Take mobile gaming to the next level with location

Games are all about creating worlds and stories.  The richer the world, the more immersive the gaming. The earliest video games were limited to flat, two-dimensional screen. But even so, Pong was awesome. Believe us, we played a lot of Pong (not to mention the several decades of games that followed). But gamers today want more. Detailed storytelling and immersive world building are now a standard in games. This means there’s increasing expectation for game worlds to be realistic 3D environments on larger scales.

gaming

At the same time this shift was happening in gaming, smartphones, big data and machine learning have propelled maps from a flat image on paper to a highly-personalized, living model of the world. And it was at the intersection of these two things that we saw the chance to build something to enable developers to create a whole new class of gaming experiences. This is why we launched Google Maps Platform’s gaming solution last year.

In the last year, five games launched on our platform and we’ve learned a lot about real-world games.

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Location unlocks AR and social gameplay

Rich, dynamic, and contextual location data allows game developers to augment and enhance social and AR gaming experiences. This is why three of the top 10 ARCore games(1) in the last year were built on Google Maps Platform.

When it comes to location-driven social, players can not only team up, but also have their unique location enrich multiplayer gaming. Next Games learned how powerful this can be in The Walking Dead: Our World. In the game, players form groups, known as guilds, and are able to send flares to allow other players in the same guild to virtually join them at their location to complete missions around the flare.

When we asked about the impact location has had on the social experience of their game, Director Riku Suomela said, “If we didn’t have geolocation, the current system with social wouldn’t work.” In fact, ninety percent of the game’s daily active users are in a guild, and three out of every four players play the game with friends(2), so social engagement is high.

Location increases player engagement and retention

Today, gamers are people of every age and walk of life. They are rushing commuters, busy shoppers, and people just going about their daily lives. Incorporating location into a mobile game helps developers make game play more immersive and more personal. Every new location gives players a chance to engage with a game differently.

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Location can add new life to an existing mobile game

When we started building Google Maps Platform’s gaming offer, we had a simple idea in mind: give developers the tools to build brand new real-world games. But thanks to creative partners, we realized the possibilities are even broader than we expected. Real-world games don’t need to be built from scratch––we’ve seen location intelligence bring new life to existing games, as well.

mixi recently added a map mode to Monster Strike(4). In 2018, it became the highest-grossing mobile app of all time(5)Monster Strike was already a popular game but when mixi began re-engaging their user base with location-based in-game features, they saw a 30% increase in daily sessions per user, plus 50% of users who engaged with the location component played the game for 5 or more consecutive days. With mixi, we learned that game developers don’t need to wait for their next game release to start incorporating location into their gameplay. It can be a powerful new dimension to an existing game.

Location-driven features and real-world gameplay do a lot more than just add to the experience of a game. They redefine it. We think this has incredible potential even beyond what we’ve already seen, and we’re excited to work with developers around the world to bring more real-world gaming experiences to life with Google Maps Platform.

How we build the maps that power your apps

As more than a billion people have come to rely on Google Maps to explore the world and millions of apps and experiences have been built on top of our data, we’re often asked how we build the map that serves such a wide set of users and use cases.

maps

The answer is that it’s taken more than a decade of laying the groundwork and an obsessive commitment to refining our techniques to be able to meet increasing user expectations for fresh and accurate data and insights.

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An early investment in imagery
Just a couple of years after launching Google Maps and Google Maps Platform (formerly Google Maps APIs), we launched Street View. For consumers, it helped them virtually explore the entire world from their own homes. For as long as our Street View program has operated, we’ve made this rich imagery data set available to businesses so they can provide real-world context in their applications. Our Street View APIs allow real estate sites like Trulia to help homebuyers discover a place they’ll love to live by virtually exploring neighborhoods right from their website and apps.

At Google, Street View gave us the foundation for the future of our mapping process. Advances in our machine learning technology, combined with the more than 170 billion Street View images across 87 countries, enable us to automate the extraction of information from those images and keep data like street names, addresses, and business names up to date for our customers. If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a high-res, panoramic image is worth a billion. So we’re committed to developing our own hardware, like our newest trekker equipped with higher-resolution sensors and an increased aperture, to deliver the highest quality imagery and insights to our customers.

