Category Archives: Google LatLong Blog

News and notes by the Google Earth and Maps team

3 easy ways to maximize the new Saved tab in Google Maps

The Saved tab in Google Maps lets you save and manage all the places you’re interested in, from must-try restaurants nearby to far-flung places for the bucket list. And it’s a popular feature too. Worldwide, people have saved more than 7 billion places on Google Maps. Even during a time when people may not be travelling as much, we’re seeing people still use the Saved tab as they shift the types of places they’re saving to Google Maps.

What kind of places are people saving? To give you a sense, here’s a selection of the all-time most popular places and recent rising categories:

All time top saved places in Google Maps
Rising categories of saved places in Google Maps

Today, we’re starting to rollout updates to the Saved tab that will make it even easier for you to find and remember the places that matter most to you. Here are three tips for the new Saved tab:

1. Remember your most recently saved places

When you’ve saved a place a friend or colleague recommended and a few days or weeks have passed, it can be hard to remember what the name of the place was or what list you even saved it to. Now, your recently saved places are organized at the top of the Saved tab so you can quickly find the place you’re looking for.


Recently saved places in Google Maps.png

Easily remember the places you recently saved in Google Maps

2. Know when you’re close to a place you’ve saved before

When you have a lot of saved places in your current area, it can be challenging to quickly figure out which is which and where to go. When location permission is enabled, you can see all your nearby saved places sorted by distance and arranged in a carousel for easy browsing to make your next decision a breeze.


Nearby Saved places

Discover when you’re close to a place you’ve saved

3. Remember where you’ve been 

If you’ve chosen to turn on your Location History setting, you can use your Timeline to remember the places you’ve been and routes you’ve taken. You can see how far you’ve biked, walked and ran over the past few days. You can also easily find that amazing hole in the wall restaurant you visited during one of your past vacations, or that cute boutique you popped into a few weeks ago. All of these insights are now organized by time, city, region or country.


Visited places in the Saved Tab

See your Timeline of the places you’ve been and routes you’ve taken

Source: Google LatLong


Get around safely with these new Google Maps features

Getting from A to B can be more complicated these days. Because of COVID-19, it’s increasingly important to know how crowded a train station might be at a particular time or whether the bus is running on a limited schedule. Having this information before and during your trip is critical for both essential workers who need to safely navigate to work and will become more important for everyone as countries around the world begin to reopen. 

In our latest release of Google Maps on Android and iOS, we’re introducing features to help you easily find important information if you need to venture out, whether it’s by car or public transportation. 

Get alerts about important information 

When you look up public transit directions for a trip that is likely to be affected by COVID-19 restrictions, we’ll show relevant alerts from local transit agencies. These alerts can help you prepare accordingly if government mandates impact transit services or require you to wear a mask on public transportation. Transit alerts are rolling out in Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Colombia, France, India, Mexico, Netherlands, Spain, Thailand, United Kingdom and the U.S. where we have information from local transit agencies, with more coming soon. 

We’re also introducing driving alerts to notify you about COVID-19 checkpoints and restrictions along your route, like when crossing national borders (starting first in Canada, Mexico and the U.S.). You’ll see an alert on the directions screen and after starting navigation if your route is impacted by these restrictions. 

When navigating to medical facilities or COVID-19 testing centers, we’ll display an alert reminding you to verify eligibility and facility guidelines to avoid being turned away or causing additional strain on the local healthcare system. Starting this week, alerts for medical facilities will be available in Indonesia, Israel, the Philippines, South Korea, and the U.S., and testing center alerts will be available in the U.S.

We’re showing these alerts where we’ve received authoritative data from local, state and federal governments or from their websites, and are actively working with other agencies around the world to bring even more of this helpful data to users in Google Maps. Interested agencies can get in touch here for driving restrictions and here for transit alerts. 

Safely avoid crowds on public transit 

Last year, we introduced crowdedness predictions for public transit in Google Maps. Powered by tens of millions of contributions from past riders, these predictions help people see how crowded a particular bus line or train tends to be. We’re now making it simpler for people to contribute crowdedness information for their transit lines. Look up Directions, tap through to see the Transit Details, then scroll down to find crowdedness predictions (where available) and easily contribute your own experiences.

