9 things to know about Google’s Maps data

With more than a billion people using Google Maps every month and more than 5 million active apps and websites using Google Maps Platform core products every week, we get questions about where our maps data come from, how we keep it accurate, and more. So before we get to our third installment of the Beyond the Map series,

data

we sat down with product director Ethan Russell to get answers to a few frequently asked questions about our maps data and how you can help us keep it up to date for your very own applications and experiences.

How do you make sure Google’s maps data is accurate?
The world is a vast and constantly changing place. Think about how frequently restaurants in your neighborhood come and go, and then consider all the businesses, buildings, homes and roads that are built–and then scale that up to more than 220 countries and regions that are home to more than 7 billion people in the world. We want everyone on the planet to have an accurate, up-to-date map, but there’s a lot going on! So our work is never done and we have a variety of different efforts and technologies helping us keep our maps data as up to date as possible. If you haven’t read the first two installments of the Beyond the Map series, they’re a good start in learning more about how we map the world and keep our data up to date. The first post gives you an overview of our mapping efforts and the second post explains how imagery is the foundation of our mapping techniques. But something we haven’t highlighted in the series yet is how we empower our customers, businesses, and users to contribute what they know about the world and keep our data up to date for themselves and each other.

How can I submit updated information?
There are a few different channels for people, businesses, and customers to help update our maps data when something’s not right. Anyone who uses Google Maps can let us know about data issues via the Send Feedback (desktop Maps) and Suggest an Edit (place profiles on Maps and Search) tools. For Google Maps Platform customers using one of our industry solutions (like gaming), the product includes an API for reporting bad points, enabling our game studio partners to report issues to us so we can take action accordingly. And of course if a customer is working closely with our customer engineering teams or an account manager, then they can always work directly with them or the support team to get the information updated. Businesses and agencies that manage business info can also update their business information via Google My Business.

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Are there any other ways that Google finds updated information beyond user contributions?
Within Google, we have a dedicated team working on keeping our data up to date day in and day out. This covers things like incorporating data from third party resources, developing algorithms to automatically update data and identify spam or fraud, and reaching out directly to businesses and organizations to get accurate info.

How often is your maps data updated?
The map is updated constantly–literally, every second of every day! We’re constantly collecting new information about the world, whether from satellite imagery and Street View cars, or Google Maps users and local business owners, and using that information to update the map. Google Maps users contribute more than 20 million pieces of information every day–that’s more than 200 contributions every second. In addition to the updates we make from what people tell us, we’re making countless updates uncovered through other means like the imagery and machine learning efforts we’ve shared with you in the recent Beyond the Map blog posts posts.

If a business or organization has a lot of data to contribute, how can they do that?
For organizations like governments, non-profits, and educational institutions that have large amounts of data about things like new roads or addresses of new buildings, they can use the new Geo Data Upload tool. When submitting via the tool, it’s important that you send data in the right format, so we can ingest the files easier–a shapefile (.shp) or .csv with spatial attributes are preferred file types. If you’re ready to submit your data, it’s helpful that you and your team review our upload content requirements (which you can do at this support page).

Agencies that manage online marketing for a variety of businesses can use Google My Business to add and update business information. Not only does it get business info into our Places APIs, but it offers a wide range of tools to help businesses better connect with consumers through features like messaging, product inventory, and more on Google Maps and Search.

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How do you manage the vast amounts of data it takes to keep up with the changing world?
Given that we’re building maps at a truly global scale, you can imagine we process a lot of information. We have many different types of data–roads, buildings, addresses, businesses, and all their various attributes–and imagery from different viewpoints at high resolution. Luckily, we’re not starting from scratch here. From processing and storage systems like Dataflow and Cloud Spanner to machine learning libraries and frameworks like TensorFlow, we’re able to make sense of a river of incoming data.

Why are there differences in data quality in various parts of the world? And how do you address these differences to make sure businesses everywhere can use Google Maps Platform?
Part of what’s fun and challenging about mapping the entire planet is dealing with all the regional differences. This starts with different political constructs, like how granular the postal codes are, or whether addresses for buildings run linearly from one end of a street to the other or are distributed around a block. Then there are physical differences, like with buildings being attached to each other in a city, and with multiple businesses–and private residences!–on different floors. Or when an area has lots of tree cover that makes it hard to see roads underneath, or no tree cover but dry riverbeds that look like dirt roads. And then there are economic differences like how quickly new roads and buildings are constructed, and how quickly new businesses open up. Add in the fact of different languages and different scripts that our algorithms, machine learning and human operators need to understand, and you have a lot of complicating factors leading to different kinds of problems in different parts of the world.