Partnering with authoritative sources
Providing reliable and up-to-date information is essential for enterprises looking to build mission critical applications on our platform. So we also use data from more than 1,000 authoritative data sources around the world like the United States Geological Survey, the National Institute of Statistics and Geography (INEGI) in Mexico, local municipalities, and even housing developers.

Combining our imagery analysis with third-party data gives customers the most accurate and reliable data to power their businesses. For instance, we’re able to provide ridesharing companies such as Lyft, and mytaxi with convenient pickup/dropoff locations for their passengers and traffic-aware routing so their drivers can take the fastest route possible. We understand that one wrong route or delayed pick-up can have an impact on whether a customer comes back, so we make it easy for third-party authoritative sources to share their data with us. From there, we quickly ingest it and turn it into the features that are helping ridesharing companies all over the world improve their customer experience and business efficiencies..

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Real people, real insights
Data and imagery are key components of mapmaking. But they’re static and don’t always give us the context we want about a specific place. If you think of Street View as helping you contextualize where you are on a street, you can think about user contributed content as helping you contextualize a specific place like a restaurant or coffee shop. With the help of a passionate community of Local Guides, active Google users, and business owners via Google My Business, we receive more than 20 million contributions from users every day–from road closures, to details about a place’s atmosphere, to new businesses, and more. To ensure this contributed info is helpful, we publish it only if we have a high degree of confidence in its accuracy.

This has enabled us to build a data set of more than 150 million places around the world, which we make available to developers through our Places API. The Places API includes rich data on location names, addresses, ratings, reviews, contact information, business hours, and atmosphere–helping companies empower their users not just to find a restaurant, but to find a restaurant that’s good for kids with vegetarian menu items.

Keeping up with the speed of innovation and growth with machine learning
The mapmaking process we’ve shared so far builds a useful and reliable map, but it presents one major challenge–speed. To empower our customers to move fast and innovate, we need to map the world more quickly than ever before. And as regions of the world rapidly develop, we need to be able to quickly get that information into our maps and products. To increase the rate at which we map the world, we turn to machine learning to automate mapping processes, while maintaining high levels of accuracy and precision.

Here’s an example of how we used machine learning to solve what we dubbed “fuzzy buildings”. Our team was frustrated with fuzzy building outlines caused by an algorithm that tried to guess whether part of an image was a building or not. To fix this, we worked with our data operations team to trace common building outlines manually. Now that’s a solution in itself. But tracing all the common building outlines in the world by hand isn’t a scalable or quick process. So once our team traced the common building outlines, they used this information to teach our machine learning algorithms what shapes buildings tend to have in the real world, and which parts of images correspond with building edges and outlines. Using this technique, we were able to map as many buildings in one year as we mapped in the previous 10–vastly improving the maps we share with our customers.

Is it possible to guard against GPS attacks?

Driving downtown,guard you glance at your navigation app and see that it thinks that you are at the airport. A bit unsettling, no doubt. This is not a made-up situation; it’s a real example of GPS spoofing — that is, the shift of GPS coordinates using a fake (but stronger) GPS signal from the ground that drowns out the one from the satellite.

guard

Who’s doing it and why is a bit of a mystery, but this trick has numerous practical uses — from hijacking drones to interfering with yacht and tanker navigation systems. The only good news is that protection solutions are beginning to appear, albeit slowly.

For those in a hurry, here are the basic facts of GPS spoofing:

  • GPS spoofing involves an attempt to deceive a GPS receiver by broadcasting a fake GPS signal from the ground. All navigators in the vicinity start showing the wrong location.
  • GPS spoofing can be used to hijack UAVs and cars, or confuse taxi drivers, drones, and sailors.
  • GPS spoofing tools are quite affordable — a few hundred dollars will buy everything required.
  • Anti-GPS spoofing technology is being developed, but mainly for large systems, such as maritime navigation.
  • The simplest (if inconvenient) way to protect your smartphone or tablet is to switch it to “battery-saving location mode,” whereby only Wi-Fi and cellular networks are used to determine your location, and GPS is disabled (this mode is unavailable on some devices).

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How GPS spoofing works

To understand why GPS can be faked at all, recall the general principles of satellite navigation. Here’s how it works: Suspended above the Earth in geostationary orbit are several satellite systems. They are American GPS, European Galileo, Russian GLONASS, and Chinese BeiDou.

