SINGAPORE: Finding your favourite carrot cake or roti prata stall using Google Street View will soon be possible as part of a new initiative to document Singapore's 114 hawker centres.
Google, the National Heritage Board (NHB), the National Environment Agency (NEA) and the Federation of Merchants’ Associations, Singapore announced on Tuesday (Jul 30) the move to photograph Singapore's hawker stalls and to publish the images on Google Maps by early 2020.
Starting with Chinatown Market, Geylang Serai Market, Tekka Market, Maxwell Food Centre and Golden Mile Food Centre, Google will collect immersive, 360-degree indoor images of more than 6,000 hawker stalls located across Singapore.
Using a 360-degree camera system mounted on a backpack, the Google Street View Trekkers will be carried around indoor and outdoor areas of the hawker centres. Photos are taken every two seconds or about one every step.
Singapore nominated its hawker culture for the UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in March this year. This new initiative will strengthen the "safeguarding of our hawker culture for future generations", Google said in its media release.
Ms Juliana Suradi, a third-generation hawker who runs a Muslim food stall in Chinatown Market said she hopes the new Google initiative will bring more business.
“Not many people know that there are Muslim stalls in Chinatown Market,” the 44-year-old added.
“We also actually have many Indonesian and Malaysian tourists coming here, but they usually don’t know that we are here. Some of them ask the other stallholders and that’s when they are brought here.”
Programme manager of Google Street View APAC Amit Morya said: "This initiative helps bring this (hawker) culture into the digital age.
"By documenting the 114 hawker centres across Singapore, we plan to help more people get a glimpse into this fascinating part of Singapore culture, and ultimately help local hawkers get more business documentation."
Noting that this is the first time Google Street View Trekkers will head inside Singapore hawker centres for indoor image collection, Mr Morya said the aim is to create a Google Maps pin for each stall - with its name, stall number and address - to help Singaporeans and tourists locate them easily.
To capture the images, a team of four or five people will walk around the hawker centres in pairs, carrying the trekkers that weigh about 18kg.
He stressed the importance of protecting the privacy of those captured on camera. “Our software technology is quite state-of-the-art. It automatically detects human faces and blurs them out," he said.
Mr Alvin Tan, NHB’s deputy chief executive for policy and community, said: “We wanted to create a comprehensive data bank of all the hawker centres in Singapore.
"We wanted to make this data bank accessible and searchable by our locals as well as overseas fans of hawker culture, so they can actually use the data bank to find out more information about each hawker centre and its offerings from the comfort of their homes."
Mr Tan noted that the initiative will help NHB and NEA track the evolution of the stalls inside the hawker centres.
“It’s great for us in terms of our heritage archival knowledge. We will be able to capture the hawker centre and its stores at that point in time," he added.