To address these differences we take new and different mapping approaches to these areas. For an area with few authoritative data sources to reference, we use satellite and street-level imagery and machine learning to identify roads or businesses and add the information to our maps data. Or for an area with roads too narrow to map we created a “Street View 3-wheeler” to capture imagery to help us add those roads. As we uncover new mapping challenges, we’re always eager to develop a new solution.

What’s the most interesting way that Google or another organization has contributed maps data? 
Sheep View is my personal favorite. Solar-powered cameras were strapped to sheep’s woolly backs to collect imagery of the Faroe Islands for Street View. The 18 Faroe Islands are home to just 50,000 people, but—fittingly for a country whose name means “Sheep Island”—there are 70,000 sheep roaming the green hills and volcanic cliffs of the archipelago. So sheep were a brilliant way to capture imagery of the area–and definitely the most creative I’ve seen.

Google Maps Platform best practices

Looking forward to 12 more years of collaboration, we’ve compiled 12 Google Maps Platform best practices to help you build your projects and businesses.

Google Maps

1. Secure your API keys 

Restricting your API keys helps ensure your usage of Google Maps Platform is secure. We recommend you apply restrictions to every key you generate when you generate it. To learn how to restrict an API key, follow the walkthrough in our docs or watch this video.

2. Set up budget alerts and quotas

To avoid surprises on your next bill, you can create a budget. Creating a budget will not disrupt your API usage and will only alert you when your spend amount exceeds your set limit. You can also set budget alert rules to trigger notifications to stay informed on how your spend is tracking against your budget. For more information on managing your budget, visit this guide.

Another solution to ensure you don’t exceed your budget is to set a quota. Quotas limit the number of requests your project can make per API and can be limited by day, second, and user per second. You can learn more about quotas from this guide or by watching this video.

3. Get started with our comprehensive documentation 

Our documentation is a great place to start and the Frequently Asked Questions section includes in-depth answers to the questions we hear most. We offer in-depth guide and reference documentation for every features across every Google Maps Platform API and SDK.

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4. Tap into community-driven help 

You can tap into community-driven support like the active Google Maps Platform developers community on StackOverflow. It’s a great place to ask technical questions about developing, debugging, and maintaining your apps.

5. Get expert support when you need it

You can also take advantage of expert Google Maps Platform customer support. To create a case, all you have to do is visit the Google Maps Platform Support page in the Google Cloud Platform Console and select the project related to your question in the top dropdown bar. You can expect a 1 hour response time for Severity 1 issues during weekdays and 24 hours for lower severity issues.

6. Report issues to help yourself and other developers 

Our Issue Tracker is where we actively maintain a list of known and reported issues. This is where you can easily view already-reported bugs and feature requests, and add your own comments to help our teams investigate issues. Get started by filing a request in our Issue Tracker—including sample code or a screen capture will help us identify the issue and respond faster.

7. Share your feature ideas to help improve Google Maps Platform 

As you’re working with Google Maps Platform and think up a feature that would make things easier or better, you can add those ideas to the Issue Tracker as well.

8. Add multiple team members to your project

Make sure you add multiple team members to your project and consider using Google Cloud Platform organizations, so that your project can retain the proper set of owners as changes occur in your organization.

9. Sign up for updates from Google Maps Platform

You can get updates about our APIs, changes to our terms of service, support portal scheduled maintenance windows, and more. Just subscribe to our email notification group to now get your updates all in one place. Also, in the event we experience a service disruption, a banner message will appear in the Maps Support section of the Google Cloud Console, with a link to the issue tracker for more information to give you real-time status on the issue.

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10. Apply for Google Maps Platform credits

Eligible organizations may apply for Google Maps Platform credits to support their organizations’ efforts. If you’re a nonprofit, startup, crisis response, or news media organization, you may be able to take advantage of these programs. You can learn more about eligibility and how to apply in our Understanding Public Programs page.

11. Follow us on social for tutorials, news, and more

Subscribe to the Google Maps Platform YouTube channel for helpful tutorials, product demos, or users stories. And to stay up to date on the latest news, follow us on Twitter.

12. Use Google Maps Platform’s open-source utility libraries

In addition to our SDKs and APIs, we also offer a variety of open source utility libraries for JavaScriptAndroidiOSNode.js, and more. These libraries make additional useful features available to you, such as marker clustering and heatmaps.

How Does GPS Know Where You Are?

But even when maps go awry, we tend to take the technology for granted. Here’s an explanation of how GPS navigation works — so you can appreciate it a little more the next time it gets you where you need to be.

