Synopsis: With an intuitive user interface and unmatched speed, Google Maps Platform is an amazing resource for any GIS or location data user. But with a slate of new features and tools available, there’s plenty even experienced users might not know. So what are the new features and how can we get the most value out of them?

AppGeo is using our expertise in GIS to help others get the most out of Google Maps Platform. This webinar (recorded on January 22, 2020) brings together David Holmes, Customer Engineer at AppGeo, and Aaron Doucett, Sales Engineer and GIS analyst from AppGeo to discuss the new features and their potential for your business.

Google Maps Platform Overview

Holmes: “Google now offers a way to configure your maps in very creative ways to either align with your brand: colors, style… or align with the purpose of your particular application. For example, if you are showing a locator application for medical offices, you may not want to show all the restaurants in the area… Or if you’re a government services organization and you want to show where your service offices are but you may not want to show other commercial points of interest. You now have the ability to control all that content and align your map with their purpose… If you’ve been following the consumer Google Maps App on your phone you’re aware that you can zoom in and now see it in 3D, tilt, rotate, very powerful capabilities. Those abilities are now being migrated into Google Maps Platform.”

New features that have come to the Google Maps Platform in 2022 include styling options, and 3D visualization. These exciting tools allow for far more creativity and clever design within the Platform. The styling options can simplify the user experience by cutting down on unnecessary information and highlighting points of interest. The variety of options can also provide branding and design opportunities to help your mapping application stand out visually. Likewise, 3D visualization presents new chances to provide a unique user experience. With almost limitless possibilities and choices, the only problem is figuring out where to start. Luckily, Google has also released a number of templates to assist users with the new features.
Part of the advantage of working within the Google Maps Platform is that updates to your work can be applied in real time and can be managed entirely within the cloud, without coding! It also makes it easier to manage your maps, through the new Map Management tab.

Vector Maps on the Google Maps Platform

Doucett: “We like to think that this has opened up a whole new world of possibilities on the platform. Traditionally, our customers were faced with certain limitations when working only with what is called ‘Raster mapping.’ With this new release of ‘Vector Mapping’ there are quite a range of possibilities that are opened up. To give you a real quick comparison of these two technologies, when you think of Raster maps… Think of it more like a preprinted road atlas, where what you’re downloading is a set of images that are already rendered on the server, you’re just downloading them on the scale you want to see them. As such, there is limited customization that can happen with that resulting map… With vector-based mapping the map is actually rendered on the client’s browser through the GPU of their end device or on their phone for example… Think about it like a video game, where things are rendered in real time. What that lets us do is have much more effective and interesting camera animations, zooming in and out at multiple scales, it allows for dynamic styling based on the data, it allows us to render buildings in 3D.”

Vector mapping allows for a massive variety of new customization options. With 3D render anything can be modeled and created; the potential is nearly limitless. More and more businesses and customers are becoming used to operating in the 3D digital environment, making it a key way for businesses to market themselves. All businesses benefit from 3D mapping, whether its due to logistical improvements, greater location context, or richer data visualization.
Enabling vector mapping is also extremely easy within the Google Maps Platform. Going into the Google Maps Platform console, and then into the maps management page, you can edit the Map ID of a map and switch between Raster and Vector mapping freely. Raster is still supported by the Platform and may be better in some niche cases so if you’re unsure reach out to AppGeo for help.

Quick Builder Templates

Doucett: “Google Maps has always had some really impressive features, but they can be a little intimidating to get started with unless you have a programming or web development background. With these quick builder templates Google has made it easier to hop in and get started with their most popular features.”

Within the Google Maps Platform Console, there is a tab labeled “Solution Library” which contains the available templates. These templates include a store locator, an autocomplete plugin, and lastly the Neighborhood Discovery template which highlights nearby places of interest. These templates will help you get started, but to get the most out of your Google Maps Platform, consider working with AppGeo, a Google Cloud Partner.

Learn more about Google Maps: Google Maps and HERE: Which Should you Choose?