Time Magazine: Google Maps Memory Lane

Quite a few articles are making the rounds this weekend about people finding their deceased loved ones on Google Maps. Here’s one from Time Magazine: Viral Story Is Leading People Down the Sweetest Google Maps Memory Lane. Similar stories are available on CNN and Buzzfeed.

I love these types of articles – finding unexpected uses of technology to connect closer with family and friends. What I think really sells this application of Google Maps is that these are pictures of people in the middle of their everyday lives – they’re not posed, or idealized.

Google Maps Routes Cars Into Mud…

Quite a few news outlets are reporting a mistake in Google Maps that led to cars being stuck on a muddy road.

Apparently, the highway to Denver International Airport was backed up so Google Maps suggested a detour route – unfortunately this detour route was a dirt road that became mud after earlier rainstorms. A number of cars were stuck in the deep mud and had to be pulled out. See the video at this CNN article:
https://www.cnn.com/2019/06/26/us/google-maps-detour-colorado-trnd/index.html .

This Time article is a nice summary:
https://time.com/5615813/google-maps-mud-detour/ .

Screenshot of Time article, linked above.

It’s fun to blame Maps for incidents such as this, but it underlines how important it is to review maps and confirm where the route takes you. It would have been easy to pop open Google Maps Satellite View and quickly thumb through the overhead view to see where the detour took you – if you see a poorly maintained road, or any other warning signs, it’s definitely a good idea to avoid.

Business Insider: Downloading Google Maps For Offline Use

This recent Business Insider article details how to download Google Maps information to your phone’s local storage, so you can use Maps even when offline or when your phone is unable to get a signal: https://www.businessinsider.com/how-to-use-google-maps-offline .

When I travel, I always have Google Maps save a map of the area I’m travelling to. It’s not always possible to have a working cell signal – in flat Illinois where I live, it’s easy to have cell signal all the time. When I travel to more mountainous regions such as Colorado, I often lose signal due to mountains and hills between me and the signal tower.

Fun With Google Maps – Solar Panel Edition

I love poking around Google Maps – there are so many unexpected things you can find that are obvious from a top-down view, but are so hard to see at a ground-level view.

I was looking at a Google Maps of the Epcot theme park in Disney World, Florida. Do you see any interesting shape in the screenshot below?

Map of Epcot, located in Disney World, Florida. Includes surroundings of Epcot.

There’s a hidden Mickey in the top left hand corner! The three black circles are arranged into the shape of Mickey Mouse’s head! See the screenshot below for detail:

Google Maps picture of solar panels forming the head of Mickey Mouse.

If you zoom in enough on Google Maps, you’ll notice that this is actually an array of solar panels, generating electricity to feed the Disney theme parks. Notice that there seems to be a dirt access road to the panels and a fence around the entire array. As I said before: this solar panel array would be difficult to see in person, much less the general shape of it; but with Google Maps, the difficult becomes so obvious!

Leveraging Google Maps To Comparison Shop Between Travel Sites

Need to book a hotel room, but you’re looking for a good deal? Google Maps has you covered. This post is if you already have a particular hotel picked out.

As an example, I’m going to pick the Contemporary Resort in Orlando, Florida. First, go to Google Maps and type in contemporary resort. Select the Contemporary located in Orlando, FL.

Using Google Maps to locate the Contemporary Resort, in Orlando Florida.

After searching, you’ll see a screen similar to the below:

Contemporary Resort hotel availability from Google Maps.

On the left hand side, there are advertisements (note the small Ad disclaimer in the middle of the screen) where Expedia and other trip planning sites offer deals for the hotel. You can comparison shop between providers – KAYAK is offering rooms for $492, but Expedia is offering for $488 (see purple arrow). The dates of the hotel stay can be changed as well, see the red arrow for the date pickers.

Keep your eye out for similar ads and deals in Google Maps – I frequently see travel deals being offered.

Google Maps Merging Waze Features

BGR Media reports that Google Maps is popping up alerts, asking for information on how crowded the train/subway is:
https://bgr.com/2019/04/17/google-maps-features-how-crowded-is-your-train-question-explained/ .

This is just the start of beefing up Maps’ ability to predict traffic levels – I expect Google will be collecting much more information about public transportation, and use that data to power its AI. In the future I could see Google Home offering route planning comparisons between an Uber or train: including informed predictions about how long each will take, how crowded the train will be, etc.

Google’s Next Money Maker: Maps

Ad Age, a magazine on marketing and media, recently ran a story about how Google’s next money maker will be its Maps service.

Ad Age article picture: shows a Google maps screen.

It’s a nice commentary about the business and consumer sides of Google Maps. On the personal/consumer side, Google is adding more advertisements when people search for an address – for example, asking if you want delivery via DoorDash if you search for a restaurant. There are also “promoted pins” which are map pins that appear showing an advertiser’s location, even if the advertiser isn’t relevant to the search. On the business side, Google recently increased the cost of using Google Maps embedded into a website/app/mobile app.

Read the article here:
https://adage.com/article/digital/google-flips-switch-its-next-big-money-maker-maps/2163976 .

I predict we’ll see more ads and more monetization of the Maps service. Google needs to diversify its revenue – most of it currently comes from ads – and Maps is a great source of data. It wouldn’t surprise me to see Google expanding the Google Local service, encouraging more business reviews from customers so they have more local data to display along with Maps.

Google Maps Help Screen

For those of you who need a little help with Google Maps, Google offers a screen with all the keyboard shortcuts available in Maps. Just open up Maps, click anywhere in the map area, then hold down the [Shift] and [?] keys – you’ll get the screen below:

Google Maps shortcut screen.
Google Maps shortcut screen.

Finding The Latitude & Longitude (GPS Location) Of A Spot Using Google Maps

If you need to find the GPS coordinates of a certain location, Google Maps makes it easy. First, find the location you want on Google Maps. I’ll use Epcot, Disney World as an example:

Epcot, Disney World
Google Maps view of Epcot
Google Maps view of Epcot.

Zoom in on the location you want, then right click and select the “What’s here?” option:

Using the what's here? option in Google Maps.
Using the what’s here? option in Google Maps.

A small gray pointer will appear on the map (I’ve marked it out with an orange arrow in the screenshot below). The GPS coordinates (lat, long) will appear in the little box at the bottom:

The location marker (see orange arrow) and the GPS coordinates will appear in the small bottom box.
The location marker (see orange arrow) and the GPS coordinates will appear in the small bottom box.

As you can see, the small box reads: Orlando / Florida 32836 / 28.375250, -81.549385 . The lat/long coordinates are in the bottom row: 28.375250, -81.549385.

The small box with the GPS coordinates.
The small box with the GPS coordinates.