GPS

Satellites

We refer to our mapping ability as “GPS,” but the Global Positioning System is actually the term for a constellation of satellites — 24 of them — that orbit the earth. The first GPS satellite was launched in 1978, and the full constellation of 24 came to be in December 1993, and became operational in 1995. The system cost $10-12 billion to build, and the yearly costs of upkeep were estimated at $400 million. Each satellite weighs approximately 2,000 pounds, and they’re solar powered, built to last approximately 10 years. Each satellite takes 11 hours and 58 minutes to orbit the earth, meaning each satellite makes two orbits per day, at an altitude of 10,600 miles above earth.

The satellites were originally intended for use by the U.S. military to deploy weapons — the system was known as NAVSTAR. But in 2000, U.S. President Bill Clinton opened the GPS system to the world at large, citing its global utility. Clearly, the system’s utility has been proven time and again.

The satellites are positioned so that there are at least four, but up to 12, satellites visible to your GPS-enabled device at any given time — the satellite positioning and orbital routes is known as a “birdcage” (see above). Your GPS device can tell you your precise location your position in a process called trilateration. It communicates with three satellites in sight — using high-frequency, low-power radio signals that travel at the speed of light — and then calculates the distance between those satellites and your device. Since the satellites have a fixed orbital pattern and are synced with atomic clocks from the U.S. Naval Observatory, this process tends to yield an accurate location reading. But to improve accuracy, GPS devices typically seek data from four or more satellites, especially for determining altitude.

Once your GPS knows where you are, it can determine map routes, speeds, and other location-specific information, such as sunrise and sunset. GPS receivers log locations of satellites in an almanac, and though the orbits can be affected by the moon and sun, the United States Department of Defense monitors the satellites’ exact positions and sends updates to GPS receivers.

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Navigating

Knowing your location, speed and altitude — and knowing someone else’s — is an immensely powerful tool, with implications far beyond military use. Perhaps its most pedestrian use, at this point, is helping people navigate journeys, whether it’s by foot, by car or by boat. But GPS is also incredibly important for aircraft pilots, who use it to avoid mid-flight collisions and to land.

GPS navigation is now offered in a bevy of apps, and city governments are using technology and sharing data in an effort to ameliorate traffic problems in urban environs. Plus, there are third-party companies — Inrix, whose Smart Driver Network aggregates traffic information from millions of GPS-enabled road sensors, devices and vehicles (it has partnered with Ford), TomTom, which has sold 65 million personal navigation devices and uses more than 100 million probes to source traffic data, and Waze, the crowdsourced app that offers route options based on data transmitted by the app’s 20+ million users to help drivers “outsmart traffic” — that offer real-time traffic information, using your GPS positioning. Without these tools, many of us would be stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic on I-95, not realizing what other routes are available.

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Why Your GPS Is Wrong Sometimes

While GPS provides us with great utility, it’s not perfect. GPS determines location by figuring out how long it takes for the signal to reach your device, since it’s traveling at a constant speed, 186,000 miles per second. So if you’re wondering why your GPS is sometimes telling you you’re a few blocks from where you actually are, there are a few explanations. First, the signal can get delayed as it passes through various densities in atmosphere. Second, the radio signal can bounce off large buildings or have a hard time penetrating dense foliage, thus delaying the arrival of the signal in your device (and it likely won’t even work if you’re underground).

Third, if the clock in the receiver is off — it’s supposed to be synced with the atomic clocks, but there could be slight variability — then the distance perceived by your receiver could be wrong. Above, we said that receivers typically look to communicate with four or more satellites for maximum accuracy; so if your device can only communicate with three of them, your “location” could be a little off. Satellite positioning also plays a role — trilateration accuracy can be affected if the satellites are close together or in a line.

Growing Trends of Service-Based Monetization Apps

People don’t download apps the same way they used to a couple of years ago. That is a fact. My phone looks like an all you can eat buffet filled with apps I don’t need, never use, and too lazy to delete. Seriously, my phone is so crowded that sometimes I can hear my mother screaming at me to clean it up. At this point, it would take a freaking miracle for me to download another app, and unless there’s an app that solves world hunger or has the cure for cancer it ain’t happening.Monetization

Not exactly surprising that Facebook and Google are dominating the chart. These top brands have managed to gain our trust and become an inseparable part of our daily lives but where does that leave everyone else?

According to a report by AppAnnie, emerging markets like Indonesia, Vietnam, and India (+ certain cities in China) will see a surge in app downloads through 2022 but what about mature markets?

