How do Google Maps work? | Analytics Steps (2023)

There was a time, not too long ago, when looking at a map meant unfolding a large piece of paper and reading the tiny letting and trying to figure out where you were and how you could get to where you wanted to go.

Sometimes the motel marked on the map would have closed two years ago. Sometimes the road ahead might have been blocked for construction and you would have had to double back. And good luck trying to look at the stars at night and figure out where the hell north was supposed to be.

But then years ago, things changed. Google Maps came around, and paper maps have now become practically non-existent.

Just how does this miraculous world-covering map work? How does it gather, organize, and make available this astounding amount of geographical data? To put it simply, it’s a combination of data collected and processed by satellites, government agencies, Google employees, and well, you.

History of Google Maps

The mapping platform that is Google Maps had relatively humble beginnings. In 2004, Google acquired a small Sydney-based company, Where 2 Technologies, and their idea for a web-based mapping software. Along with this Google also acquired a geospatial data visualization company, Keyhole, a real-time traffic analysis company, ZipDash.

With integrations from these additional acquisitions, Google first released Google Maps in February 2005. Google Earth was also launched the same year, providing 3D views of the planet.

Two years later in 2006, real-time traffic updates, Google Street View, and the first Google Maps mobile app was introduced. Turn-by-turn navigation first debuted in 2009. About five years later business listings, ratings, and reviews were introduced.

In 2015 offline maps were introduced, and in 2019, Live view was introduced, which used Augmented Reality to assist navigation and exploration. Very recently Indoor Live view was also added, for navigating indoors in certain places in the US, including malls and airports. Now in 2021, Google Maps keeps rolling out updates and adding new features.

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Features of Google Maps

Google Maps lets you find the nearest coffee shop or hospital, but also lets you explore the solar system when you have the time. Here’s a list of the most prominent and useful features offered by Google Maps-

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  • Navigation

Google’s Route Planner shows you all the possible routes from point A to point B, and shows you the fastest one and how long it would take you to get where you're going, depending on the means of transport you're using. With turn-by-turn voice navigation, you can have a polite voice directing you the whole way, telling you to “Turn right in 10 meters.”

  • Real-time traffic updates

Getting stuck in traffic is a horrible experience. That’s just a universal truth. Google Maps helps you to avoid that hell-hole of automobiles letting you know which routes have the most traffic and which routes have the lightest traffic.

  • Street View

Google Street View tries to offer you an experience that emulates being at a place as close as they can. Google Maps offers 360-degree panoramic photographs at the street level at various locations all around the world.

  • Business Listings

Being listed on Google Maps with accurate information is now a crucial factor for any company with a brick-and-mortar location. The free advertising is amazing. And users get to find what they want along with the directions to it.

Users can add reviews and photographs to the listing. But one of the most beneficial features is that people can see what time a place opens and closes, and even what time and day is the busiest at that place.

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  • Globe View

If you open Google Maps on your computer and go to Globe View, you can see the Earth as a satellite would. You can spin it and zoom into places, and even look at other planets in the solar system.

You’ll see the Earth mapped as it really is because a 2D map can never be accurate in larger views. The feature isn’t available on the smartphone app, but globe view and more can be accessed through the separate Google Earth app.

How Does Google Maps Work?

Google Maps work because of what Google does best. Data collection. The working of maps is based on the simple principle of collecting an exhaustive amount of data and then processing and presenting it to the world.

The secret to building such an extensive and accurate database of location information is that Google doesn’t do it all by itself. From government agencies to end users, Google Maps uses the data collected from a massive amount of sources to keep the system up to date.

How do Google Maps work? | Analytics Steps (1)

(Video) How Does Google Maps Work?

Different components that contribute to the working of Google Maps

  • Base Map Partner Program

Google Maps collaborates with other organizations to get data on places of interest, new roads, aerial imagery, transit routes and schedules and fares, etc.

Partners include thousands of various governmental and non-governmental organizations around the world like the US Geological Survey, the National Institute of Statistics and Geography (INEGI) in Mexico, city and town councils, and so on.

The problem with using third-party sources is that governmental restrictions and policy changes can have an adverse impact on map quality. Problems also arise when marking borders for disputed territories.

  • Satellites

Google Earth and Google Maps use satellites to capture views from above. Satellite views are also used for verifying data collected from other sources, making sure they were not incorrectly reported or out-of-date.

