Senior Product Manager, Google
Google has a history of bringing its consumer tools to the enterprise, says Dan Chu, Senior Product Manager, as he explains Google’s Maps for Business vision
From being essentially a consumer geospatial player, Google is getting into enterprise geospatial solutions segment. Why was this move necessitated?
Google has a long history of bringing consumer products to the enterprise to help people ‘work the way they live’. With Google Maps for Business, we have taken our easyto- use maps tools and bolstered them with the features and security that businesses and organisations need.
Today many people use Google Maps on their smartphones to get real-time location information. This is not only useful to consumers, but also has a lot of business applications. For instance, we have a product called Google Maps Coordinate which is designed for teams. A small business in Queensland called Architectural Windows and Doors is using this product. They install windows and doors in houses across the state and have a team that are often on the road on customer visits. They use Google Maps Coordinate on their smartphones to give the business real-time information about where everyone in the team is.
Many businesses want to be able to collect business information, visualise it on a map and share it across multiple devices because it can help them make better sense of their data. Putting information on a map can help companies boost efficiencies in logistics or enhance sales and marketing campaigns. For example, Madras Cements, one of the biggest manufacturers of cement in India, wanted to be able to identify patterns across their national network of suppliers and glean better insights from our reports. They now put all this information on Google Maps and the whole team can access these reports and insights online, using any devices.
Maps API is one of our longest standing products. It enables other developers to use all the information in Google Maps and put that into context for their users. Today, we have over one million active websites and domains using the Maps API. Another product is the Google Maps Engine, which not only uses Google’s geospatial data, but also gives people a way to host their geospatial data on Google’s cloud so they can create beautiful maps and access them from anywhere.
You mentioned Google Maps Engine. How is it different from Google Earth Builder which was launched earlier?
Google Maps Engine is just a rebranding of the Google Earth Builder. It was launched in early 2012 and focuses on making it easy for companies to host all their geospatial data into the cloud so they can access it from anywhere.
Today, we have a bunch of companies that are using Maps Engine and Maps API. For instance, Ergon Energy, a large power company that covers much of Queensland in Australia, is using Google Maps Engine. They collect a lot of imagery which is hosted in the Maps Engine. It helps them identify and predict when trees are growing too close to their power lines so that they can trim them back earlier and have fewer power outages.
Google is also transforming itself from a geospatial data provider into being a solution provider. How do you see these changes?
We are responding to what our users want. For example, Maps API enables developers (both application and website developers) to access the wealth of Google Maps data. They wanted us to host their geospatial data. We launched Maps Engine so they could do that.
We also had demands from people who are not familiar with Java script and Web services. They asked for tools that did not require a technical background of programming skills to use. This led to the idea of Google Maps Coordinate. The users can simply sign-in and be able to see where their teams are. So it is more about responding to requests and demands from our customers than any deliberation of becoming a solution provider.
Location has become ubiquitous now and plays a vital role in a variety of apps, for example restaurant or real estate apps. We want to continue to democratise access to geospatial data. This is reason why we launched Google Maps for consumers.
But we also realise there is enterprise value across a number of use cases. We see adoption across a bunch of different verticals like real estate, travel and tourism, oil and gas, utilities, mining, automotive. We are really hoping to extend our solutions to all these sectors. The application does not really matter. Helping businesses visualise their data on a map and make the most of geospatial technology is really the goal here.
What is the geospatial division’s revenue share in Google’s total business?
It is definitely growing but we do not calculate it separately. We are seeing a lot of demand from our customers and we are excited about that.
Google Maps Coordinate also gives real-time business information on smartphones to field workers
Which are the user verticals that Google’s geospatial enterprise solutions business is focusing?
We are seeing a lot of adoption within utilities and telecommunication companies. One great example is the Philippines-based Globe Telecom. It has adopted Google Maps Engine and is looking for additional products in our suite to identify service issues to respond to customer problems and outages faster. I think that is just one example of an industry where we are seeing a lot of promise. Some of the use cases in telecom are compelling and the business value that it can drive is pretty dramatic.
We want to make it even easier for small and medium businesses to access geospatial technology. For example, the Siam Commercial Bank in Thailand is using Maps API to show the locations of their ATMs. Customers can use their smartphones to find the nearest ATM. A bank may not be the kind of business that comes to your mind when you think of verticals that use geospatial technology, but this kind of information is really important to their customers.
Our enterprise strategy is very much aligned with our consumer strategy. We are focused on making great products for our users — be them consumers or businesses. So, our consumer investments continue to expand the coverage and accuracy of our mapping data, which is also hugely valuable to our enterprise customers. We continue to build scale in terms of the number of users we can support. We want to give the best of breed products to our developers so that they can build the most amazing geospatial solutions.
We are seeing a broad global adoption of these solutions. It really exciting to see a global interest in the Maps for Business suite of products.
Google has been quietly buying geospatial companies for some time now (eg Waze). What has been the strategy behind these acquisitions?
We are always looking for ways to enhance our products and give more benefits to our users. The strategy behind an acquisition like Waze is to look for technologies and companies that have really happy users and that would benefit Google Maps users. For Waze, it was the great integration benefits around some of the traffic information that we have already used to enhance the Google Maps app. Similarly, we have also integrated some of the Google Search technologies with Waze. Broadly speaking, we are always looking for new companies to partner with and businesses with skills that could improve our products and benefit users.
Why did Google sell Sketchup then?
One of the strategies for Google is to make sure that we are focused on big bets with high impact. Sketchup was a very successful product. It reached 30 million unique activations in the last year, but it was not really aligned with our core strategy. Trimble saw it as a key element in their company’s future and they wanted to invest in that product. It had a better alignment with Trimble’s strategy rather than Google’s. It was a better fit within Trimble’s suite of products.
What is your opinion about the Microsoft– Nokia deal, especially in the light of Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer saying that they are looking forward to generate an alternative to Google’s Digital Earth?
I cannot comment on the deal itself but Google always feels that competition is healthy for the ecosystem. It continues to push everyone to innovate faster and ultimately be beneficial for the end user and consumer.
With the rapid adoption of smartphones and tablets, location has become more important than ever.
As more location data is produced, everyone is realising the value of this information. Mapping technology is improving our lives and helping businesses realise untold efficiencies — this is what excited Google about this technology and why we will continue to invest in it.