In mature markets like the US, Korea, and Japan, the combination of app availability combined with less frequent downloads will require publishers to invest more to acquire each new user. Publishers need to find innovative ways to nurture app downloads and engagement. One approach currently gaining popularity is Service-based Monetization.

Service-based Monetization for Apps – What Is It?

Service-based monetization is an innovative business model that adds a brand-new dimension to the classic in-app purchase and ad-based monetization methods. It is based on a simple and powerful idea that people need services and solutions to their specific needs in real-time. Service-based monetization helps users compare their options to make the best choice for them, such as deciding which taxi to order, the best way to navigate through urban jungles, or what types of food to order on lazy Sundays.

Service-based Monetization is not meant to replace existing ad monetization models but to provide publishers with an additional source of revenue that doesn’t come at the expense of user experience.

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Turning Apps Into Service Hubs

Leading companies like Google, Facebook, and China’s WeChat monetize by turning their apps into service-hubs.

Google Assistant offers its users the ability to search for over 1 millions actions. Users can manage tasks, listen to music, find nearby services, pretty much do anything from their device.

Facebook is trying to fight banner blindness and enhance the user experience by monetizing through other services. According to eMarketer, about 80 percent of smartphone users are on messaging apps so it’s no wonder Facebook is choosing its Messenger product as one of its key monetization strategies.

“Our people are spending the whole day on Messenger, and they want to be able to run their life from Messenger,” said Kemal El Moujahid, Facebook’s product manager for Messenger and virtual assistant M “Being able to consume these services without having to download an extra app is a huge added value for them.”

Facebook Messenger provides users with suggestions (according to keywords) for certain actions. For example, users can order food from local restaurants using the app Instead of competing directly with other food ordering services. Facebook partnered with several industry players such as EatStreet, Delivery.com, DoorDash, and others.

WeChat is a perfect example of an app that completely transformed into a service hub. It’s dominating China by providing users with added value in the form of content and services. Users can chat with friends, order food, shop, pay for goods and services, all from within the app which is why 46% of Chinese users have made it their number one app.

No additional setup for a payment system is required as users can pay directly from their Hike Wallet.

Appnext enables all publishers to monetize services and turn their apps into platforms through Appnext Actions, a non-ad product that provides publishers with the same capabilities available to the industry giants. With a simple integration, every app can turn into a service hub, providing users with added value while generating an additional revenue stream. India’s leading news app DailyHunt and popular US messenger TextNow have already implemented Appnext Actions offering their users cab, food delivery, entertainment, travel and shopping services.

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Conclusion of Service-Based Monetization – Be of Service

While app downloads will continue to grow in emerging markets, publishers will need to come up with different monetization strategies for mature markets in order to make money. These strategies must place users in the center and provide them with added value.

Temporary closures now available in the Places API

Businesses close temporarily for a wide range of reasons. They might be under renovation, impacted by a natural disaster, closed for the summer, or–like now–be closed in response to a pandemic. To provide the most accurate representation of the real world through Google Maps Platform-powered experiences, we’re now making temporary closure information available through the Places API.  Temporary

Armed with real time information about businesses and other locations, our customers can fulfill a variety of services with a high degree of accuracy. From food delivery, to ride sharing, to logistics, having access to the latest information about the operational status of a business can make or break the experience of our customers and their end users.

Introducing business_status in Place Search and Place Details

You can now access the operational status of a business via a new field named business_status. This field can have three possible values: OPERATIONALCLOSED_TEMPORARILY and CLOSED_PERMANENTLY. When we don’t know the operational status of a business, the business_status field is not returned.

You can access business_status through Place Search and Place Details requests. All calls to Nearby Search, and Text Search return most place data fields including business status if the information is available. For Find Place requests searching for a specific place, you’ll need to specify business_status in the fields parameter to receive that data back in the response. When you request information about a place through Place Details directly or through a Place Autocomplete widget, include business_status in the fields parameter.

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Replacing permanently_closed

Place Search and Place Details both currently support a field called permanently_closed, but it doesn’t distinguish between a business or location that is closed permanently or closed temporarily. An application that relies on the ability to distinguish between those values shouldn’t use it. Due to the potential for confusion, we strongly encourage developers to use business_status instead. Since existing applications may be using permanently_closed to determine whether a place is closed for any reason, the Places API will continue returning permanently_closed as is.

Related field: opening_hours

If a business is operational, you may want to display its daily opening hours or indicate whether it is open now or at a specific time. For that information, use the field opening_hours with Place Details. For more information about opening hours in Places API, see our recent video demonstrating how to use the field with HTTP requests, JavaScript, Kotlin, and Swift.