Satellites capture street markers, building locations, spacing, etc. Apart from letting you see the top-down view of your house when you select satellite view, this imagery can be overlaid on base maps to show building shapes in the normal 2D map view.

  • Crowdsourcing

Crowdsourcing for mapping is especially important in developing countries, or countries with government restrictions, where Google may not be able to directly obtain accurate data.

Earlier, Google Maps had a feature that let users make edits to maps, but that feature was withdrawn from the main mapping platform after reports of vandalism. The Local Guides community helps in adding additional information to maps, but not indirectly editing maps.

Business Listings are usually generated from sources. But to avoid duplicate entries, merging of entries, and inaccurate information, businesses are encouraged to make use of the Google My Business tool, to register their business and provide up-to-date information. Large Businesses in the US even include indoor directional information.

User contributions provide additional details to businesses like reviews, photos, and opening and closing times. Google data shows that users submit more than 20 million contributions each day.

User-generated error reports are also integral for finding out errors that cannot be identified without human assistance.

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  • Street View Vehicles

360-degree images for Street View comes from both Google’s very own street view vehicles, as well as from user contributions.

Google’s fleet of vehicles includes cars, and even snowmobiles and three-wheelers, and also a push-cart style camera system called the Trolley, and a wearable backpack called Trekker.

Custom setups like underwater cameras are used for special circumstances. For their first underwater expedition, Google captured the Great Barrier Reef.

Data from street view vehicles are also used to verify and correct the existing data from other sources. Street signs captured here, and processed through technologies like OCR, can even be used to correct business listings with accurate addresses.

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It has been estimated that there are more than 250 Street View cars currently on the streets around the world.

Google focuses mostly on the US, then Europe, and then other popular tourist destinations for its mapping tours. That means that developing countries have sparse street view coverage, most of that provided by users.

How do Google Maps work? | Analytics Steps (2)

A Map with blue areas showing where Street View is available. (Source: Google)

  • Location Data From Users

If you use Google Maps and keep on the location services on your phone, whether you know it or not, you're contributing your data to Google Maps.

Back in the day, Google used data from traffic cams and such to estimate traffic conditions, but now a much more effective system is in place. Google receives the location and speed of movement of every smartphone that uses Google Maps, and data is collected from a number of such phones on the road.

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This real-time data, combined with historical data about the usual traffic at a place, can be used to predict the traffic density of a place with fairly good accuracy.

This is how you get your real-time traffic updates. This user data is also used to determine the times of day when businesses are most crowded.

  • Data Processing

Satellites, Street View vehicles, and user contributions bring in a massive amount of data, which can be automatically processed and incorporated into Google Maps, to an extent.

Processing images with AI are important to maintaining such a large collection of data. Machine Learning models are used to automate the map-making process- refining building outlines in satellite images, reading street signs from Street View data, and so on.

The algorithms required to keep the machinery running are top-secret, but they organize the data, look for errors, and combine data from different sources to form a comprehensive picture.

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But there is only so much that can be automated. Human employees at Google review error reports submitted by users, verify content and make the necessary adjustments.

Mapping the Whole World

Google Maps seems committed to a vision of mapping out the entirety of the earth. It’s improving its techniques and finding new ways to accurately fit all the missing pieces to form a comprehensive picture.

If you look at the numbers, they're mind-boggling. As of 2019, satellite imagery from Google Earth has mapped out 98% of the world where the human population resides- which is 36 million square miles of satellite imagery.

And Google Street View vehicles have captured 10 million miles of imagery. Most of us can’t even process how much that is. To put it into perspective, 10 million miles is more than the distance covered if you were to circle the Earth 400 times.

Google Maps is making great strides. A map covering 100 percent of the world, and also lets you see every detail of it in all its three-dimensional glory, is set to soon be a reality.

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FAQs

How do you use Google Maps step by step? ›

Start or stop navigation
  1. On your Android phone or tablet, open the Google Maps app .
  2. Search for a place or tap it on the map.
  3. At the bottom left, tap Directions. ...
  4. Choose your mode of transportation.
  5. If other routes are available, they'll show in gray on the map. ...
  6. To start navigation, tap Start.

