middle of last year, Google launched Street View Trusted, a tool for businesses to showcase their premises via a virtual tour hosted on Google Maps, and some other products. Using the Street View technology, and Google accredited photographers, the platform allows local businesses to showcase their interiors, décor and style to online users in a visually engaging way. From the user perspective, Google presents this content as ‘See Inside’: see inside The increased visibility for businesses can lead to improvement in click through rates, increased engagement with customers and even increased footfall. There is also some evidence to suggest that there may be some correlation with higher local search rankings, but Google hasn’t confirmed this. So watch how this space develops, as it could be an interesting one…  

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