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Representing the physical world accurately

To keep up with a dynamic world, we work hard to keep our maps, roads, and places information up to date. We rely on information from governments and other authoritative sources, as well as businesses themselves, to surface temporary closures. Businesses can also mark their location as temporarily closed and update hours via Google My Business so that accurate business info appears in Google Maps, Search and the Places API.

Accurate business information can make the difference between a successful journey and a wasted trip–and ultimately, customer satisfaction. For more information on business_status and related fields, please visit our documentation.

Maps Platform partners are responding to COVID-19

Web Geo Services, a Google Cloud Premier Partner with a focus in location innovation, works with customers across the retail, logistics, finance, transport and hospitality sectors. They created their own consumer geolocation platform, Woosmap, which offers location-based APIs that augment Google Maps Platform. When COVID-19 began to spread, the WebGeoServices team started offering services and access to the Woosmap platform free of charge for up to six months. Here are three recent projects that leverage Woosmap:
Maps
Born in Reggio Emilia during the italian lockdown at a time when individuals were staying home to help limit the spread of COVID-19, a team of 3 digital experts in Italy developed vicino-e-sicuro. The project is an interactive map of all businesses that offer home delivery or click & collect: groceries, restaurants, bakeries and other essential services. From there, the team partnered with Web Geo Services to access the Woosmap platform for free. They have since developed NearbyAndSafe in the UK and Proxisur in France providing tools to support citizens and local businesses. Citizens can choose the type of services they need, consult information on delivery methods and prices for the service, and contact the merchant directly. Merchants, by registering with vicino-e-sicuro, NearbyAndSafe or Proxisur, can increase their visibility for free.

Valrhona also worked with Web Geo Services to build their interactive pastry map which allows users to  find local pastry chefs and artisans in the US and Europe who sell their pastries, chocolates, bread, and other sweets using social distancing. Food and pastry are at the heart of so many cultures. Through the map, they’re able to direct people to passionate, hard-working chefs, as they continue working hard to provide others with familiar foods during an uncertain time.

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Earlier this year Route4Me started offering their service free of charge to all government agencies at the federal, city, and municipal level across the world to support their efforts. Route4Me provides a route planning and mapping system that lets businesses find the most optimal route between multiple destinations. The platform automatically plans routes for many people simultaneously, creates a detailed route manifest, a map with pins and route lines, driving (or walking) directions, and dispatches the route directly to any smartphone. Their service will be available as an unlimited free subscription until the peak of the Coronavirus threat to the public is over. Let’s look at two projects that used Route4Me to deliver support to local communities.

The Foodbank of Santa Barbara County is working to provide enough healthy food to everyone who needs it in Santa Barbara County. The foodbank created an initiative called Safe Access to Food for Everyone (SAFE) Food Net. Of the 50 SAFE Food Net distributions they’re operating, nearly 20 brand new emergency drive-thru food distributions make receiving healthy food fast, easy, discreet and safe. In addition, the service provides a home delivery service for seniors that provides enrollees with home food deliveries. They worked with Route4Me to establish routes for this rapidly-growing home delivery initiative. Annually, the Foodbank serves 20,000 low-income seniors across the county.

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Maverick Landing Community Services (MLCS) is a multi-service organization with a primary focus on helping children, youth, and adults to build 21st-century skills within Maverick Landing, East Boston, and surrounding communities. The MLCS team developed a COVID-19 response plan that not only required communicating directly with the community, but also provided a way to meet the community’s needs. MLCS worked with Route4Me to develop and use route maximization technology to increase expediency, efficiency, and reduce their carbon footprint while delivering grocery bags to keep the community fed and safe.

Unqork

Unqork developed the COVID-19 Management Hub, a solution available to any major city to integrate into its crisis management practice. The COVID-19 Management Hub application automates real-time mapping of the COVID-19 risk, maintains communication with residents in need, delivers critical services including food, medicine and other supplies, and coordinates multi-agency response and dispatch efforts in a single operations dashboard. Unqork is currently working with cities, states, and counties including City of New York and Washington D.C. to help develop their COVID-19 Management Hub for city officials to manage the pandemic and provide access to critical information and resources. So far in New York the system has enabled the delivery of over 8 Million meals and the collection of over $125M in PPE for front-line workers.

