Google held their Enterprise Cloud meeting in San Francisco in July. While there was plenty to hear from them regarding investment in the Google Cloud Platform (GCP), the announcements were not limited to the cloud. For me, as a “former” GIS practitioner and active participant and observer of the GIS and location services market, some of the most exciting announcements came from Google Maps.
Google Maps is without a doubt now a GIS platform. It has been identified as such by Google. The announcement is significant as Google has long been loath to call itself a GIS platform. That has changed. Some purists will also feel that it is not a real GIS platform, but it is the number one mapping platform in the world. It has mastered crowdsourcing and use cases alike. Definitions don’t matter, user intent and outcome is in place alongside capability.
What does this mean? It is a not unexpected development in the platform or the broader location industry. Google is a default consumer tool and the richness of the experience on the platform is not going to be missed particularly from a consumer engagement. It doesn’t mean that Google Maps is going to be a significant force from a traditional environmental GIS perspective, except to be a communications platform for example in natural disaster management. Use cases in government and education will be slower than commercial realms. Most importantly, it means that GIS and location analysis can be democratised. This is a natural and greatly appreciated outcome.
For incumbents – This is a threat to both legacy traditional providers such as ESRI and the burgeoning open source community. While they have worked together in the past, this will change the dynamic somewhat. Smaller vendors such as MapInfo that rely on the commercial sector are more at risk from the two platforms that surround it, e.g. ESRI and now GoogleMaps.
What use cases will suit it? The most obvious use cases remain the same for Google Maps. Route optimisation, gaming, demographic analysis, market optimisation all work. What is going to be an increasingly critical use case is that of IOT related outcomes, for example, asset tracking. It is an easily justifiable use case. You cannot do IOT without GIS.
What will Google need to change? Users are familiar with Google Maps. The cost of enterprise deployment can be a challenge, so this will need to be managed by Google and provides the opportunities. Increased training and certification, while flying in the face of democratisation in some respects is also going to be a pivotal outcome to build the ecosystem.
It is not a shock that Google Maps now considers itself a GIS platform. The evolution is no surprise. It will continue to be the default platform for consumer use cases, and as it continues investment, enterprise outcomes are going to be even more clearly defined. The progression is great. We need competition and revolution in the GIS ecosystem. If nothing else, this will be driven with further and more aggressive Google Maps growth.