Each satellite transmits a continuous radio signal containing the satellite code and the precise signal transmission time. Your phone or other navigator does not transmit anything at all, but simply receives these radio signals from space. By analyzing the exact receipt time of each signal, it is possible to calculate the distance from the GPS receiver to each of the satellites.

With a bit of math and a comparison of several such signals (at least three, but the more the merrier), the receiver can determine its precise location relative to the satellites. And because the coordinates of the satellites are known and unvarying, doing this calculation makes it possible to work out the location of the GPS receiver on the Earth’s surface.

The problem is that the satellite signals are attenuated by the time they hit terra firma — and the antennas of most receivers are not particularly sensitive. Therefore, just by siting a fairly powerful radio transmitter nearby and broadcasting a fake but technically sound GPS signal from it, it is easy to drown out the satellites and cause all GPS receivers in the area to compute the wrong coordinates.

At the same time, the receivers lack the technical means to determine the direction of the signal, so they do not know that the signal is coming from a completely different source. Even worse, GPS spoofing equipment is very inexpensive (about $300), and all of the programs needed are generally free. In other words, it’s not some complicated stuff accessible only by military or special services — almost anyone can do it.

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Who needs to spoof GPS — and why?

Some known cases of hacking GPS systems are linked to research projects (for example, yacht hijacking — how do you like that?), poaching, and, most likely, military operations. As autonomous systems such as drones and unmanned vehicles develop, the list will undoubtedly grow. There have also been media reports on the hijacking of military UAVs, which suggests that the situation with civilian drones is unlikely to be any better.

How to protect against GPS spoofing

Although the problem has been known for some time, there is a major obstacle to developing protection measures — the key equipment is in space and will not be replaced right away. GPS satellites emit what they emit, and no one can add standard protection tools, such as encryption and certificates, to the signals. Security measures so far have been more experimental in nature and not for large-scale application.

One approach (which in addition to working against spoofing also provides more stable signal reception) is based on the use of multiantenna receiver configurations (2×2) and beamforming technology. This combination not only filters out noise and interference, but also can be used to determine the direction from which a signal is coming.

This technique makes it easier to distinguish a fake satellite signal from a real one. So far, such installations for GPS exist only as relatively large experimental prototypes, but going forward they could be implemented in more compact equipment. This will not be as difficult or costly as it seems; similar technologies are already used in 4G and 5G cellular networks.

beyond the map: solving problems & powering location

So far in this series we’ve explained, at a high level map , how we combine imagery, third-party authoritative data, machine learning, and community contributions to continuously map the changing world. But what do we do when one of these key elements is missing, like authoritative data sources? Or when a city is growing so fast that traditional map making isn’t an option?

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Or when streets are so narrow, we can’t drive a Street View car through to map them? We run into endless mapping challenges in our tireless pursuit to map the world, but the one constant is that imagery is almost always the foundation of the solution.

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Mapping growing cities from imagery
Some areas of the world simply don’t have basic roads and buildings mapped yet, which means we can’t reference basic mapping information from authoritative data sources like local governments and organizations. In these cases we build the map literally from the ground up, starting with imagery from which we can extract mapping data. There are broadly two kinds of imagery that we use. Overhead imagery from satellites and airplanes shows roads and buildings, while street-level imagery lets us see road names, road signs, building numbers and business names. In last month’s post, we touched on how we use machine learning to automatically extract information from imagery and keep maps data up to date for our customers. Let’s take a look at how this served as the foundation for significant improvements of our maps of Lagos, Nigeria and what that means for a local business using Google Maps Platform.

Once we had the necessary imagery of the area, we were able to use a number of our machine learning-based pipelines to quickly update the major components of the map within just a few months (traditional mapping processes can often take far longer). We focused on three deep-learning based approaches: drawing the outlines of buildings, identifying house numbers, and recognizing businesses. We created detailed outlines of buildings using a model trained not only on the per-pixel details of what constitutes a building, but also on the high-level traits of building shapes seen in the overhead imagery. To identify house numbers and businesses, we used three-part detection, classification, and extraction approaches based on the continuation of work discussed in this paper. These two algorithms were fed high-resolution Street View imagery as input. The accurate positioning of these images in six degrees of freedom was critical to getting the position of the house or business exactly right. As a result, we were able to improve the quality of our map data in Lagos in about one year (from 2017 to 2018) to levels equivalent to countries where we’ve spent many years building the maps.

