Street View 'excites' winelands

2010-08-30 07:01

Cape Town - The South African wine industry feels that it has been boosted by being the first in the world to be included in Google's Street View service.

"This is fantastic for our industry from a marketing perspective," WineNet's Kevin Kidson told News24.

"It gives you a view of the winery online and it's a pity that there's one picture for now, but it's a great opportunity for us,' he said.

There are about 30 wine farms listed on Street View and it's Google's intention to include a wider range of businesses but that will take some time, said Google's Julie Taylor.

"There's still a lot to be done and we are committed to investing in South Africa. The wine industry will hopefully form a key part.

"We currently have imagery of 11 wine estates in Street View (you can view multiple images of each one, obviously, and do a tour down their roads) and will be adding another 19 estates," Taylor said.

Virtual walks

Google has been developing its mapping programme and "geo-location tools" for SA and since the launch of Street View in June, the internet giant exceeded its initial plan of rolling it out to five cities in the country.

"We launched Afrikaans and Zulu support before the (Soccer) World Cup and people are using it. It's getting better with time," Jarda Bengl told News24 as he demonstrated Street View.

Covering the main wineries in the Stellenbosch area, the Street View service allows users to view the wine estates, take virtual walks, and provides contact details to allow wine purchases.

"Let me show you the magic. The map works for people in Japan. They see the map in their own language, and they can print it out for the cab driver when they get to South Africa," said Bengl, from the Czech Republic.

This exposure allows South African wineries to compete in the international market.

"There's a tourism aspect and a wine aspect," said Kidson. " People can see the place and decide whether they want to come and visit, but I don't think it will change the way local people buy wine much. Wine purchases has always been a tactile experience," he added.

The Street View service is part of Google's strategy to "map the world" and the winelands were of particular importance, said Bengl.

Privacy concerns

"It's our mission to map the whole world, but it's a huge task. We try to map what makes a country special and interesting. The next thing we will probably look at is mapping the Gardens or university campuses," Bengl said.

He acknowledged that Google had made mistakes by collecting Wi-Fi data with the Street View vehicles.

"The Wi-Fi issue was a mistake and we're sorry for that, and we didn't use the data anyway."

Taylor said that Google has taken steps to improve of privacy, following concerns regarding Street View.

"We're a big company and should come under scrutiny when we've made mistakes. But we're actively engaged in fixing mistakes, and even the elephants in Kruger (Park) have their faces blurred out on Street View," she said.

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