How does a Google map work? ›

Google Earth and Google Maps use satellites to capture views from above. Satellite views are also used for verifying data collected from other sources, making sure they were not incorrectly reported or out-of-date. Satellites capture street markers, building locations, spacing, etc.

What type of analytics does Google Maps use? ›

Real-time data analytics for accurate travel details

The search giant collects data from satellite imagery, cameras at traffic signals, GPS on mobile phones and many other real-time data sources. The collected data is fed into real-time data analysing tools that turn it into accurate information for their users.

How does Google Maps get their data? ›

For an area with few authoritative data sources to reference, we use satellite and street-level imagery and machine learning to identify roads or businesses and add the information to our maps data.

How does Google Maps create a route? ›

To create a route in Google Maps, open "Your places" and then choose "Create Map" in the "Maps" tab. To draw a route, click "Add directions," choose transportation mode, and enter start and end points. You can draw lines and shapes on maps by clicking "Draw a line" and selecting "Add line or shape."

How do I measure on Google Maps? ›

Measure distance between points
  1. On your Android phone or tablet, open the Google Maps app .
  2. Touch and hold anywhere on the map that isn't a place's name or icon. ...
  3. Select Measure distance .
  4. Move the map so that the black circle is on the next point you want to add.
  5. At the bottom right, tap Add point .

What algorithm is used in Google Maps? ›

Which algorithm do they use? Google Maps essentially uses two Graph algorithms – Dijkstra's algorithm and A* algorithm, to calculate the shortest distance from point A ( Source) to point B ( destination). A graph data structure is essentially a collection of nodes that are defined by edges and vertices.

How does Google Maps work so fast? ›

GPS data from individual phones is now used by Google Maps to estimate movement and speed of traffic in real time. This data informs Google's travel time estimates by reducing the average speeds in its calculations during periods of high traffic, or increasing the average speed when conditions are clear.

How Google map works and what is GPS tracking? ›

Google Maps primarily uses a combination of GPS, Wi-Fi and cell towers to track your location. GPS: Using satellites, Google Maps knows location up to around 20 meters. Wi-Fi: The position of nearby Wi-Fi networks helps Maps interpret the location of a user.

How does Google analytic work? ›

How does Google Analytics work? Google Analytics acquires user data from each website visitor through the use of page tags. A JavaScript page tag is inserted into the code of each page. This tag runs in the web browser of each visitor, collecting data and sending it to one of Google's data collection servers.

What are the 4 main reports in Google Analytics? ›

While you can use the data from Google Analytics in myriad ways, the four most helpful reports for your content marketing cover traffic, navigation summary, traffic from organic search, and conversions.

What are the 4 types of map data? ›

According to the ICSM (Intergovernmental Committee on Surveying and Mapping), there are five different types of maps: General Reference, Topographical, Thematic, Navigation Charts and Cadastral Maps and Plans.

How does Google Map detect real-time traffic? ›

To predict what traffic will look like in the near future, Google Maps analyzes historical traffic patterns for roads over time. The software then combines this database of historical traffic patterns with live traffic conditions, using machine learning to generate predictions based on both sets of data.

What is route planning process? ›

What is route planning? Route planning is the process of computing the most cost-effective route involving maximum number of stops with minimum time taken for delivery of products. Businesses use real time route planning software to determine the best route to execute deliveries.

How a route is selected? ›

Route selection has two major dimensions: Construction. Involves activities related to the setting of transport networks such as road and rail construction where a physical path has to be traced. Among the basic considerations are factors such as distance and topography.

How does GPS route planning work? ›

GPS route planning is the process of finding the most efficient route for traveling from a starting point to a single destination or multiple destinations. However, planning routes for multiple stops isn't easy, and using pen and paper or adopting a free route planner cannot guarantee either accuracy or efficiency.

How do u calculate distance? ›

The formula of distance is Distance = Speed x Time.

How do you determine size and distance on a map? ›

Find the scale for the map you're going to use. They are typically located in one of the corners of the map. It might be pictorial—a ruler bar scale, or a written scale—in words or numbers. If the scale is a verbal statement (i.e. "1 inch equals 1 mile"), determine the distance by simply measuring it with a ruler.

How does Google Maps use machine learning? ›

How Machine Learning works in Google Maps? Imagery and authoritative data are static and can't keep up with the ever-changing world around us. Machine Learning algorithms can analyze existing images and data and identify changes in the new data. Thus, the maps are updated with only the recent changes.

