How Far Will Google Maps Go?
I have been playing around with google maps recently and been quite impressed. Note that I didn’t say that I have been ‘using’ google maps, either for work or for personal use, rather that I have been ‘playing’ with it. Much like a shiny new toy, google’s new map service has caught my eye and forced me to spend quite a bit of time looking via their satellite view at random places, like Area 51 and the White House.
Though as cool as the service is there are still some problems. It doesn’t always find an address which then forces me to use Map Quest or the like. And google doesn’t yet have high resolution shots of most of the country. But by and large these are problems that can, and will, be fixed in time. In fact, even if google took the beta tag off of its map service tomorrow it would still be a fairly robust and useable service for most customers. And that is what got me thinking, what will they come up with next? How could they make this service any better? What more could they stuff into this thing?
Well, here are a few ideas. What if google decided to take cartography to the next level, where would they start? Well, they could build in the ability to search a designated area for all Mexican restaurants, or only those clubs that are open at 3 a.m. and feature line dancing or how about all of the motels along your route that charge under $50 a night for a room? I think that might be kind of useful and I don’t think I am alone in that. Google has the best search technology around why not apply it to this product as well?
What else could they add in? How about updates on major road construction so as to help you get to your destination as fast as you can. Or, even better, the ability to view traffic cams inside of the map. That might make avoiding traffic jams a little easier.
Here is an interesting idea, imagine if they added another button in the map pane. Currently they have buttons for the standard map, a satellite view and a hybrid views. But why not add one more and call it the commercial view. When you click on that button you return to the standard map view only this time the map is populated with stores, parks, industries, apartments, restaurants and the like.
Wait, I hear you cry, that has been done before. Maybe not quite as pretty but what makes this any different, other than it looks a little smoother? Well, in true google style, the features don’t end there. Go back to that new commercial map view and hover your mouse over a store. When you do that a icon appears on the picture of the store. Clicking the icon will bring up a smaller window that displays the store’s name, address, phone number, hours of operation and a link to their website.
Anyone but me heard the rumors of google starting to get really interested in VOIP? Calling people via the internet is a very slick idea, one that Skype (recently aquired by eBay no less) has turned into a very viable business. So what if google decides to get some of that action? Assume for a second that they do get into the VOIP business and supposing that they release an application like Skype do you see how they could tie it into some of their other endeavors? How about giving you the option of calling people in your address book when you are in gmail? Or, how about calling businesses you might find in their newly revamped map utility?
Now it’s true that all of these ideas require a good deal of imagination and can be looked on as somewhat crazy. But try to keep in mind that you would have probably called me crazy 5 years ago if I had suggested that a company that just does internet searches would create a free, online map system that had beautiful satellite pictures that covered the entire United States, including Area 51. So while these ideas are a little far fetched, they aren’t that far out there.