Announcing API management for services

services Among forward-looking software developers, Envoy has become ubiquitous as a high-performance pluggable proxy, providing improved networking and observability capability for increased services traffic. Built on the learnings of HAProxy and nginx, Envoy is now an official Cloud Native Computing Foundation project, and has many fans—including among users of our Apigee API management platform.

services

To help you integrate Envoy-based services into your Apigee environment, we’re announcing the Apigee Adapter for Envoy in beta. Apigee lets you centrally govern or manage APIs that are consumed within your enterprise or exposed to partners and third parties, providing centralized API publishing, visibility, governance, and usage analytics. And now, with the Apigee Adapter for Envoy, you can extend Envoy’s capabilities to include API management, so developers can expose the services behind Envoy as APIs. Specifically, the Apigee Adapter for Envoy lets developers:

  • Verify OAuth tokens or API Keys
  • Check API consumer based quota against API Products
  • Collect API usage analytics

Now, with the availability of the Apigee Adapter for Envoy, organizations can deliver modern, Envoy-based services as APIs, expanding the reach of your applications. Let’s take a closer look.

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How does it work?

Envoy supports a long list of filters—extensions that are written in C++ and compiled into Envoy itself. The Apigee Adapter for Envoy takes particular advantage of Envoy’s External Authorization filter, designed to allow Envoy to delegate authorization decisions for calls managed by Envoy to an external system.

Here’s how the Apigee Adapter for Envoy works:

  • The consumer or client app accesses an API endpoint exposed by Envoy (1),
  • Envoy passes the security context (HTTP headers) to the Apigee Remote Service (2)
  • The Apigee Remote Service acts as a Policy Decision Point and advises Envoy to allow or deny  the API consumer access to the requested API (3).

A high-performance system may need to handle thousands of calls per second in this way. To accommodate that, the connection between Envoy and the Apigee Remote Service is based on gRPC, for speed and efficiency. Out of band, the Apigee Remote Service asynchronously polls and downloads its configuration (4), including API Products and API keys (after validation), from the remote Apigee control plane, which can be hosted in a different VPC than the Envoy cluster.

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Compatibility with Istio and Anthos

The Apigee Adapter for Envoy can be used by anyone who uses a standard Envoy proxy, including anyone who uses Istio or Google’s Anthos Service Mesh, getting the benefits of enforcing Apigee API management policies within a service mesh.

Comparing Apigee API Gateways

In addition to the Apigee Adapter for Envoy, Apigee also offers two other gateways:

  • Apigee Message Processor, which powers Apigee public cloud, Apigee private cloud, and Apigee hybrid
  • Apigee Microgateway

Here’s a quick comparison to help you distinguish between these gateways and determine when to use which one or more than one together.

What’s next?

Google Cloud’s Apigee is an industry-leading API management platform, and we’ve continued to expand its capabilities. Now, combining the Apigee Message Processor and Apigee Adapter for Envoy, you can get enterprise-grade API management capabilities .

Google Maps Platform gaming solution

Just over two years ago we launched our gaming solution to bring real-world games to life, starting with a limited group of game studios. Since then, 10 games, played by more than 11 million players each month, have been built with Google Maps Platform. But almost immediately after launch, we recognized the interest from independent game studios and developers to build their own real world games.

Google

So we set out to build a scalable infrastructure that would extend access to all developers and allow them to sign up and quickly get started online. Starting today, we’ve opened our gaming solution to all mobile game developers to create engaging, immersive real-world games.

Get started in minutes 

For the first time, game developers can get started online to quickly build mobile games with Google Maps Platform. Just follow the onboarding flow to create a billing account, set up a Google Cloud Project, and then download the Maps SDK for Unity. Once you do that, the Semantic Tile API and Playable Locations API will be automatically enabled for you. Our quickstart documentation will guide you through the SDK installation so you can start building games.

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Customize game worlds and determine the best places for gameplay

Our gaming solution gives you the flexibility to either bring the real world into your game or take your game out into the real world. The Maps SDK for Unity gives you the tools to create and customize a game world based on real world locations, while the Playable Locations API helps you find the best locations to place real-world gameplay. Since the initial launch, we’ve added features like Mixed Zoom and Pathfinding to improve the in-game experience for your players.

Mixed zoom renders a high level of detail for areas close to a player, while areas further away display progressively lower levels of detail. Rendering vector tiles at distance-dependent zoom levels, with a horizon in the far distance, helps you generate maps that span thousands of meters or more, while using considerably less processing. You can also create game worlds that not only occupy a bird’s eye view, but that zoom out to much larger areas.

Pathfinding enables you to bring new life to your in-game characters–anything from directing monsters to chase a player around, to flying a plane to drop off supplies at a safe house, to collaborating on missions through a futuristic city. We help you connect game worlds with the real world.

