ISRO and MapmyIndia join hands to replace Google Maps


In the past few weeks, India has been stepping up its efforts to loosen its shackles from the American big techs by introducing its own digital platforms for its citizens.

Now, in order to help is its citizens navigate in and around the country, the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO), and location and navigation technology solutions provider MapmyIndia, have joined hands to offer India’s indigenous, mapping portal and geospatial services.

Rohan Verma, CEO and Executive Director of MapmyIndia, termed the partnership a path-breaking milestone in India’s journey towards ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’, wherein Indian users would not be dependent on foreign organizations for maps, navigation and geospatial services, and leverage made-in-India solutions instead.

Currently, Google has the lion’s share in navigation platform with Google Maps, and it is not easy to replace the convenience and flexibility the American company offers. However, having a national provider is an advantage for Indians in regards to maintaining privacy and data.

This partnership combines the power of MapmyIndia’s digital maps and technologies with ISRO’s catalogue of satellite imagery and earth observation data.

In an official statement, MapmyIndia said there are multiple benefits of an Indian solution for maps and geospatial services. The company claims that it ensures that the maps reflect the true sovereignty of the country, depicting India’s borders as per the Government of India.

According to ISRO, the Department of Space (DoS) — ISRO comes under it — has joined hands with MapmyIndia to combine their geospatial expertise and build holistic solutions by leveraging their geo portals.

DoS entered into an MoU with geospatial technology company CE Info Systems Pvt Ltd, which owns MapmyIndia, on Thursday.

Under the partnership, the combined geospatial expertise of the DoS and CE Info Systems would be leveraged through their respective Geoportals, according to Bengaluru-headquartered ISRO.

MapmyIndia’s maps cover 7.5 lakh Indian villages, 7500+ cities at street and building-level, connected by 63 lakh kilometers of road network pan India and within cities. The company claims that this is the most exhaustive digital map database of the country, created entirely indigenously over the last 25 years.

The collaboration will enable them to jointly identify and build holistic geospatial solutions utilizing the earth observation datasets, ‘NavIC’, Web Services and APIs (application programming interface) available in MapmyIndia, ‘Bhuvan’, ‘VEDAS’ and ‘MOSDAC’ geo portals, the space agency said in a statement.

Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System (IRNSS) called NavIC (Navigation with Indian Constellation, is India’s own navigation system, developed by ISRO.

Bhuvan is the national geo-portal developed and hosted by ISRO comprising geospatial data, services and tools for analysis.

VEDAS (VisualisationofEarthobservationDataandArchivalSystem) is an online geoprocessing platform using an optical, microwave, thermal and hyperspectral EO data covering applications particularly meant for academia, research and problem solving, according to ISRO.

MOSDAC (Meteorological and Oceanographic Satellite Data Archival Centre)is a data repository for all the meteorological missions of ISRO and deals with weather-related information, oceanography and tropical water cycles.

Verma said there are many reasons why Indians are better off with an indigenous solution for maps and geospatial services.

Through the combined partnership with ISRO, MapmyIndia’s end-user maps, apps and services will now integrate with ISRO’s huge catalog of satellite imagery and earth observation data, a MapmyIndia statement said.

“It would be a much better, more detailed and comprehensive, as well as privacy-centric, hyper-local and indigenous mapping solution for Indians, compared to foreign map apps and solutions,” it said.

Verma said foreign mapping solutions come with a lot of hidden costs.

“For example, foreign search engines and companies claim to offer “free” maps, but in reality they make money by targeting the same users with advertising based on invading user privacy and auctioning those users’ private location and movement data,” he claimed.

“This should be very alarming to all citizens”, he added.

The most important advantage is that MaymyIndia claims it does not have an advertising business model to provide better protection for the user’s privacy.

“MapmyIndia has an ethical point of view against advertising led business models of such companies, and hence, does not have an advertising business model. By using MapmyIndia maps and applications instead of the foreign map apps, users can better protect their privacy,” said Verma.

The “sustainable and direct, clean business model” ensures that MapmyIndia’s maps and apps can be kept free of cost as well as free of ads for users, according to Verma.