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6/5/2013
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Google Launches Maps Engine API For Enterprises

New interface supports app creation on a variety of platforms -- the Web, mobile or desktop -- for assorted business purposes, such as store location and product tracking.

Google I/O: 10 Key Developments
Google I/O: 10 Key Developments
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Google is expanding the reach of its enterprise-oriented Maps Engine service with the launch of the Maps Engine API, which provides a mechanism for accessing and manipulating cloud-hosted geo-spatial data.

Maps Engine was known as Google Earth Builder until it was renamed last year, a change that showed Google favoring its browser-based Maps service over its desktop app Google Earth. The map service allows organizations to remake Google Maps with their own layers of data.

The Maps Engine API supports app creation on a variety of platforms -- the Web, mobile or desktop operating system -- for assorted business purposes, such as store locators, product tracking or asset management.

Previously, Google Earth Builder allowed enterprise customers to create and publish maps for use in Google Earth, in desktop GIS apps or in Google Maps using embedded JavaScript. The Maps Engine API offers much more power and flexibility.

[ Is Apple Maps finally up to snuff? Read Apple Maps Slowly Improving. ]

FedEx has been using the API to send queries to over 50,000 retail stores, while IRISmaps has integrated the Maps Engine API into its infrastructure mapping platform.

In a blog post, FedEx IT manager Pat Doyle says that Google Maps Engine has the advantage of global accuracy and consistency. "Central to the cloud-based offering, we can rely on Google's core infrastructure to host our always-changing and growing database of store information," he said. "By hosting attributes, such as street addresses, opening hours, holiday schedules and local pick-up times on Maps Engine, we can update details for nearly 50,000 retail touchpoints in real-time and share this information [with] FedEx.com visitors within minutes."

"If you think about how we deliver [our customer experience promise] on the Web, our Store Locator is really at the forefront of how we connect, and create access to, FedEx for our customers," said Anthony Norris, VP of IT at fedex.com in a presentation at Google's Atmosphere conference in March.

Norris described what FedEx previously offered as an experience that was "extremely clunky." It was a jumble of text fields and checkboxes for search and worked only in the U.S. and Canada.

FexEx made something better using Google Maps Engine. "You can basically describe what you want, using the Google APIs, and it returns, using our data, exactly the location information that you're looking for," said Norris.

Norris said FedEx uses HTML5 and responsive design principles to deliver a map service that relies on a single codebase for multiple device form factors.

Google Maps Engine has a 99.9% uptime service level agreement, but a number of API features are not covered because they're still considered experimental.

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