The Google Maps API, Google EarthPro, and Google Earth Enterprise have revolutionized the adoption and use of maps within the enterprise. Google added a fourth com- ponent to its suite of enterprise map offerings for business last fall now called Google Maps Engine (GME, formerly Google Earth Builder). GME is a cloud-based geospatial data management solution for imagery (satellite and aerial, called raster files) and computerized map files with lines (called vector files, in the lingo of geospatial technologies).
The ability to leverage geospatial data investments has a lot to do with the ability to easily share that data with others within the organization. That, in turn, has a lot to do with how and where that data is stored. Storage and sharing of imagery data in particular has been a long-standing chal- lenge for many organizations that are large consumers of imagery data — such as governments, oil and gas compa- nies, and research institutions. Much of this data is stored manually in filing cabinets and on bookshelves, and when needed is again searched for manually, unless an organization has invested in an appropriate data management system.
While other geospatial data management systems are available that offer a variety of functionalities tied into workflows, such as DataDoors, GME is designed for businesses to work seamlessly with the Googlemapping suite of products. GME “provides enterprise organizations with the tools they need to bring mapping into their day-to-day decision-making process,” says Dylan Lorimer, GME’s product manager. Google, he explains, wants to make it easy for organizations to build maps. “The mission of GME is to make the innovation we have built into our consumer products available to businesses.” For businesses looking for a basic geospatial data storage and publishing solution, GME offers an interesting option.
GME for Pseudo Dummies: Technical Details of GME
- Creating maps in GME only requires a standard Web browser.
- The platform can create maps compatible in 2D with Google Maps and in 3D with Google Earth.
- Users upload the files via a catalog interface, which allows them to enter layer names, attribution, tags, source, and other metadata.
- Users can upload raw satellite imagery and perform masking, edge matching, some color balancing, and “feathering” of the tiles in order to create a seamless image map.
- Users can create and manipulate map layers and style them dynamically to create thematic maps (however, not heat maps).
- GME allows users to publish their data in three ways: directly to a Google Earth client, through Web Map Services (WMS), and in Google Earth and Google Maps API for developers to access.
- To help ensure the quality of the data uploaded, the data catalog is access- controlled; Google then performs some limited quality control.
- GME users can receive standard or premium support through the Google Enterprise program; they also have access to online documentation, contextual help, code snippets and examples, a user group, and two yearly user conferences.
How GME Works
Like a company that buys a building much larger than it needs for its own operations and then leases some of this space, Google is licensing the mapping infrastructure that it developed internally to deliver its most popular consumer products, Google Earth and Google Maps, together with the power of its massive server farms. GME is a cloud-based platform that enables private companies and government agencies to store, manage, and process their geospatial data on Google’s server farms and display it through Google Earth, Google Maps, and applications on Android phones.
It enables users to view maps from desktop and mobile platforms, share them with individuals and groups, and visually analyze geospatial data without requiring extensive training in geographic information systems (GIS). However some degree of tech- nical literacy is still required to use GME.
One of the data pipelines that is available at the push of a button, Lorimer explains, is massive image processing, whether of one image or thou- sands, gigabytes or petabytes. “As a user, you can get access to Google’s infrastructure of thousands of machines, with no set-up required. We will have customers that will have a tremendous amount of imagery. They will not need to provision any additional hard- ware; it will scale automati- cally.” However, it is not clear whether this will speed up image processing, compared to software and services that are already available.
For most users, GME will not replace a GIS any time soon, due to its limited ability to perform spatial analysis and geoprocessing. “Right now, we are not exposing any standard vector analytical operations beyond spatially constrained search,” says Lorimer. “We want to provide all the useful mechanisms you may need to access and make use of your data. The goal is to expose all of our infrastructure for enter- prise use.”
According to Google, GME supports...
The complete article is available in the Spring 2012 Digital issue of LBx Journal.