Additionally, in February, we announced new insights like temperature, accessibility and security onboard, as well as designated women’s sections in regions where transit systems have them. These insights are now rolled out globally, helping you find feedback from past riders when available and submit your own, right alongside public transit routes. To help wheelchair users around the world know before they go, we’ve added more granular accessibility information for people to find and contribute, including where there are wheelchair accessible doors, seating, stop buttons and more. 

crowdedness-10.43.gif

Find and contribute crowdedness information for transit lines. 

To ensure proper social distancing, commuters are paying attention to how crowded or comfortable their ride and transit station will be. Starting today, you can easily see the times when a transit station is historically more or less busy to plan your trip accordingly or you can look at live data showing how busy it is right now compared to its usual level of activity. Simply search for a station in Google Maps or tap on the station on the map to see the departure board and busyness data, where available. Rolling out over the next several weeks, these capabilities are powered by aggregated and anonymized data from users who have opted in to Google Location History, a Google account-level setting that is off by default. To protect privacy, these insights are only surfaced when we have sufficient data to meet privacy thresholds. 


busyness-10.43.gif

See popular times for a transit station and how busy it is at that moment.

COVID-19 has certainly impacted the way that we move around in the world. As cities and countries across the globe adapt, we’re committed to bringing the most pertinent information right to your fingertips. So when you’re ready and able to, you can safely venture out.


Source: Google LatLong


No address? No problem. Share your location using Plus Codes

For many of us, it’s easy to take addresses for granted. We order products online, and they show up at our doorstep. In an emergency, we give our address to an ambulance or fire truck, and they quickly get to us. But what happens when you don’t have an address and you need to direct someone to your current location? 

More than 2 billion people on the planet—about 25 percent of us or more —either don’t have an address or have an address that isn’t easy to locate. To tackle this challenge, we launched Plus Codes in 2015. Plus Codes are simple, easy to use digital addresses derived from latitude and longitude coordinates. They can be used to uniquely identify any location, from a rural home out on a prairie to a small shop stall on a nameless street.

Today we’ve made it easier for anyone with an Android device to share their location using Plus Codes in Google Maps. People who use Google Maps might be familiar with the blue dot that represents their current location. Simply tap the blue dot to get a Plus Code for your current location that can be shared with others as easily as giving them a phone number.

Tap the blue dot to get a Plus Code

Plus Codes: free, digital address for anywhere

A Plus Code is a simple alphanumeric code which can be combined with a locality (for example: FWM8+V9, Ibadan, Nigeria). They look like a regular address, but with a short code where a street name or number would be. Beyond using the blue dot, you can also find the Plus Code for a location by tapping and holding the map to drop a pin at a location you want a Plus Code for.

Plus Codes are searchable on Google Maps and even Google Search, meaning everywhere on the planet can now be uniquely identified. 

These digital location identifiers are free to use, available offline and can be printed on paper, posters and signs. The technology to generate Plus Codes is also open source, which means the technology is easy and free to use, so anyone can see how the technology works and develop their own applications for any use case.

About Plus Codes

A helpful tool for emergency and crisis situations 

Plus Codes can be especially helpful for people and organizations in emergency and crisis response scenarios. If you’ve ever been in an emergency, you know that being able to share your location for help to easily find you is critical. Yet in many places in the world, organizations struggle with this challenge on a daily basis. 

With Plus Codes, not only can people share their location quickly even without an address, but they can now do so by simply opening up Google Maps and tapping on the blue dot to view, copy and share their Plus Code location. A Plus Code can then be entered into Google Maps to help locate and navigate to that location.

Digital locations through Plus Codes means that everywhere now has an easily identifiable location, saving time and getting resources there when it really matters. Not having an address should no longer be a barrier to easily sharing your location with service providers, guiding them to you when you most need them.

Download the latest version of the Google Maps Android app over the coming weeks to try out the new update.

Source: Google LatLong


Find wheelchair accessible places with Google Maps

Editor’s note: Today is Global Accessibility Awareness Day, and we’ll be sharing resources and tools for education, as well as accessibility features and updates for Android and Google Maps. 

Imagine making plans to go somewhere new, taking the journey to get there and arriving— only to be stuck outside, prevented from sitting with family or being unable to access the restroom. It’s a deeply frustrating experience I’ve had many times since becoming a wheelchair user in 2009. And it’s an experience all too familiar to the 130 million wheelchair users worldwide and the more than 30 million Americans who have difficulty using stairs.