For many people, an incorrect address when trying to find a business or other location is just a small nuisance. But for businesses, it could mean loss of business. And for Lifebank, a company that connects blood suppliers to hospital patients in Lagos, it could be a matter of life and death. In 2016, founder Temie Giwa-Tubosun, used Google Maps Platform to create and map an online blood repository in partnership with 52 blood banks across Lagos allowing doctors to request a blood type and immediately access a map that tracks the journey of the delivery. 

Before LifeBank, finding and delivering blood to a patient in Lagos could take several hours and in some cases, several days. But LifeBank changed that by transporting blood in an average of 45 minutes from initial request to final delivery. The team has registered over 5,800 blood donors, moved over 15,000 units, served 300-plus hospitals, and saved more than 4,000 lives. For Temie, access to mapping information was an important part of solving the blood crisis problem in her native Nigeria.

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Mapping narrow roads with Street View 3-wheelers

Places like Indonesia have some roads that are too narrow for cars, but just right for the 2-wheelers that are commonly used in the country. We needed to map these roads in order to introduce 2-wheeler navigation in Google Maps and provide 2-wheeler navigation solutions to our ridesharing customers, but our Street View cars were too big. Instead, we mounted a Trekker to a 3-wheeler–taking into account both operator safety and local regulations in our vehicle choice–and started mapping the narrow streets.

The solution makes mapping projects in places off the beaten path or areas that might be inaccessible to cars possible and scalable. It enabled us to capture the street-level imagery of narrow roads needed to launch 2-wheeler navigation in Indonesia and improve our maps of the area. Since we’ve launched in Indonesia, we’ve brought 2-wheeler navigation to 21 other countries.

As you can see, imagery really is the foundation for our maps and solving map making problems worldwide. But this is just a look at a couple of the challenges we’ve solved with imagery. It’s an incredible resource for learning about the world and we have lots of creative ways of collecting and using imagery to help people explore and help businesses to build and expand their services–even in hard to map areas.

5 videos on the new Google Maps Platform YouTube

Our new Google Maps Platform YouTube channel brings you videos to help you learn to do more with Google Maps Platform and get inspired by the amazing things others are building. From tutorials to announcements to user stories to the return of the Geocasts series–there’s a variety of helpful videos for you to view,

YouTube

so here’s a look at the top 5 videos you’ll find on our channel and playlists right now. Be sure to visit the channel to see more and subscribe to stay up to date.

How to enable Google Maps Platform APIs and SDKs

In our most-watched video to date, engineer Emily Keller explains how to enable Google Maps Platform APIs and SDKs. Once you’ve mastered that, you can get started and build experiences that help your users explore the world or that help optimize your business and operations.

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A deep dive on building for performance and scale at Google I/O 2019 

If you missed I/O this year, then our I/O playlist will get you up to speed. In this video, we’ll reintroduce you to building with Google Maps Platform with a deep look at implementations that exemplify best practices. You’ll also learn new ways to use the Maps APIs to work with large-scale data and tips to implement our improvements to custom styling.

A game demo built with Google Maps Platform: Space Janitor

At the Game Developers Conference this year, we displayed a variety of game demos to give you an idea of new types of engaging location-based games you can build using Google Maps Platform’s gaming solution. Space Janitor, called one of the most creative mobile games at GDC, has been the most-watched game demo on our new YouTube channel so far.

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Google Maps Platform industry solutions at Cloud Next 2019 

If hearing from the team inspires you to build amazing experiences, then this presentation given by Geo SVP Jen Fitzpatrick at Cloud Next 2019, is right up your alley. Learn about recent advances in how we map the world and industry-specific solutions we’ve developed for gaming and ridesharing.

How Global Risk Assessment Services uses Google Maps Platform

Seeing teams take on global-scale problems with the possibility to change the world can be a real inspiration no matter what you’re working on. In this video, you’ll learn more about how Global Risk Assessment Services uses Google Maps Platform to provide reliable information about the ecological and social risks of expanding agriculture into natural habitats.

Best cost to develop an indoor navigation mobile app

Now the question is, how effective are these apps when you go out in the crowded shopping centers or traditional markets? Do these GPS outdoor navigation apps help you find your favorite cafes, restaurants, or shops inside the large buildings? or Any particular place that you love to hang-out with your friends? The simple answer to these questions – NO.

