Google Maps wants to be your one-stop source for maps so it is upping its game with its new Google Maps Gallery, where everything from historical maps to maps of school districts and more are being assembled to help users find just the information they are seeking.
The new maps gallery was announced by Jordan Breckenridge, the product manager for Google Maps, in a Feb. 27 post on the Google Lat Long Blog.
“If you’ve ever wondered which trails Lewis & Clark traveled for their famous expedition, or looked for maps of the best schools in your region, you may have found yourself scouring the web without much luck,” wrote Breckenridge. “The best results for your search may come from governments, nonprofits and businesses, but historically that information has been hard to find or inaccessible to the public. Well, now, with the new Google Maps Gallery, it’s easier for you to find maps like those all in one place.”
The new Maps Gallery “works like an interactive, digital atlas,” wrote Breckenridge. “You can explore historic city plans, climate trends, housing affordability, shipwrecks and up-to-date evacuation routes. In addition to finding these maps through Maps Gallery, they can be viewed in Google Earth and are discoverable through major search engines.”
The range of available maps through the gallery so far includes maps from the National Geographic Society, World Bank Group, United States Geological Survey, Florida Emergency Management and the City of Edmonton, he wrote. More organizations are expected to add their own maps over time. “As the Gallery grows, it’ll be easier to find out where we’ve been, where we are, and where we’re going, giving us a new way to look at the world around us,” he wrote.
In February, the latest updated version of the online Google Maps service was completed and rolled out to users, featuring a wide assortment of improvements and updates. Google had unveiled a series of innovative updates for Google Maps at its annual Google I/O developers conference in May 2013, including a more interactive look and feel for Maps. The new Google Maps takes a novel approach to how people use online and mobile maps. Maps gains the ability to respond to user inputs instantly—making recommendations on places to visit and highlighting information that matters most during a map inquiry. The new generation of the Maps service essentially creates maps that are unique to each user and his or her needs, based on the input from the user.
Amid the changes and improvements in the new Maps is the ability to search for something like “coffee” in a neighborhood on a map, and be shown local results and snippets right on the map, providing users with related results that they might not have known about.
Also improved are specific directions that can be provided, whether you are traveling by car, bicycle or mass transit, as well as estimated times and distances for each route and real-time traffic reports.
Google Unveils Google Maps Gallery to Find Maps More Easily
Earlier in February, Google updated its Google Maps Android API Utility Library with two key new data visualization features—marker clustering and heat maps—that are aimed at improving the tools developers have when they are building apps for Google Maps on Android.
The marker-clustering feature will be useful for developers when they place a lot of data on display in their apps and the appearance gets messy and cluttered. Developers can also now customize the appearance of individual and clustered markers using the tool. The heat maps, which are also known as intensity maps, represent geospatial data on a map by using different colors to represent areas. A heat map can be used to visualize any data set that has a geospatial component, such as the population of cities around the world.
In December 2013, Google Maps unveiled its public data program, which allows organizations to distribute their map content to consumers using Google’s cloud infrastructure. The first group to join the nascent effort was The National Geographic Society, which is contributing some 500 of its spectacular map images to the public data program.
Many of the National Geographic maps over time have been collected and saved by recipients, but the rest of the world can’t access them when they are stored in attics and basements, so National Geographic joined the program to help disseminate their data. By putting the selected maps into Google Maps, the group will now be able to turn its maps into interactive full-screen images that can be panned and zoomed and overlaid with lots of great data.
The Google Maps Engine public data program provides advanced tools that allow map producers to publish their public mapping content to the world. Organizations that produce maps, such as public data providers and governments, can apply to participate in the program.
In October 2013, Google released Google Maps Engine Pro to make it easier for businesses to use online maps to attract customers and new revenue. The new professional mapping tool lets businesses visualize their huge amounts of critical data on maps so they can take advantage of the new resources the data provides, according to Google. Google Maps Engine Pro was built as an application on top of the Google Maps Engine platform, which provides businesses with cloud-based technology to help them organize large data sets and create more complex maps.
In July 2013, Google Maps unveiled a new maps layer for developers so that they can better integrate their data with images in Google Maps. The innovative DynamicMapsEngineLayer gives developers the abilities to perform client-side rendering of vector data, allowing developers to dynamically restyle the vector layer in response to user interactions like hover and click, according to the company. The new maps layer makes it easier for developers to visualize and interact with data hosted in Google Maps Engine.
In June 2013, Google for the first time released its Google Maps Engine API to developers so they can build consumer and business applications that incorporate the features and flexibility of Google Maps. With the Maps API, developers can use Google’s cloud infrastructure to add their data on top of a Google Map and share that custom mash-up with consumers, employees or other users. The API provides direct access to Maps Engine for reading and editing spatial data hosted in the cloud, according to Google.