2020 was the year all businesses became local, as the COVID-19 pandemic forced consumers to stay closer to home and lean heavily on eCommerce and contactless or “contact-lite” buying options, including home delivery, curbside pickup, and buy online, pick up in store (BOPIS).
Throughout the year, Google has supported these businesses with massive investment in Google Maps Platform, the developer side of the well-known Google Maps app. Using an API-driven approach, Google Maps Platform enables developers to easily integrate high-performance, highly scalable maps and other location-based functions into their applications.
We have been helping our customers build new applications using Google Maps Platform APIs and/or integrate the APIs into their existing applications. These Google Maps Platform-powered applications have allowed our customers to improve operational efficiency, enhance end-user experiences, increase sales, and better visualize data, among many other things.
How Google Maps Platform works
The heart of Google Maps Platform is a rich set of APIs and SDKs that enable developers to easily retrieve data from over 40 million miles of roads located in more than 200 countries and territories. These APIs and SDKs can be used alone or combined to build highly customized solutions for nearly any use case that requires localized information. Examples include:
- The Places Autocomplete API, which provides autocomplete functionality for text-based geographic searches as a user types. Among other use cases, this API can enable fast and accurate address entry of a customer’s home location during the online order process.
- The Distance Matrix API, which provides travel distance and time information between start and end points. This API is commonly used to suggest fast, efficient routes for delivery drivers.
- The Geocoding API performs both geocoding, the conversion of street addresses into geographic coordinates, and reverse geocoding, which turns geographic coordinates into human-readable street addresses. This API is frequently used in combination with the Distance Matrix API to identify and display, for example, a list of stores closest to a customer’s address.
What can your business do with Google Maps Platform?
Organizations from retailers to ride-sharing companies are using Google Maps Platform to deliver hyper-local, contextualized customer experiences, uncover actionable location-based insights, and even track assets.
1. Optimize on-demand ridesharing and delivery services
Google’s new On-Demand Rides and Deliveries solution, now in limited availability, builds on an in-app navigation solution for ridesharing companies that Google originally launched two years ago. On-Demand Rides and Deliveries helps ridesharing companies and on-demand delivery services optimize their internal operations while enhancing the driver and customer experience throughout every step of a trip, from booking to arrival or delivery.
Among the features of this new solution are Routes Preferred, which builds on the Routes APIs to display a driver’s ETA, expected route, and estimated trip prices on a Google map. It includes options such as two-wheeler routing, aimed at bicycle and motorbike delivery services in urban centers. The Nearby Drivers feature uses a single API call to automatically update driver locations and find the closest drivers to a pickup location for faster pickups, more accurate ETAs, and fewer cancellations.
2. Add rich Local Context to your company’s desktop and mobile apps
Local Context is a turnkey solution that makes it easy for organizations to offer their customers the familiar Google Maps experience directly inside their own desktop or mobile apps, without opening a new tab or launching another app. Local Context displays accurate information on places of interest near a location that you specify, such as ratings, reviews, photos, and walking directions.
Developers can change the look and feel of the map to match the organization’s app, including customizing the position of key UI elements and changing the colors of place pins and icons. You can also choose to filter out specific place types, such as ATMs or grocery stores, enable or disable specific features, and set up Local Context to behave based on your users’ inputs, such as letting users create a filter that displays only parks or restaurants.
3. Maximize asset tracking
Traditional asset tracking solutions are highly complex and are restricted to assets stored within the corporate network. Mobile and IoT solutions have sought to address these problems, but organizations must still use multiple, disparate solutions that don’t integrate with each other. Google Maps Platform offers a centralized solution that combines the functionality of Google Maps, Routes, and Places, allowing organizations to build custom asset trackers for specific use cases, such as planning complex routes, monitoring real-time road conditions, and tracking both static and in-motion assets.
For example, organizations can offer customers real-time tracking of last-mile delivery or monitor analytics data on driver performance under specific conditions. Organizations can also use Google Maps Platform to prevent theft and vandalism and reduce unnecessary maintenance calls for static assets, such as ATMs, by triggering alerts if an asset is moved, tampered with, or simply isn’t operating properly.
4. Build real-world games
Let’s play! One of the most exciting developments in the Google Maps Platform universe is the real-world gaming solution, which enables mobile game developers to bring the real world into their game or take their game out into the real world. Using Maps SDK for Unity, game developers can build and customize virtual worlds based on real world locations, choosing from hundreds of millions of 3D buildings, roads, landmarks, cafes and parks. The Playable Locations API helps developers locate the most suitable locations for real-world gameplay, while features such as Mixed Zoom and Pathfinding enhance players’ in-game experience.
5. Get all the benefits of Google Cloud Platform
As a native part of Google Cloud, Google Maps Platform integrates with the rest of the GCP ecosystem, enabling organizations to easily export data from Google Maps Platform into services such as the BigQuery data warehousing solution and Google Marketing Platform, a consolidated solution for planning, buying, measuring, and optimizing digital media and customer experiences.