Google My Maps for the Non-Technical User

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Industry News
Google My Maps for the Non-Technical User
by Susan Smith

Although Google My Maps is aimed at the non-technical user, the announcement made significant waves in the GIS press in early April.

On April 2, Google announced their new initiative of Google Maps, justly named Google My Maps. With My Maps average users with no technical skills can create their own custom maps and include text or photos or even embedded videos.

Users will be able to directly contribute to Google Maps’ search results with their custom maps, which is probably a large part of why Google has created this feature.

Available for GIS users and IT professionals, are KML for developers and also Google Maps API. For Maps API, a user definitely must be a developer, and must know JavaScript and some programming. There is a Google Maps for the Enterprise that allows big companies to use Maps API. In contrast, the My Maps feature provides “a simple drag and drop interface that lets the non technical user create maps that are just as cool and interesting as those created by developers,” explained My Maps product manager, Jessica Lee.

If this is the case, My Maps may ultimately make some software services unnecessary.

With My Maps, you can choose to make your map public or unlisted. if you choose public, then it will be included in Google search results and anyone can search and find them, so millions of Google users will be able to look at your map and see the content you’ve created . If you choose to make it unlisted, it’s like an unlisted phone number, the url is still public so all the maps automatically have a public url and it won’t be included in search. The only people who will know about your map are the people you tell about it. There is not yet a way to embed My Maps into your website.

Currently there’s no way to do a bulk import of data, that’s something to which KML is more suited, said Lee. “If you have a large amount of data, you could turn that into a KML file, which you can also display on Google Maps.” Users have asked for this feature.

In order to use My Maps, go to Maps.Google.com, where you’ll need to set up a Google account. You can drop a placemark on the map, draw a line, draw shapes, just like in regular Google Maps. When you click on one of these markers, or lines or shapes and it pops open a little balloon with more information inside it, and inside the balloon you could put any sort of text, add photos or embed YouTube/Google videos. If you’re a power user and know how to use html, you can use the full power of html to customize that balloon to whatever you want.

Can you link to the balloons people have already put up there? “All maps have a public url, so if you find a map you want to send to someone you can send them the link,” replied Lee.

Can you copy a map that someone else started and add your own text and photos, etc. and create your own thing? “Currently there is no easy way to do that although people have requested it.” Lee did add that you can copy things from Google search results pretty easily. If you do search for a business, or come across someone else’s content in search results, there’s a link that says “save to my Maps” and that will let you save it to your own maps.

As Google targets the consumer with increasing success, the geospatial industry looks to the company as an entry point for consumers to become more engaged with geospatial information, even if they don’t call it that. Google presents a world of possibilities with its search engine, while building the search experience with consumer content. Although its offerings are currently quite basic to seasoned GIS professionals, the potential is huge. High level executives can use My Maps to create their own maps, then ask their IT developers to take their creations and build something more complex. As new forms of textual and visual data become available, perhaps more ways of manipulating data and images will be added to Google Earth and Maps, and more uses for the data will be born.

Top News of the Week

DMTI Spatial (DMTI), a provider of location intelligence solutions, has been selected by Suncor Energy Inc. to improve the company’s asset team’s ability to analyze geography around potential natural gas well sites quickly and efficiently.

By using DMTI’s CanMap Oil and Gas Bundle, technologists will have access to detailed hydrology, highway and transportation, and culture data enabling them to locate potentially sensitive areas around selected drilling spots. These could include environmentally delicate areas, existing pipeline networks, vegetation and wetlands, road locations and Aboriginal communities.

Alliances/Acquisitions/Agreements

NAVTEQ, a global provider of digital maps for vehicle navigation and location- based solutions, will provide digital map data for all future navigation products from MEDION through to the end of 2007. The new contract underlines the successful long-term cooperation between the two companies.

National GIS consulting firm James W. Sewall Company is pleased to announce a partnership with LiDAR survey-provider Terrapoint to provide LiDAR acquisition, aerial imaging, photogrammetric mapping, and digital orthophotography services.

Sewall President and Chief Executive Officer, Dr. James H. Page says, “This is a great partnership of complementary strengths and shared philosophy. As we see the industry demand for LiDAR increasing, Terrapoint recognizes the continuing importance of aerial photogrammetry for mapping and GIS. As partners, we will continue to set high standards of data quality to meet our clients’ evolving needs.”

SANZ Inc., a leader in geospatial data management software, and GeoDecisions, an information technology company specializing in geospatial solutions, announced a partnership agreement to integrate EarthWhere, SANZ' innovative software, with IRRIS, GeoDecisions' world-class geospatial Web portal for transportation security and logistics. The two companies unveiled the alliance at the 2007 DoDIIS Worldwide Conference in Chicago, Ill.

EarthWhere automates the management of geospatial data -- elevation models, scanned maps, satellite imagery and aerial photography -- allowing companies and government agencies to quickly ingest, catalog, explore and provision raster data.

OSI Geospatial Inc. announced that its U.S. Systems Operations has signed a US $500,000 contract to provide the U.S. Navy with military navigation systems. The systems will be installed on 12 new vessels that are being built to support homeland defense initiatives.

Ituran Location & Control Ltd. (the "Company") has announced that the Company entered into an agreement with the shareholders of Mapa (the "Mapa Group"). Pursuant to the agreement, the Company will purchase the full share capital of Mapa Group for approx. US$9.9 million. In addition, Ituran will pay an additional sum of approx. US$3.1 million to Mapa Group, which will be used to repay Mapa Group's loans to its shareholders. Upon closing of the transaction, the Company will own 100% of the issued share capital of the Mapa Group.

The acquisition of the Mapa Group will be financed from the Company's internal cash resources and IPO proceeds, and is subject to the approval of the Israeli Commissioner for Restrictive Trade Practices and a withholding tax exemption certificate to be issued by the Israeli Tax Authorities.

GeoEye, a leading producer of satellite, aerial and geospatial information, announced it has partnered with the East-Dawn Group, a privately held company based in Beijing, China to provide satellite imagery and value-added products in China. To implement this, the East Dawn Group has formed a new company, Beijing Earth Observation (BEO). BEO, also headquartered in Beijing, will focus on the resale of satellite imagery and value-added products. Under terms of the agreement and subject to U.S. Government approval, BEO will be GeoEye's exclusive Master Reseller in China and will have access to GeoEye's archive of more than 278 million square kilometers of map-accurate satellite imagery. GeoEye will appoint two directors to BEO's board to gain a better understanding of the market and provide strategic advice to the company. A ceremony marking this new relationship was held in Beijing on April 19, 2007.

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