So imagine instead being able to “know before you go” whether a destination is wheelchair accessible, just as effortlessly as looking up the address. In recognition of Global Accessibility Awareness Day, we’re announcing a new Google Maps feature that does just that.

People can now turn on an “Accessible Places” feature to have wheelchair accessibility information more prominently displayed in Google Maps. When Accessible Places is switched on, a wheelchair icon will indicate an accessible entrance and you’ll be able to see if a place has accessible seating, restrooms or parking. If it’s confirmed that a place does not have an accessible entrance, we’ll show that information on Maps as well.

Better maps for everyone, whether you walk or roll

Today, Google Maps has wheelchair accessibility information for more than 15 million places around the world. That number has more than doubled since 2017 thanks to the dedication of more than 120 million Local Guidesand others who’ve responded to our call to share accessibility information. In total, this community has contributed more than 500 million wheelchair accessibility updates to Google Maps. Store owners have also helped, using Google My Business to add accessibility information for their business profiles to help users needing stair-free access find them on Google Maps and Search.


With this feature “rollout”, it’s easier to find and contribute wheelchair accessibility information to Google Maps. That benefits everyone, from those of us using wheelchairs and parents pushing strollers to older adults with tired legs and people hauling heavy items. And in this time of COVID-19, it’s especially important to know before you go so that you won’t be stranded outside that pharmacy, grocery or restaurant.

How to contribute accessibility information to Google Maps

Anyone can contribute accessibility information to Google Maps

To get wheelchair accessibility information more prominently displayed in Google Maps, update your app to the latest version, go to Settings, select “Accessibility,” and turn on “Accessible Places.” The feature is available on both Android and iOS. 

We’re also rolling out an update that allows people using iOS devices to more easily contribute accessibility information, joining the millions of Android users who have been sharing this type of information on Maps. This guide has tips for rating accessibility, in case you’re not sure what counts as being “accessible.” We invite everyone to switch on Accessible Places and contribute accessibility information to help people in your community.

A Maps milestone, built on a movement

This launch is a milestone in our journey to build a better, more helpful map for everyone, which includes recent efforts to help people find accessible places, transit routes and walking directions. Our work wouldn’t be possible without the decades of advocacy from those who have fought for equal access for people with disabilities. Were it not for them, there would be far fewer accessible places for Google Maps to show.

The Accessible Places feature is starting to rollout for Google Maps users in Australia, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States, with support for additional countries on the way.

How to turn on Accessible Places

Use the Accessible Places feature to see accessibility information more prominently displayed in Google Maps

Source: Google LatLong


Take a virtual travel day with Street View

As a program manager for Street View, I’ve had the opportunity to work in more than 20 countries around the world, collecting imagery that transports people to new places and powers Google Maps. 


You can even find my blurred face from time to time in Street View. I’ve trekked a desert in Abu Dhabi (with a camel no less) and walked around the Great Pyramids of Giza (I’m the blurred face to the right). You can see my reflection throughout the 152nd floor of the Burj Khalifa, as I operate the Street View camera, and you can see me playing tourist in the canals of Venice


Like many people though, life and work look different for me now than it did last year. While travel is now out of the question for many, that doesn't mean exploring and learning about our world has to stop. 


Over the past 60 days we’ve seen Google Search interest spike more than 700 percent for virtual tours worldwide. People are looking to discover world famous museums, with the Louvre, the Smithsonian and the MoMA among the five most searched virtual tours globally. Alongside museums, people are also searching for a little bit of whimsy and beauty with searches for Disney virtual tours and Versailles virtual tours rounding out the list.


Those destinations only scratch the surface of what you can explore in Street View. There’s more than 10 million miles of Street View imagery you can freely explore by yourself or with professional guides who are taking their walking tours virtual. Today, I’m inviting people worldwide to take time for a virtual travel day on Street View. 


When I drop into a new place with Street View, it shakes up my routine, broadens my perspective, makes me feel more creative and brings a smile to my face. If you’re like me, sometimes you need an idea of where to go before you, well, go. So here are a few virtual travel itineraries with pictures of my favorite places to travel to in Street View:


Picture perfect landscapes

Streets with a view

Places of worship

Ancient sites

Source: Google LatLong


Take a virtual travel day with Street View

As a program manager for Street View, I’ve had the opportunity to work in more than 20 countries around the world, collecting imagery that transports people to new places and powers Google Maps. 


