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KeyGoog Update: Hanke speaks

By - October 27, 2004

john_hankeJust off the phone with John Hanke, former CEO of Keyhole, now GM of the Keyhole unit of Google. We spoke about the implications of Keyhole’s acquisition. A few things stand out.

First and foremost, Keyhole is in the Holy Crap That’s A Lot of Data business – that alone is reason for Google to be interested. Their database stands at 12 terabytes and growing. It covers more than 50 percent of the earth’s population, and includes satellite imagery, mapping data, topographic overlays, and, pay attention here, geolocation-based content tags. In fact, in his presentation at Web 2.0, Hanke showed an application, which he called geoblogging, which allows folks to fly around Keyhole’s data and annotate various things they see. “They identify a spot, then talk about it, upload pictures they took there, whatever,” Hanke told me. “That then becomes an icon, a point in the Keyhole database” that others can view and comment upon. (Want to check it out? Head here.)

The idea is to bring the Force of the Many and the Architecture of Participation(caveat, PDF download) to a visualization of the earth. Jaw dropping yet? But wait, there’s more. Hanke also showed the overlay of real time traffic information from third party sources, like the CalTrans traffic feed. Mapping data to geography will allow for multitudes of such applications. Imagine Google scaling Keyhole to all web surfers for free, and then opening up the APIs for all to develop on.

Yowza.

Hanke told me that when he started Keyhole he and his team had a dream of building a revolutionary product that “touched millions and millions of people.” Reality intervened as the bubble burst and resources became dear. But with Google now in the picture, that dream is once again alive, Hanke says. “We could have remained an independent company,” he told me. “But the power of the Google brand, the infrastructure…” Not to mention, Hanke added, Google’s mission, which fits nicely with Keyhole’s.

Will Google let Hanke realize his dream, and keep doing all the cools things Keyhole was attempting to do? I asked Hanke if it’d be a fair assumption to make that he’d only sell his company to someone who shared his passions and his dreams. His response? Yup, that’s a fair assumption.

NB: Gary notes in his post that there are other players in this field, notably TerraFly. Take note, Yahoo….

Hat tip: Jeremy for blogging the conference, thanks.

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