Google Maps Will Soon Be Available Offline

By Robert J. Mullins  |  Posted 2012-06-06 Print this article Print

While the Google Maps app available online provides access to multiple petabytes of maps and other data from around the world, the offline capability is designed to be appropriate to the memory capacity of the device.

€œWe do a lot of optimizations because we do want to be considerate of the amount of space on your device,€ Chen explained. €œWe make €¦ decisions about the level of zoom we save to make sure that you have the amount of data that you need at street level, but also so that we don't overwhelm your device.€

Luc Vincent, engineering director for Google Street View, strapped on a backpack with a camera unit mounted on it so people could walk in places where cars can't go and capture Street View images just as cars, vans, cameras mounted on large three-wheeled bikes, ferry boats and snowmobiles do now.

Street View Trekker, as the contraption is called, is an example of one of three core principles of Google Maps, comprehensiveness, McClendon explained. Besides showing photographic images of more locations by taking the camera on foot, Google is getting more comprehensive maps about the physical world. Today, 75 percent of the world is mapped in Google Maps, up from 37 percent in 2006.

The second core principle is accuracy, even adjusting the images on Google Earth to reflect moving tectonic plates in earthquake-prone areas like California. Google also accepts feedback from end users, one of whom pointed out that at an intersection near their home, left turns are prohibited.

The third core principle is usability, McClendon added, pointing out that Google Maps adds the names of businesses to maps and provides maps that see inside buildings to reveal the floor plan. Someone can begin a map search in the main Google Search window and the program can intuitively know whether someone is searching for a location in Paris, France, or Paris, Texas.

Barbara Moore represents Google Maps for Good, a charity program of Google's that finds ways to use Google Maps for humanitarian, environmental and other efforts of benefit to society. She said Google is partnering with a group called the Halo Trust to use Google Maps to identify minefields in war-torn areas in order to track their removal and illustrate that a former minefield is now safe again. She showed before and after maps of minefields in Afghanistan, Angola and Southeast Asia that are being, or have been, cleared.

McClendon also presented a brief history of Google Maps, which began at a startup called Keyhole where he worked before it was acquired by Google in 2004. Keyhole gained considerable traction after CNN used maps it created as part of its coverage of the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

"That kind of put us on the map, if you will," he said.

eWEEK takes a look at the Google Maps upgrade in a related slide show.


Robert Mullins is a freelance writer for eWEEK who has covered the technology industry in Silicon Valley for more than a decade. He has written for several tech publications including Network Computing, Information Week, Network World and various TechTarget titles. Mullins also served as a correspondent in the San Francisco Bureau of IDG News Service and, before that, covered technology news for the Silicon Valley/San Jose Business Journal. Back in his home state of Wisconsin, Robert worked as the news director for NPR stations in Milwaukee and LaCrosse in the 1980s.

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