Does a Big Week for Google Maps News Mean a Big Week for GIS Practitioners?

By Adena Schutzberg

If you kept one eye on your work this week and another on tech news, no doubt you read that Google now:
All three can be argued to be the next "logical steps" for the company. (1) More data is good, and Google and the other players like to keep adding on new layers and cover more geographies. (2) Collaboration and KML support are moving, like other features, from Google Earth to Google Maps. This led TechCrunch to suggest the demise of Google Earth, as I noted on our blog. (3) Google's Android phone operating system will need some type of locating, so using a cell-tower based solution, such as Navizon (which unlike Google Maps Mobile, costs money) follows. Exactly how the Google implementation works has raised some privacy concerns.

But, while these are "natural steps" from my perspective, and perhaps yours too, the tech world was all agog since this is Google. Still, we who have our heads down trying to solve day-to-day issues with professional tool must keep up to date with what Google and its peers are doing. Google, whether we like it or not, is part of our technology ecosystem. Even if we don't use Google Maps for analysis or Google tools for search, we know ultimately many of our end-users, clients, and citizens do.

So, what to make of these announcements for those of us deep in geospatial? I offer these thoughts.

The terrain data layer is pretty and provides helpful visualization for data that may be laid on top. It's not as helpful as the 3D terrain in Google Earth, has limited scalability, and there are no elevation values or contour lines for reference. Put simply, it's another layer of data onto which to lay our "mashups."

Collaboration on Google Maps will no doubt be valuable for collecting input from many people on a map. While I imagine lots of social sites are using it to populate maps (many have used things like Platial and Frappr to do that in the past), it has a place for professionals, too, specifically who need to "look over" and "comment on" the same geography while not in the same room. Unlike clumsy and sometimes costly "Web meeting" tools, this solution may be a quick way to get work done.

My Location, the mobile locating app, is certainly interesting if it can be tapped to enable solutions beyond Google Maps. For now, it appears to be for Google use only, but in the future ... who knows. For those in GIS, the real question is how developers can tap into this new information.

Published Friday, November 30th, 2007

Written by Adena Schutzberg

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