27 May

Changes to Geolocation Function & Aerial Photo Quality

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If you have recently started a new project and wanted to match your project to a real world address for sun studies and to add context to the surrounding areas, you will have noticed a significant decrease in quality of the aerial photo mapping that is available inside Sketchup.


As of the 22nd May 2017, Sketchup no longer uses Google Earth/Maps to collect terrain and aerial photo mapping data for your site, but is instead now using aerial imaging produced by a company called Digital Globe. The difference in image quality is substantial due to the fact that Google Maps’s aerial photographs are shot using aeroplanes at moderate altitudes, while Digital Globe’s photos are shot using satellites. See the image below for comparison:

This change affects all versions of Sketchup. If you have a Sketchup 2016 licence or earlier, you will see a message saying that “Add location is no longer available”. Aerial photographs from the new Digital Globe source have also been deactivated on the free version, Sketchup Make 2017; a move which may be to try and make it harder for people using the free version for commercial purposes.

Trimble, Sketchup’s developer, were very coy about the changes to the geolocation function in the weeks leading up to the changeover - and it is not surprising. Many Sketchup users have reacted negatively to this downgrade in functionality, with some businesses like solar array installers, seeing their methodology for calculating roof sizes completely disappear overnight. It is no surprise that people want to be compensated and their yearly maintenance fees returned.

The change from Google’s mapping/aerial photography to Digital Globe’s has been explained as the expiration of Trimble’s contract with Google to supply location data for Sketchup, and that Google are no longer allowing anyone to access to it. However in the argumentative forums that have popped up about this issue, many users believe that Trimble were given free access to Google’s data for the last 5 years as part of Sketchup’s sale to Trimble and now that this period has expired, they simply did not want to pay Google’s price for the continuation of the service.

Read the forum on the issue here: https://forums.sketchup.com/t/upcoming-change-to-add-location/40953

Personally, as someone who teaches Sketchup and uses it to operate their architectural design business, I am disappointed - it stinks. It makes producing conceptual and schematic presentation material for my projects substantially more difficult and time consuming. I’ll have to source other aerial photographs from places like Nearmaps (who are very expensive) or council/local government sources, import these images into Sketchup and rescale them to match my site. I have no problem with changes when they are an improvement to the existing product, but when the change is regressive in nature, it makes you question the future direction of the product and the potential loss of support base to other CAD programs.

Let’s hope that Trimble remedy the situation sooner rather than later.

Read 218 times Last modified on Saturday, 27 May 2017 10:20
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