National Geographic Sharing Its Maps With Google Maps

The amazing paper maps created by National Geographic over the years will be included with Google Maps under a new public data program.

Google Maps is now gaining some spectacular map imagery from the National Geographic Society, which is contributing some 500 of its maps to Google Map's new public data program.

The addition of the National Geographic maps was unveiled by Frank Biasi, director of digital development for National Geographic Maps, in a Dec. 6 post on the Google Lat Long Blog.

Under the newly launched Google Maps Engine public data program, organizations can now distribute their map content to consumers using Google's cloud infrastructure, according to Google. And that's where National Geographic's contribution comes in, bringing digital images of many of the long-popular printed maps that are often tucked inside the latest issues of the magazine.

"Founded in 1888, National Geographic Society aims to inspire people to care about the planet," wrote Biasi. "As one of the world's largest nonprofit scientific and educational organizations, we've funded more than 10,000 research, conservation and exploration projects. Maps and geography are integral to everything we do; it's even part of our name. Over our long history, we've created and published more than 800 reference, historic and travel maps."

And since many of those maps over time have been collected and saved by recipients, they stay alive for many people. But the rest of the world can't access them when they are stored in attics and basements, so National Geographic decided to join Google Maps' new program, wrote Biasi. "The public data program gives us the opportunity to release our amazing map collection to the wider world."

To do that, National Geographic will also use Google Maps Engine "to overlay our maps with interactive editorial content, so the maps can 'tell stories' and raise awareness about environmental issues and historic events," he wrote. "Anyone will be able to access our free public maps, but we also plan to sell or license high-resolution and print versions to raise funds for our nonprofit mission."

Biasi wrote that by partnering with Google Maps, his group hopes that it will "help our maps get discovered by more people, including National Geographic fans, students and educators and travelers. We expect travel and home decor businesses, publishers and brand marketers will also want to buy or license them."

National Geographic will use many of Google Maps' broad features to digitize and share the maps, including data, layers, combining layers into maps, publishing individual layers as maps and integrating multiple maps, he wrote. "We use both the raster and vector capabilities to put descriptors, links, pop-ups and thumbnails on top of maps. For example, we could use Maps Engine to add articles, photography and information from National Geographic expeditions to our ocean maps. These interactive maps, which we can display in 2D or 3D using Maps Engine, will allow people to follow along with expeditions as they unfold or retrace past expeditions."

By putting the selected maps into Google Maps, the group will now be able to "turn our maps into interactive full-screen images that can be panned and zoomed and overlaid with tons of great data," wrote Biasi. "We are proud of our century-long cartographic tradition. The Maps Engine public data program will help get our maps out into the world where more people can enjoy and learn from them."

The Google Maps Engine public data program provides advanced tools that allow map producers to publish their public mapping content to the world, according to Google. "By enabling you to unlock your mapping data, together we can organize the world's geospatial information and make it accessible and useful."

Organizations that produce maps, such as public data providers and governments who have content in the public good, can apply to participate in the program, according to Google.

In October, 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 datasets and create more complex maps.

In July, 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, 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 now 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.