You need an indoor navigation app that works in a similar way as GPS outdoor navigation apps do. So you must be wondering how indoor navigation apps are different from outdoor navigation apps?

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Well, the matter of the fact is, GPS outdoor navigation apps are working with GPS satellite signals that usually get lost in crowded places or inside the large buildings. However, indoor navigation apps are specially developed for smaller areas working with Augmented Reality that displays your location by simply accessing the integrated GPS maps. By accessing the inbuilt GPS maps, they offer the shortest routes towards the destination.

According to the statistics, the global indoor positioning and navigation market was valued at $6.92 billion in 2017 and is projected to grow to $23.6 billion in 2023. Even, the USA is the major market for indoor navigation and positioning apps and accounting for a 40% share in the global market.

If you are one of those who have been wondering what exactly Indoor positioning applications are then you have landed at the right place.

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WHAT EXACTLY IS INDOOR NAVIGATION APPLICATIONS?

If we put the things in simple words to explain indoor positioning apps, then these apps work like a GPS system and in the same way, as an outdoor navigation system works but with the indoor settings. The indoor navigation apps are useful in locating people, objects, shops inside the building by simply using the mobile device. Unlike outdoor GPS systems, indoor positioning apps are leveraging advanced features which ultimately make this app a popular choice in various domains such as hospitals, airports, shopping malls, or other buildings where navigation and location-based services are required for easy access.

ARE THESE INDOOR NAVIGATION APPS BENEFICIAL FOR BUSINESSES?

Yes, businesses can put this service for good use and add great convenience to the users. The simple idea behind launching this app is to benefit both visitors and facility owners and allow them to locate things inside the large buildings, where GPS signals don’t work.

In the field of GPS navigation applications, Path Guide is one of the leading indoor positioning and navigation apps. If you are already impressed with its design and functionality and wanted to create an indoor navigation app like Path Guide, then you need to understand that these are based on Augmented Reality technology to create detailed indoor maps. The major functionality of these navigation maps is positioning, navigating, and sending notifications. Let’s dig deep in details to understand its every purpose:

Positioning: It helps in finding the exact position of any place inside the large building whether it be a shopping complex, hospital, camp, or any person standing in the parking.

Navigation: This helps in finding the shortest possible ways to help users reach their final destination in a quick time frame without any hassle.

Push Notification: It notifies users about the locations or places by simply sending notification on the user’s mobile.

Apart from these functionalities, indoor navigation apps can offer a plethora of benefits to the businesses including:

Data Gathering of Visitor: For any business, user data is important. And, AI integrated indoor navigation apps can help them in collecting visitor’s data and keep track of the number of visits, time spent in a particular place, and how often they visit their favorite places.

Send Notifications: By utilizing and analyzing the visitor’s history, businesses can generate trigger-based events and send a notification to those visitors who often visit that particular place. The app can flag up discounts or pop up a notification when visitors head towards any particular place or passing through those stores.

WHY DO VISITORS LIKE INDOOR NAVIGATION APP?

Of course, these indoor navigation apps are useful for the businesses but now it is time to see how beneficial it is for the users or visitors.

1. Easy Search: Since indoor navigation, apps are integrated with Augmented reality and inbuilt maps, therefore, users can use maps in real-time for easy navigation without bothering any hassle of GPS satellite signals.

2. Simple Processing: The indoor navigation apps usually use voice search commands, therefore finding ways through this app can be highly simple and easier for the users.

3. Shortest Routes: The biggest benefit of using this app is, it evaluates the map and help users to find the simplest, shortest, and fastest routes for any place located inside in the building.

Now, many businesses are in a dilemma: how do indoor navigation applications work? Let’s understand it in a simple language.

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HOW DO INDOOR NAVIGATION APPS WORK?

The indoor positioning systems usually leverage the internal sensors of the smartphone to calculate the indoor positioning of the device by simply using complex mathematical algorithms. It then combines the incoming data coming from the sensors in an astute manner to calculate the accurate position of the device and avoid any latency. To deliver the accurate positioning result and smooth user experience, the indoor positioning system platform relies on three major elements as mentioned below:

  • Underlying dynamic positioning system platform
  • Beacons broadcasting signals received from the smartphone
  • Serving signals to the positioning system

All these three elements help in combining in collecting data from various resources and calculate the exact position of the user. So basically for the smooth functioning of the indoor positioning app, it requires a unique set of features as discussed further in the next point.

