SINGAPORE - Patrons of hawker centres will soon have some help when looking for their favourite stalls.
By early 2020, all 114 hawker centres in Singapore will have their individual stalls marked with separate pins on the Google Maps app, showing their exact locations within the premises.
In addition, app users will be able to use the in-app Street View feature to browse every stall virtually, and see the storefronts and signboards clearly.
This will be the first time the public can view the interior of a hawker centre via Street View. Previously, the feature allowed users to look at only the exterior of hawker centres.
The images will be captured on foot by Google operators with the latest version of the Street View Trekker - a system of seven 20-megapixel cameras mounted on a backpack providing a 360-degree view of the surroundings.
Besides virtually browsing a hawker centre's interior, app users will be able to look up detailed information of each and every stall there, including its name, stall number, and photos via an online search on the app.
The joint initiative to document Singapore's hawker centres was announced by Google on Tuesday (July 30) at Chinatown Market, together with the National Heritage Board, National Environment Agency (NEA) and Federation Of Merchants' Associations, Singapore.
The three local organisations were behind the nomination of Singapore's hawker culture to the Unesco Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in March this year.
Said NEA deputy chief executive Khoo Seow Poh: "This joint initiative will allow more than 6,000 hawkers to have an online presence on a platform that is widely used."
He added that the NEA will work with stakeholders, including hawkers' associations, to inform hawkers of the initiative and raise awareness of its benefits.
Chinatown Market is the first hawker centre where Google operators will begin their collection of indoor imagery using the Street View Trekker. The next four will be Geylang Serai Market, Tekka Market, Maxwell Food Centre and Golden Mile Food Centre.
Mr Amit Morya, programme manager of Street View APAC, said the initiative helps bring the important hawker culture into the digital age.
"By documenting all 114 hawker centres, we hope to help more people get a glimpse into this fascinating part of Singapore's culture and, ultimately, help bolster the local hawkers' businesses," he said.
Ms Connie Chan, 48, who has been running the Happies Bak Kut Teh stall at Chinatown Market for three years, told The Straits Times that the added feature serves to increase the exposure of hawkers online and to level the playing field with bigger names in the food and beverage industry.
Ms Chan said: “Hawkers like us don’t have a very wide profit margin, so we won’t actually pay to boost our posts (on search engines), unlike the bigger eateries who probably pay for advertising.
“With this initiative by Google, everyone is on the same platform. It’s fairer for everybody.”