How does Google Maps calculate the best route? ›

Google scores the possible roads taking into account factors like real-time traffic conditions, the distance of the route, to find the quickest way. Finally, Google Maps will provide the shortest route and give some alternatives varying on distance or time taken.

Which 3 Ways data map can be used? ›

Data mapping is the key to data management
  • Data migration. Data migration is the process of moving data from one system to another as a one-time event. ...
  • Data integration. Data integration is an ongoing process of regularly moving data from one system to another. ...
  • Data transformation.

Can Google Maps predict traffic? ›

Check traffic now & later

At the bottom, tap Directions. At the bottom, tap the white bar to display: The current traffic on your route. Typical traffic by the hour and any slowdowns on the way.

How fast does Google Maps use data? ›

Does Google Maps use a lot of data? The good news is Google Maps actually uses significantly less mobile data than some of the other apps you probably open every day. It's estimated that Google Maps eats up about 3 – 5 MB of data per hour of use.

What speed is Google Maps based on? ›

Google Maps is based on the speed limit. Google stores information about posted speed limits and uses it to estimate the total trip time and ETA. Google also uses the GPS on your smartphone to estimate what speed your vehicle is currently traveling at and correct the times accordingly.

Does Google Maps use GPS or data? ›

The application uses an Internet connection to a GPS navigation system to provide turn-by-turn voice-guided instructions on how to arrive at a given destination. The application requires connection to Internet data (e.g. 3G, 4G, 5G, WiFi, etc.) and normally uses a GPS satellite connection to determine its location.

How does GPS collect location data? ›

Step 1: Connect the GPS unit to your computer using the proper cables. Step 2: Run the download program by using the properly installed plugin. Step 3: Download your waypoints to a file and display them in a new layer. Step 4: Examine your points along with some area background data displayed from the internet.

How does GPS collect data? ›

A GPS receiver determines its own location by measuring the time it takes for a signal to arrive at its location from at least four satellites. Because radio waves travel at a constant speed, the receiver can use the time measurements to calculate its distance from each satellite.

What are the 5 steps of the analytic approach? ›

  • Step One: Ask The Right Questions. So you're ready to get started. ...
  • Step Two: Data Collection. This brings us to the next step: data collection. ...
  • Step Three: Data Cleaning. You've collected and combined data from multiple sources. ...
  • Step Four: Analyzing The Data. ...
  • Step Five: Interpreting The Results.
16 Mar 2020

What are the 4 steps of data analytics? ›

That's why it's important to understand the four levels of analytics: descriptive, diagnostic, predictive and prescriptive.
  • Descriptive analytics.
  • Diagnostic analytics.
  • Predictive analytics.
  • Prescriptive analytics.

What are the 5 types of data analytics? ›

Four main types of data analytics
  • Predictive data analytics. Predictive analytics may be the most commonly used category of data analytics. ...
  • Prescriptive data analytics. ...
  • Diagnostic data analytics. ...
  • Descriptive data analytics.

What are the 3 major phases of data analytics? ›

These steps and many others fall into three stages of the data analysis process: evaluate, clean, and summarize.

What are 6 types of analytics? ›

Data analysis can be separated and organized into six types, arranged in an increasing order of complexity.
  • Descriptive analysis.
  • Exploratory analysis.
  • Inferential analysis.
  • Predictive analysis.
  • Causal analysis.
  • Mechanistic analysis.
25 Oct 2022

What are the 4 key components of a map? ›

Terms in this set (4)
  • Title. tells you what the map is about.
  • Map Key/Legend. explains the lines symbols, and colors used on a map.
  • Scale Bar. a measuring line that help you find distance on the map.
  • Compass Rose. tells you where the north, south, east, and west are on a map.

What are the 7 different types of maps? ›

In school, we learn about several types of maps, including political maps, physical maps, topographical maps, topological maps, nautical maps, thematic maps and road maps. A political map can show countries, country boundaries, cities, seas and oceans. They usually don't show physical features.

How often is Google Maps traffic updated? ›

Google Maps makes small updates every day, but Street View and other real-life maps might only update every few years. Some Google Maps features, like traffic and directions, can update in real-time. How often Google Maps updates in your city depends on how many people live near you.