You can even find my blurred face from time to time in Street View. I’ve trekked a desert in Abu Dhabi (with a camel no less) and walked around the Great Pyramids of Giza (I’m the blurred face to the right). You can see my reflection throughout the 152nd floor of the Burj Khalifa, as I operate the Street View camera, and you can see me playing tourist in the canals of Venice


Like many people though, life and work look different for me now than it did last year. While travel is now out of the question for many, that doesn't mean exploring and learning about our world has to stop. 


Over the past 60 days we’ve seen Google Search interest spike more than 700 percent for virtual tours worldwide. People are looking to discover world famous museums, with the Louvre, the Smithsonian and the MoMA among the five most searched virtual tours globally. Alongside museums, people are also searching for a little bit of whimsy and beauty with searches for Disney virtual tours and Versailles virtual tours rounding out the list.


Those destinations only scratch the surface of what you can explore in Street View. There’s more than 10 million miles of Street View imagery you can freely explore by yourself or with professional guides who are taking their walking tours virtual. Today, I’m inviting people worldwide to take time for a virtual travel day on Street View. 


When I drop into a new place with Street View, it shakes up my routine, broadens my perspective, makes me feel more creative and brings a smile to my face. If you’re like me, sometimes you need an idea of where to go before you, well, go. So here are a few virtual travel itineraries with pictures of my favorite places to travel to in Street View:


Picture perfect landscapes

Streets with a view

Places of worship

Ancient sites

Source: Google LatLong


Take a virtual travel day with Street View

As a program manager for Street View, I’ve had the opportunity to work in more than 20 countries around the world, collecting imagery that transports people to new places and powers Google Maps. 


You can even find my blurred face from time to time in Street View. I’ve trekked a desert in Abu Dhabi (with a camel no less) and walked around the Great Pyramids of Giza (I’m the blurred face to the right). You can see my reflection throughout the 152nd floor of the Burj Khalifa, as I operate the Street View camera, and you can see me playing tourist in the canals of Venice


Like many people though, life and work look different for me now than it did last year. While travel is now out of the question for many, that doesn't mean exploring and learning about our world has to stop. 


Over the past 60 days we’ve seen Google Search interest spike more than 700 percent for virtual tours worldwide. People are looking to discover world famous museums, with the Louvre, the Smithsonian and the MoMA among the five most searched virtual tours globally. Alongside museums, people are also searching for a little bit of whimsy and beauty with searches for Disney virtual tours and Versailles virtual tours rounding out the list.


Those destinations only scratch the surface of what you can explore in Street View. There’s more than 10 million miles of Street View imagery you can freely explore by yourself or with professional guides who are taking their walking tours virtual. Today, I’m inviting people worldwide to take time for a virtual travel day on Street View. 


When I drop into a new place with Street View, it shakes up my routine, broadens my perspective, makes me feel more creative and brings a smile to my face. If you’re like me, sometimes you need an idea of where to go before you, well, go. So here are a few virtual travel itineraries with pictures of my favorite places to travel to in Street View:


Picture perfect landscapes

Streets with a view

Places of worship

Ancient sites

Source: Google LatLong


Maps that bring us closer, even when we’re apart

With much of the world physically apart right now, people are finding creative ways to use custom-built maps to maintain a shared sense of community, albeit virtually.


In 2007, we launched a tool called My Maps to help people create their own custom maps on top of Google Maps. With a simple drag-and-drop interface you can add placemarks, draw lines and shapes, and embed text, photos and videos. You can share your map via public URL, embed it on websites or publish your map for others to see.


Over the past four months, we’ve seen a surge in the number of people creating and viewing My Maps. From December 2019 to April 2020, we saw nearly a billion more My Maps creations, edits and views compared to the same time period last year, growing from 2 billion to nearly 3 billion. With My Maps, communities have been sharing helpful, local information in rapidly changing situations—from COVID-19 testing sites and food banks to where first responders can access childcare facilities.