With access to hundreds of millions of 3D building geometries and urban settings like parks and roads as objects in Unity, you can create immersive gameplay personalized for each player. And our coverage of more than 220 countries and territories means you’re able to do this at a global scale.

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Push the limit of real-world games

So far we’ve seen an array of real-world gameplay created with Google Maps Platform–catching and hatching dinosaursbirdwatching, and everything in between. We’ve also seen studios quickly transform their games to address changing player behavior–like needing to play from home while sheltering in place.

Our gaming solution also gives you the opportunity to breathe new life into existing games by adding a real-world mode to re-engage your user base with location-based in-game features.

Whether you’re a developer who’s always wanted to build a game, an established studio ready to kick-off development with a major IP holder, or a business that just wants to see what our real-world data and AR can do for your business, we can’t wait to see what you build.

Visit us here to learn more about our latest announcements and look back at 15 years of collaboration with Google Maps Platform.

Geolocation in web applications: What it does

After developing a web app, there are various uses of geolocation. Like for statistical purposes and special cases like dynamically changing a user’s language when he/she migrates. Geolocation is a method of guessing a user’s location by looking at his/her IP address.

web

The IP address and geolocation

The IP addresses are the telephone numbers of the world wide web. They are usually a set of numbers separated by dots. An example is 212.45.683.23. Institutions obtain IP addresses in blocks. A particular IP address with 45.160, in the beginning, is one out of the IP address block belonging to Brazil. Pretty sure, this user is living somewhere in Brazil. Even more, IP address blocks are sold, transferred and reallocated due to various factors.

Methods to implement IP based geolocation

Commercial institutions like MaxMind provide large databases that map IP addresses at different levels of granularity (city, state, country of residence). One can download the database at a one time fee. However, as stated above, IP address blocks change configurations frequently. So in order to maintain accuracy, one has to pay MaxMind for weekly or monthly database updates. You have to put technical effort to integrate the database and update it regularly (weekly/monthly).

Another option is to use a commercial service that offers geolocation as a service. You have your own web app, you send your visitor’s IP address to the API of the service. The service then replies with the visitor’s location and you can particularly customize the visitor’s experience.

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A basic Python program featuring geolocation

Here is a Python web application written in the Flask web framework:

from flask import Flask 
from flask import request

import requests

app = Flask(__name__)

def get_country(ip_address):
    try:
        response = requests.get("http://ip-api.com/json/{}".format(ip_address))
        js = response.json()
        country = js['countryCode']
        return country
    except Exception as e:
        return "Unknown"

@app.route("/")
def home():
    ip_address = request.remote_addr
    country = get_country(ip_address)
    # number of countries where the largest number of speakers are French
    # data from http://download.geonames.org/export/dump/countryInfo.txt
    if country in ('BL', 'MF', 'TF', 'BF', 'BI', 'BJ', 'CD', 'CF', 'CG', 'CI', 'DJ', 'FR', 'GA', 'GF', 'GN', 'GP', 'MC', 'MG', 'ML', 'MQ', 'NC'):
        return "Bonjour"
    return "Hello"

if __name__ == "__main__":
    app.run()

Let’s break down what it does and how it works:

  1. We import the main Flask module, which initializes our script as a web application. We also import the request module from Flask, which will allow us to get various data about our visitors, including their IP address.
  2. The request module we imported above handles the client connection requests (with an s), it is a completely different library that allows our server to make HTTP calls to third-party services. We’ll use this later to call the ip-api service.
  3. We initialize the app variable as a Flask web application and call app.run() right at the end of the script to make Flask listen for visitors and serve the web pages.
  4. The get_country function takes in an IP address, calls the ip-api service and extracts the ISO two-letter country code (e.g. USfor the United States, DE for Germany) from the response that IP-API sends us. This response includes a bunch of other information that ip-api can guess from the IP address, but we’re only interested in the country code for now.
  5. Flask uses the @app.route("/") decorator to map specific URLs to specific functions in our code. In this case, the default “/” route is what will automatically trigger when a visitor loads our site.
  6. Our home function finds the visitor’s IP address (this can get more complicated, but it should work in many cases), passes it along to our get_country function checks whether or not the user is from a country where the majority of residents speak French and returns Bonjour or Hello based on this.

Consequently, it is possible to initiate a similar function in other languages designed for web applications and complex web sites.

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Other options and limits in IP-based geolocation

Geolocation is not 100% accurate. Generally, a web app should duly account for a user who has an IP address different from his/her real location. If your web application behaves differently in different countries, it is good to have flexibility in overriding location.

