Google Opens Up Maps Engine API For Developers

Freelance Technology Reporter for TechWeekEurope and eWeek

Google move allows developers to add Google Maps capabilities to their own applications

Google has giving developers access to its Maps Engine API so they can include Google Maps features in their consumer and business applications.

The new capabilities were announced 5 June in a post by Jen Kovnats, product manager for Google Maps for Business, on the Official Google Enterprise Blog.

Mapping Functionality

“Maps tell stories about the world around us,” wrote Kovnats. “With a single map, an organisation can locate underground pipelines, decide on the best place to build their next store, or inform customers about cell phone coverage areas.”

By using 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. “At the push of a button an organisation can share their maps internally or publish them on the web, making it easy to access their data from anywhere,” wrote Kovnats.

Google Maps iOS iPhone LondonWhen used in applications, the API “provides direct access to Maps Engine for reading and editing spatial data hosted in the cloud,” she wrote. “With the API, organisations can develop on any platform – web, Android, iOS and server-to-server – and build applications like store locators, crowd-sourced maps or crisis-response maps.”

The Maps Engine API can be used by developers to replace complex GIS technologies in their applications that use maps, she wrote. Developers can learn more about using the new API at the Google Maps Engine API information page.

The new API is already being used by FedEx.com to help customers find the closest of their 50,000 package drop-off locations using localised, custom Google Maps, according to a 5 June post by Pat Doyle, manager of IT for FedEx, on the Official Google Enterprise Blog.

“Delivering packages to almost any location in the world is just another day on the job at FedEx,” wrote Doyle. “To make it even easier for people to find the information they need online, we launched a new store locator site using Google Maps.”

By using the new Google Maps API, the company was able to “completely re-imagine FedEx.com,” wrote Doyle. “We turned to Maps Engine because it gave us a powerful platform to build and share our own FedEx maps. By integrating features that so many people use every day, like Google Street View and driving directions, FedEx.com visitors can easily find the nearest FedEx.”

In a related move in May, Google created a free online course for anyone to learn the ins and outs of Google Maps so they can use it to expand their own horizons or build better online content themselves.

The new “Mapping with Google” class will run from 10 June through 24 June as part of a self-paced online course. Participants will be able to complete a Google Maps or Google Earth project using the skills they learn in the course and can earn a certificate that shows their accomplishments in the class using Maps. In the class, attendees can explore the features of Google Maps, Google Earth or both.

Map Updates

Earlier in May, Google unveiled innovative updates for Google Maps at its annual Google I/O Developers Conference, including a more interactive look and feel.

The new Google Maps takes a novel approach to how people use online and mobile maps, gaining the ability to instantly respond to user inputs, making recommendations on places to visit and highlighting information that matters most during a map inquiry. The next generation of the Maps service essentially will create a map that is unique to each user and his or her needs, based on the input from the user.

With the new Maps features, users will also be able to uncover the best local destinations of all types, with detailed labels popping up that provide brief place descriptions and icons that highlight business categories and other useful information, such as which restaurants are recommended by your Google+ friends. The revamped Maps also feature images of destinations more prominently for users, as well as presenting improved directions and tours generated from user-submitted photos.

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Originally published on eWeek.