Maps can help us and our communities stay safe

A map can be helpful in ways that a simple list of text is not: it helps us instantly see information in the context of where we are, with the locations of the resources we might need.

My Maps animation

With My Maps, anyone can be a cartographer. People can import their own data into a custom map, similar to how the San Francisco Department of Homelessness & Supportive Housing mapped downtown hand-washing and hygiene stations to support hand hygiene and reduce the spread of COVID-19. With a spreadsheet or KML you can have your own custom map in no time.


Some maps take a bit more than hand-drawn points and polygons. For that, My Maps creators can import their own mapping data and mash it up with other sources. 


For example, the online newspaper Briarcliff Daily Voice created a My Map showing the spread of coronavirus cases in the New York City metropolitan area, using data from three state healthcare agencies and the city’s health department. Pennsylvania.gov has leveraged My Maps to inform Pennsylvanians about coronavirus cases by county. And The Chicago Sun-Times has a map showing where to get tested for coronavirus in the Chicago area.
Food bank

Anyone can be a force for good with simple, easy-to-use maps

In the past few months, we've seen how powerful this small set of relatively simple features can be. People are using My Maps to to be forces for good and coordinate relief efforts.


Map by map, people are connecting each other to resources for caring for ourselves and others, while staying healthy and informed. We’re seeing everyone from members of Congress to local nonprofits use Google My Maps to visualize information like school lunch pick-up spots to the spread of the virus in our communities.


Here are 10 helpful My Maps we’ve seen developed by communities around the world:


Keeping a shared sense of community, even when you're physically apart

As much as these maps are informative and helpful, they’re also uplifting. After a group of Brooklyn, NY moms asked neighbors to put pictures of rainbows in house windows so kids could track them down, one woman created a map showing the rainbows’ locations all over the city and suburbs. Now people worldwide are pitching in and adding their own rainbow locations to the map.

Mapping Rainbows with Google My Maps

If you’d like to experiment with My Maps, we’re putting together tutorials on skills like merging datasets and embedding maps online. Visit the Google Earth Medium channel in the coming weeks to learn more.

Source: Google LatLong


Street View is helping this tour guide stay in business

On March 24, government restrictions due to COVID-19 went into effect across the United Kingdom. With nonessential businesses forced to close, public gatherings banned, and most people required to stay at home, these regulations instantly transformed daily life. They also presented a serious threat to Katie Wignall’s business: Katie makes her living as a tour guide, showing curious visitors the highlights of London.

But instead of trying to simply wait out the crisis, Katie looked to technology for a solution to creatively keep her business going. We chatted with her to find out how she’s successfully managed to take her walking tours virtual.

Beaver statues on London's Oxford Street

One of the beaver statues on Oxford Street

Describe your business, Look Up London.

I provide walking tours all over London for public and private groups. I’m a Blue Badge Tourist Guide, which is the top accreditation for tourist guides in the UK. We do two years of training, pass 11 exams, and we’re the only guides that can take you inside the Tower of London and Westminster Abbey.

Look Up London started originally as a blog and social media channels, where I shared quirkier bits of London history. The name is all about spotting the little details in the architecture around you, to tell the story of why something looks the way it does. For example, on Oxford Street, which is famous for its shopping, there's a building decorated with sculptures of beavers. They're a clue to the fact it used to be a hat factory—slightly gruesome, but a detail that is so often missed by passersby!

How has your business been impacted by COVID-19 and the government restrictions?

I’ve had to shut down, basically. I can’t go out; we’re not able to meet up in groups to deliver the normal tours. All of the work I had booked going into the summer—the busiest time—has just been cancelled or postponed. Literally overnight there was no work at all. 

Katie Wignall giving a tour of London's Guildhall

Katie giving a tour of the Guildhall

What gave you the idea for virtual tours?

It was actually a suggestion from a follower on Instagram who asked, “Is there a way you could do virtual tours?” I started out by going out myself and having my husband film me on London streets, but then as the situation escalated, we weren’t allowed outside.

So then I thought I’d experiment with Google Street View. If I couldn’t go outside, I could offer people the next best thing, through a screen. I was already using Street View a lot for my work—it’s really good for my research. I love the feature where you can go back in time. It’s not possible for every location, but for a lot of central London, you can select a place in Google Maps for desktop, drag the Street View pegman into the picture and click on the clock in the top left corner to explore imagery from the past. You can see where buildings have been demolished and what used to be standing where.