WHAT ARE THE MUST-HAVE FEATURES TO DEVELOP AN INDOOR NAVIGATION APP?

As the indoor navigation apps like Path Guide are processing with complex functioning therefore it requires a detailed set of features. However, since every business has different needs and requires different levels of apps to meet their requirements, therefore we have divided features into two major segments – Basic and Advanced Features.

BASIC FEATURES OF THE INDOOR NAVIGATION APP

  • Positioning: By using the different positioning systems and mathematical algorithms, positioning features helps in locating the exact location of the user in real-time.
  • Mapping: This feature of the app shows the easiest possible routes to the users. Mapping feature in the app also provides analytics of the number of visitors present in the building at the time.
  • Administrative Capabilities: It help managers to maintain the beacons and allow them to set up promotional campaigns for the businesses.
  • Navigation: It is an important feature in the app as it guides users the shortest and fastest route to the users with high-end accuracy.
  • Analytics: It is an integral feature of this app as it provides information on the number of visitors inside the building whether it be a mall, hotel, hospital, or a shopping complex. You can hire  app developer in India to customize the feature according to your business needs and avoid hassles.
  • Push Notifications: The app sends a push notification to the users to guide them to the exact location of the destination.

ADVANCED FEATURES OF THE INDOOR

  • Voice Command: This feature adds great convenience and comfort to access this app. By using the voice command, users can find the exact destination of any particular place inside the large buildings.
  • 3D Map Visualization: For 3D Map Visualization, it is important to use augmented reality technology that allows users to view the map with 3D effects.
  • App Login Using Social Media Accounts: Make the sign-in procedure simpler and easier for the users by allowing them to log in to the app using social media accounts or email IDs.
  • Custom Design: Indoor navigation apps are customized as per the inside structure of the building and places located in the building. However, for the accurate processing and functionality of the app, you can hire a mobile app development company to customize the design as per the interior of the building.

In the Nutshell: The average cost to develop an indoor navigation app with basic features can be starting from $10,000 to $50,000. However, the development cost of the indoor navigation app with an advanced level of features can be starting from $20,000 and can go to any expensive price.

Rest the cost of the indoor navigation app development is affected by various factors including the complexity of the app, functionality, cost of the development development, technology, and so on. Hence, we have given a rough estimation of the indoor navigation app developed with the basic feature set.

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WHAT ARE THE MAJOR FACTORS AFFECTING THE DEVELOPMENT COST OF THE INDOOR NAVIGATION APP?

Answering this question has never been an easy and straightforward task for the developers. The development cost of any app is depending on multiple factors including functionality, features, app design, app size, app platform, and the team of developers you choose to hire for the app development. Since every project has different requirements and needs different skills to meet the needs, therefore there is no online calculator that can reveal the exact costing of the indoor navigation app.

Let’s get into the details and understand each parameter contribution to the app development cost:

App Platform: The cost of the app development is depending upon the choice of platform on which you want to launch your app. If you are a startup and running short of the budget, then it is better to go with one platform that is Android/iOS Native apps and once you get successful with the one platform, then it’s good to move to another platform. However, if you are an enterprise, then you can choose to go for cross-platform apps to target both platforms Android and iOS with a single app.

UX/UI Design: To lure the user to your app, make sure your app is attractive and well-designed with all the necessary features. Hiring the Android app development company for the app designing may cost you a bit more, but with the best design practices, you can attract a large number of customers and can save on other things.

App Size and Complexity: The cost to hire an app development company is depending upon what functionalities you need to include and what level of complexity you need for the app. To develop an app like Google Indoor Maps, you need to hire an app developer in India that can customize the app with the latest features and can attract new users.

App Development Team: The cost of the app development is depending on the developer’s location, expertise, experience, and skill level. Developing an app like Google Indoor Maps in India is comparatively cheaper.

If you choose to hire iOS app development company, then you basically need these below mentioned members in your team:

  • Project Manager
  • UX/UI Designer
  • Android App Developer
  • iOS App developer
  • Backend Developer
  • Quality Assurance Engineers

The App Development services in India are generally starting from $18 to $30 per hour depending upon the skills and expertise of the developers. Rest the costing of the app development can vary greatly according to the technologies and methodologies you choose to integrate into the application.

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,

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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.