Microsoft to work with Indian government on GIS

Microsoft to work with Indian government on GIS


Microsoft Research, the research and development arm of Microsoft Corp., is to collaborate on science and technology research projects with India’s Ministry of Science and Technology and Ocean Development. The announcement was made at the formal inauguration Wednesday of a new Microsoft Research lab in Bangalore that will conduct research in a number of areas, including computing technologies for emerging markets. The new lab, called Microsoft Research India, is part of a network of five research labs that Microsoft in Redmond, Washington runs worldwide. The first collaborative project between the Indian government and Microsoft Research will be a geographic information system (GIS) project that will bring a variety of satellite imagery, remote sensing and other geographic data together in a geographically indexed database.

Microsoft Research India will make use of the government’s non-sensitive geographic data available online to the public in a format that is easy to browse and comprehend, with intuitive visualization of data, according to Kentaro Toyama, the assistant managing director of Microsoft Research India.

“We will use (this project) as a foundation for doing research in GIS,” said Toyama. “We will, for example, allow average people to add information about their local region onto this database, and we will add different ways to search and query such a database.”

Microsoft Research India will draw on the expertise of Microsoft’s TerraServer project, conducted in collaboration with the U.S. Geological Survey, and address new issues such as what is the optimum way to visualize different layers of geographic data, as well as the best way to present the data, particularly for users who do not have high-bandwidth connectivity, Toyama added. One benefit for Microsoft from this research is to understand how to extend its SQL (structured query language) database technology to become a geographical database. “The main issues with spatial databases have to do with simpler indexing,” said Toyama. “Traditional relational databases are not very good at doing any kind of query on multiple dimensions.”

Besides the GIS project, Microsoft Research India also plans to collaborate with the Indian government in a number of other areas, according to Toyama.