So now, every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 2 PM London time, I use Street View to give a virtual tour on Instagram Live. And for anyone who can’t make that time, I post the recordings on my website. They’re all free, and if people enjoy them, they can make a donation.

What’s been the response?

People have been so lovely. From the comments, I think it’s been very helpful for people in lockdown, who maybe are older and can’t get out of the house as often, or people who’ve had to leave London and are feeling homesick. Lots have messaged me to say it’s made them feel like they’ve been outside. They’ve really learned something new and taken their minds off the situation for twenty minutes or so.

Any advantages to using Street View compared to being there in person?

The great thing about Street View is that you can hop about—you can jump a mile down the road and people don’t have to get on a bus or actually walk, so you can cover a lot of ground.

And then there’s that feature to go back in time and see things how they appeared years ago, back to 2008. On a normal tour, you can show pictures and give people an idea, but if people are on Street View and feel like they’re standing in a space and seeing the changes right there, it’s a different experience.

One example, on my Aldgate tour, is a garden space that has been relandscaped. The garden looks beautiful now, but three years ago you could see the cobbles of Victorian London. And those cobbles happen to have been the site of the murder of Catherine Eddowes, who was a victim of Jack the Ripper. That was an evocative thing to be able to show.

Any advice for other small business owners who are trying to figure out how to adapt right now?

I think you have to do the thing that you enjoy doing. I don’t think I’d be able to do these three times a week if I didn’t enjoy them. If you have something that you want to share, there’s no reason you shouldn’t do that. Technology has made everything so accessible, and if you care about something, chances are others care about that as well.

Source: Google LatLong


Explore new sites, relive old hikes for National Park Week

Every year, I try to visit a new National Park, or at least start planning my trip to one. That’s a little more difficult right now, but given that it’s National Park Week, I decided to try and keep with my tradition by using Google tools to satisfy my wanderlust.


Explore new places and parks

This year, I’m heading to g.co/nationalparks, a Google Arts & Culture project developed in collaboration with National Park Service that takes you on guided tours narrated by park rangers from the Kenai Fjords, Hawai'i Volcanoes, Carlsbad Caverns, Bryce Canyon and Dry Tortugas. I can also visit historical sites that I’ve never been to before, like Eleanor Roosevelt’s woodsy home in Hyde Park, New York or Thomas Edison’s camping sites (which, to me, look a little more like glamping). There are more than 100 Street View historical tours to choose from, and collections that let you discover Native American craft work or fossils from archeological digs. 

Afterward, I’ll take an in-depth tour of some of the National Parks of the United States and wander through a few of the most-loved ones recommended by our community of Local Guides in two popular Google Earth Voyager stories. I plan on rounding out the week with a new YouTube series from the Google Earth team that travels to National Parks across the country, literally “zooming” you into places like Elephant Hill in Canyonlands National Park and Kanarraville Falls in Zion National Park. There’s even a new Global National Parks quiz to test your geo-knowledge.

Video showing a tour of Utah's National Parks.

All of these things help an outdoor enthusiast who’s stuck inside (for the time being) to find unknown landscapes or get inspiration for their next trip. Perhaps for the most well-traveled out there, they’re a way to remember a favorite adventure. 

Or revisit old favorites

Before I venture into the unknown, I decided to take a trip down memory lane (or rather, memory trail), and re-experience some of my favorite hikes in National Parks with the help of Google Street View, and anyone can join me—starting with Bright Angel Trail in the Grand Canyon. Saving the uphill journey for the second half of a hike is something my legs will never forget, but it remains one of my favorite National Parks memories. And thanks to Street View, I can recreate the journey … with fewer water breaks, probably.

I can also make my way up Garfield Peak in Crater Lake National Park (which I hiked during a camping trip where I first met my husband) and make as many nostalgic pit stops along the way as I want.

And last summer, my family and I all vacationed in Acadia National Park. Now that we can’t physically see one another, I’m even more grateful we went. One of my favorite memories was hiking along the park’s easternmost edge, the Great Head Trail, with my husband and meeting my family on Sand Beach, a journey I’m happily retaking via Street View … and maybe on our weekly family video call, we’ll all “hike” it together.

Source: Google LatLong