Thursday, 7 August 2008
Google ups the ante with Office View
Undaunted by the public backlash by privacy activists around the world Google is pushing ahead with its latest development which lets people explore inside buildings, both above and below ground level for the first time with little more than a computer and an internet connection.
It is believed Google’s success with Street View has enabled the company to begin moving into the next phase a lot sooner than anticipated and take advantage of a new business opportunity.
"Our ambition is to be a more than a world map," said a Google spokesperson. "We can now take this one step further and allow users to locate office cubicles, vending machines, bathrooms, stationery cupboards, and fax machines with precision."
Office cleaners, wearing special Google overalls have been cleaning office buildings using specially modified vacuum-cleaner-cameras. Tens of millions of detailed office photos from The US, Australia and Sweden have already been meshed with Google Maps.
“These colourful vac-cams are very easy to operate. Cleaners are more productive and feedback from office managers has been positive,” said the spokesperson. “We have bridged the gap between the blue and the white collar workers.”
It is believed Sweden was included in the initial roll-out as the cleanliness and wholesome nature of the Swedes as exemplified by ground-breaking music phenomenon, ABBA, meant that the chance of the vac-cams picking up potentially libellous images of office frolics was reduced.
Google expects office managers, corporate maintenance crews, couriers, new staff undergoing orientation, and armchair explorers to embrace Office View.
An office intern provided a first-hand experience of the new Office View. “It was like totally awesome,” said John Roberts. “The night before I started my first job I was able to take a virtual tour of the office environment and I knew where everything was. Even though it was my first day on the job I felt really at home.”
Google is confident technology developed to blur faces and post-it notes of computer passwords and other sensitive information in the Office View photos will allay the fears of privacy advocates.
The company acknowledges the automated process is not foolproof. However a spokesperson was keen to point out that, as the cleaners worked outside normal business hours most offices were usually empty.
Department stores have shown great interest in the system. Customers could potentially browse whole floors looking at merchandise. In many cases images are clear enough to see the price tags.
Google is planning to sell the technology to customers. This would allow department stores or grocery shop owners to upload and update their own images instantaneously so customers would always see the latest stock.
Privacy-conscious users who notice any potentially embarrassing images on Office View can report them to Google using an online form.