How does Google Maps track live popular times? ›

To determine popular times, wait times, and visit duration, Google uses aggregated and anonymized data from users who have opted in to Google Location History. Popular times, wait times, and visit duration are shown for your business if it gets enough visits from these users.

Is Google Maps real-time accurate? ›

GPS: Maps uses satellites to know your location up to around 20 meters. When you're inside buildings or underground, the GPS is sometimes inaccurate. Wi-Fi: The location of nearby Wi-Fi networks helps Maps know where you are. Cell tower: Your connection to mobile data can be accurate up to a few thousand meters.

Is Google tracking my every move? ›

Google Location History, introduced in 2009, logs users' locations through their smartphones. Location History was designed to be helpful, and Google is able to provide a better service to its users because of it, the tech company says.

How is map data stored? ›

Maps are stored as graphs, or two dimensional arrays of objects with attributes of location and category, where some common categories include parks, roads, cities, and the like. A map database represents a road network along with associated features.

Does Google Maps collect user data? ›

We only collect the navigation data we need to provide the best Maps experience for everyone—after processing, it's deleted. We don't associate updates to the map with your Google Account or device.

How do I map on my phone? ›

In Android, go to Settings > Location and enable it.
...
The guides in this section deal with carrying out a survey using either a;
  1. GPS which will probably be more accurate than your mobile phone,
  2. Field Papers, a method of taking a printed map you can write on, then upload & trace from, or.
  3. Your mobile phone.

How do I use my map on my phone? ›

If you've created a My Map, you can view it in the Google Maps app on your phone or tablet.
  1. Sign in and open the Google Maps app .
  2. Tap Saved. . At the bottom, tap Maps.

What are the 4 steps of reading a map? ›

There are four key elements to reading a map:
  1. Choosing the right map.
  2. Understanding map symbols.
  3. Relating the map to the land.
  4. Orientating your map.
21 Jun 2022

What are the 7 key elements of a map? ›

Map Elements. Most maps contain the same common elements: main body, legend, title, scale and orientation indicators, inset map, and source notes. Not all are necessary or appropriate for every map, but all appear frequently enough that they're worth covering.

What are the 4 main types of maps? ›

Types of Maps
  • General Reference (sometimes called planimetric maps)
  • Topographic Maps.
  • Thematic.
  • Navigation Charts.
  • Cadastral Maps and Plans.

What are the 7 types of maps? ›

Some of the different types of maps are:
  • Physical Maps.
  • Topographic Maps.
  • Political Maps.
  • Weather Maps.
  • Economic Maps.
  • Resource Maps.
  • Population Maps.
  • World Maps.
6 Oct 2021

What are the 3 types of maps? ›

According to the ICSM (Intergovernmental Committee on Surveying and Mapping), there are five different types of maps: General Reference, Topographical, Thematic, Navigation Charts and Cadastral Maps and Plans.

What does a GREY dotted line on Google Maps mean? ›

It means it doesn't know how to get there exactly, just approximately. The gray dotted line is for you to figure out the rest of the path on your own. Happens frequently when a parking lot or some other campus is huge and Google knows where the actual building is but not how to get to it.

How do I track someone on Google Maps without them knowing? ›

Since it's no longer possible to track someone using Google Maps without their knowledge, it might interest you to know that there are other ways you can still do that anonymously. Spy apps can help you track someone without their knowledge, but unlike using Google Maps, you might need a paid subscription.

What do the GREY dots mean on Google Maps? ›

Gray dots on the map are devices that are currently "offline" - not on any network and/or powered down. You can still change options for them under All Devices > that device, just that they won't be implemented until the device turns on and/or comes online.

What is the difference between Google Maps and Google My Maps? ›

Google Maps vs. Google My Maps. Google Maps is Google's map function, which allows you to search for destinations and navigate between two points. My Maps allows you to use that same technology to add many destinations and navigate between all of them.

Can Google Maps see live? ›

Google Maps offers two views for walking navigation: the 2D map and Live View. With Live View, you get directions placed in the real world and on a mini map at the bottom of your screen. You can use Live View navigation during the walking portion of any type of trip.

What does recently viewed mean on Google Maps? ›

The recent places feature in Android Auto saves you time when you look for places you've been to recently. You'll also see suggestions based on your past searches on Google Maps. To see recent places in Android Auto, follow these steps: Tap the app launcher. Google Maps.

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