The 3 areas of new investment for Google’s Maps Platform

Posted 26th February 2024

The 3 areas of new investment for Google’s Maps Platform

How many companies do you think use Google Maps Platform globally? I asked this exact question directly to the source (Google Gemini AI) and it estimated between 1M to 5M businesses globally. Working in the Google ecosystem for 12 years now, this is a big, but probably reasonable range. 

Did you know that your business is probably using one of the Google Maps Platform APIs, SDKs or services in some capacity? Why am I mentioning this, because Google Maps Platform has just undergone one of the biggest updates in its history and there is definitely something of value for your business.

In this article, we’re going to highlight what the 3 areas of innovation are, why Google has invested in these new products and why you should take advantage of them, today.

Mobility Platform for Logistics, taxi and ridesharing companies 

Around 2 years ago Google publically released their Mobility Platform to logistics and ridesharing companies. This was the culmination of 20 years of experience with some of the largest players teaching them about their challenges, where gaps in their Google Maps Platform technology sat and how Google could solve for the next billion users. However, mobility is far greater than delivering packages or people. It is also essential to almost every aspect of daily life. We need a route to go to the store, to pick up the kids, to charge or refuel the car and even for mobile workers to plan out the day. So why not use the best real-time traffic-aware data set with the most intelligent AI-powered routing algorithms used by these top logistics companies?

Introduction of the new Routes API

This is why Google recently introduced the new Routes API. A performance-optimized upgrade to the Directions and Distance Matrix APIs but with new powerful capabilities. The new Routes API aims to bring the core upgrades (exclusive to mobility customers) to the next generation of connected services including retail, transport, EVs & accessibility services.

So what are the upgrades

  • 2-wheeler routing (in select markets)
  • Calculation of toll fees in local currency 
  • Eco-friendly routing showing the most fuel- or energy-efficient route based on your vehicle's engine type
  • Contextual stops for smarter routing (specify if it is a pick-up, drop off or even a break)
  • Traffic-aware route polylines including traffic information between different waypoints (stops)
  • Routing preferences are directly specified in each request to reduce latency at peak
  • Stream-based results for complex distance matrix computations (closest store, closest driver all streamed using real-time traffic data)

Sustainability at the core of Google Maps Platform

A little piece of trivia: Google had a Weather API back in 2012 as part of Google Maps Platform but it was actually deprecated. Why? It was way before its time. Most companies didn’t have a grasp on sustainability back then let alone were ready to tackle it. In 2024, the world has changed. According to a 2023 report by McKinsey, 80% of global companies (now) have a sustainability strategy in place.

So what does this mean? It means now, more than ever companies need access to the right information to make decisions about being more responsible with more sustainable practices.

Introducing the new Environmental APIs

In conjunction with the eco-routing Routes API, meet the new Environmental APIs. These APIs are foundational technology to the building and execution of more environmentally friendly tools and services, including:

Solar API

Built on Google's 2015 investment, known as Project Sunroof and a reported 60 % increase in solar searches in 2023, the Solar API provides data on rooftop solar potential for more than 320 million buildings across 40 countries.

Pollen API

Pollen information is crucial for allergy sufferers, researchers, and health professionals. By providing accurate, real-time, and location-specific pollen data, the API empowers individuals to make informed decisions about their health and activities with 5-day forecasts. Examples include allergy symptom trackers, pollen forecast apps, and personalized health recommendations based on personal allergy profiles and local pollen levels. 

Air Quality API

Developers can integrate air quality data into their apps, websites, and services. This allows users to access air quality information directly within their preferred platforms. Examples include health and fitness apps recommending outdoor activities based on air quality, smart home devices adjusting ventilation based on air quality conditions, travel apps recommending destinations with cleaner air, businesses tailoring services or operations based on local air quality.

The evolution of Google Maps & location intelligence

For 20 years Google has been mapping the world. This has created 4 waves of innovation:

  1. Digital mapping: Turning static maps into digital maps
  2. Dynamic mapping: Real-time routing & navigation
  3. Intelligent mapping: Connecting billions of smart devices 
  4. Predictive mapping: AI intelligence using hyper local location data to power new experiences

As you can guess we are now in the 4th wave. The world’s location data and devices are now connected to offer predictive tailored experiences. 

To solidify this I read an amazing app review from the Apple App Store for a large travel OTA which said, “Don’t just help me filter, help me choose.” What does this mean? It means to stop showing irrelevant products by providing predictive insights. This is how to convert customers in 2024.

Better customer experience through richer location data

Let’s take both travel and retail as examples. Both industries are all centered on location, location, location.

  • Where is the best place to stay in Singapore?
  • Where are the best hotels/apartments located?
  • Are there transport hubs nearby?
  • Where are the best local restaurants and cafes?
  • How close is it to the best sights in the city?

If you go to most travel and real estate portals these questions are largely ignored. When booking a hotel or renting an apartment it takes multiple apps, websites and services to actually get to an informed buying decision. It is for this reason (and many more) that Google has expanded and upgraded the power of the Places API for the next generation of predictive location services.

Introducing the NEW Place APIs 

New features in Text Search, Place Details and Photos, and Nearby Search–which now includes EV charging–make it easier for developers to surface helpful information about the world in the products they build, including:

  • Real-time electric vehicle (EV) charging station data
  • Double the number of supported Place_Types: This means you can get super specific about what’s actually nearby from restaurant cuisines to local amenities and even retail store types (Dog-friendly cafes anyone?)
  • Wheelchair accessible place data including accessible entrances, seating, restrooms and parking
  • Improved search via field masking: Return only the specific fields of a place required based on a user's preferences 
  • Simplified pricing based on the data you need

How do you get access to these technologies today?

At OniGroup we are location experts and in particular for Google Maps Platform. If you’re an existing customer your account manager will be in touch with you to set up a free workshop on each of the above. For everyone else, don’t stress, we want to work with you leveraging these new technologies, today.

Join the exclusive Location Intelligence Program to learn about:

• Enhancing user experiences: Making exploring and navigating the world more immersive, intuitive, and informative.

• Empowering developers: Providing advanced tools to build location-based solutions that address diverse needs.

• Supporting businesses: Offering features that optimize operations and enable data-driven decision-making.

Join our waiting list