Other ways to track a visitor’s location are:

  • Using DNS host to find out the approximate location. Services like GeoDNS finds the DNS host nearest to the visitor, and we can infer their estimated location.
  • We can find out a visitor’s location by locating the nearest cellphone towers and WiFi routers. Google has a geolocation API that offers these services.
  • Smartphones and some laptops come with a technology called GPS (Global Positioning System), which track the person within a few meters of his/her exact location (permission required in the newer mobile operating systems).

Therefore we have now understood how to use geolocation in web apps.

How To Develop A Location-Based App

Location-based apps play a crucial role. Let’s see in an example: When smartphones are introduced with GPS and location map services like google maps and apple maps. We are currently relying on these apps to find every route, destination, and even delivery service. When was the last time you asked for a route to the destination to a person stranger?

Location-based

It must be a while ago because you are using a smart map to go around the cities. The apps even give alternate routes depending on traffic congestionFrom location-based apps, we can get information about objects or the user’s physical location. From this information, we can get feedback from places they have visited, as you see on google maps doing with google guides. 

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How do location-based apps work?

 Location-based technologies fetch the user’s location to provide services requested by the user. These are the technologies the tech used to build a location-based app. 

  • GPS
  • Cellular Network
  • IP Based Positioning System
  • Geofencing
  • WIFI Positioning
  • Indoor Positioning System

GPS 

GPS means a global positioning system, which is a satellite-based location fetching system built into our smartphones. It can fetch the exact location of the user and time of the place. 

It is globally used in smartphones for fetching the user location and finding landmarks, routes, etc.,

Cellular Network 

A cellular network is a positioning system that uses a triangulation method to determine the user’s geographical location. The mobile network providers have a lot of radio base stations and cell towers. When a mobile phone enters the range of cell towers, it can be tracked by a network provider. This commonly used by retail stores and restaurants to attract in-store customers. 

IP Based Positioning System

Every device which is connected to the internet has its unique identifier called IP address. We can use that IP address to track the location of the user. 

Geofencing

Geofencing uses GPS, wifi, or cellular network to trigger a pre-programmed action. It is set in the limit of virtual boundary when a mobile device enters or exits with a geofencing app or tag; we can track the user’s location.

WIFI Positioning

WIFI positioning is a geolocation system that relies on WIFI hotspots. It locates the devices when a device connects to its network.

Indoor Positioning System

GPS and satellite locations are not accurate when tracking inside of significant buildings like malls, airports, etc. This is where the indoor positioning system takes up a role. It is an extensive network of devices like smartphones, cameras, WIFI, and Bluetooth devices, which collects the location data.

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How to create a location-based app?

If we are creating a location-based app initially, we need to analyze the market for the need to develop. After detailed market research, you can start ideating the features you want to include in the app. Here are the key steps to create a location-based app. 

Prototyping

Prototype means a rough or working model of our app. It’s created with basic structure our app, which helps to gather information on how to improve in the app with necessary features. 

Design

After getting ideas into a prototype, designing the application is an important step. When it comes to creating an app, it should be clean, innovative, and understandable for the best user experience. It would be best if you had a particular focus on creating the User Interface (UI) / User Experience(UX) for the application. The UI/UX design should be user-friendly with attractive visuals representing the features you are providing to your users.

Development

In this stage, you’ll need to hire a mobile development company to start with the main application. They will help you create a wireframe and prototype if you need any guidance in the product cycle’s discovery stage. You can choose the features you want and platforms like iOS and Android. To develop an app that can be used by your target users without any functional issues.  

Tech Stack Used In-App

 Choose a suitable technology stack for your app development as it influences the success of your location-based app. You’ll need two API for fetching users’ locations and another one for displaying that fetched user’s site to make your service efficient. You can determine the tech stack by the platform types such as IOS, Android, and Web.

For IOS, you can use Google Maps API, Core Location API, and Apple Mapkit for fetching user’s locations. In the case of Android, you can use location package, Google Maps API, Google Maps Directions API, Google Location Services, and Open Street Map.  

Testing  

Testing is an essential step that will impact the application. It is nothing but testing the scripts for the entire form to find errors and bugs. It helps to enhance the quality of the application and ensures that our app functions well.

App Release 

After multiple testing, you can send you an app to be verified by the app stores to launch in the market officially. After the release, you need to maintain the application and release new updates to retain and attract new users to the app. 

Conclusion 

In a location-based app, that’s a lot of essential data like the user’s location and other data included. So data security must be a top priority to build credibility among the app users. If these data fell into the wrong hands, it will be a considerable risk.