Last week, Mubaloo was invited to a Google Lab to learn about some of the new Google Maps mobile APIs across iOS & Android. The aim of the event was to train those developers who are influential in the mobile industry how to use the latest Google Maps APIs so they can be integrated successfully into future mobile apps.
Two of our developers, Chris Watson (iOS) and Dre Pilipczuk (Android), went along to learn from some of the Google Maps Developer Relations team, who were flown in from the US and Australia, as well as some of Google’s Android developer advocates. Below are some of the APIs that really stood out for us at the event.
Google Maps Floor Plans
Businesses are now able to add their floor plans to their building on Google Maps. This could help businesses in a number of ways. For those organisations with large offices across the world, the Google Maps Floor Plans could be used to direct guests or employees to the right place, or the floor plans could also be used by large shopping retailers to map out their stores and direct customers to the departments they are trying to find. This is currently still in beta and only available on Android for the time being.**
** 17th July 2013: Today Google released their latest version of Google Maps for iOS, which includes support for iPad (hooray) and also indoor mapping. Find out more about this on The Next Web.
Fused Location Provider
Google recently announced a number of new location services APIs to help developers make the most of the Google Maps SDK. The Fused Location Provider API provides faster, more accurate location signals and also delivers a low-power location mode that saves on battery. This API will pick out the best location provider dependent on the user’s needs.
The geofencing API lets developers set up geofences inside different apps and then will send a notification when users enter that area. Location-based services like geofencing can be used for a number of different purposes. Android developer, Dre Pilipczuk, has set up a geofence around his gym. When Dre enters his gym, he receives a notification with his gym barcode so he can let himself in quickly and easily. Businesses and brands can use the accuracy of geofencing for targeted marketing campaigns, or perhaps those holding conferences can use geofencing to send attendees information on the keynote speaker as attendees leave the room, or as they enter.
If connected to WiFi, or in range of WiFi routers, location services can really pinpoint where a user is, but unfortunately with iOS this isn’t yet possible because Apple won’t let developers scan WiFi networks. In addition to this, a combination of geofencing and Google Maps Floor Plans would benefit greatly from the increased accuracy that WiFi can give you.
This API uses accelerometer data and machine learning to figure out the physical activity of the user, whether they are walking, cycling or driving for example. As apps continue to become more contextual, understanding what the user is doing is vital to giving the user the right content. The possibilities for mobile app development are massive in the area of working out users’ needs and offering users the right targeted content based on these needs.
The APIs we were shown at the Google Code Lab event seem like they will be of a huge benefit to app developers, but because continually pulling location data is so battery intensive, we really hope to see low-power location making a big difference.
We were really impressed with the API demos at the Google event and they make great additions to the Android, and sometimes iOS, platforms. Because pulling location data is often so battery intensive, we really hope to see APIs like the Fused Location Provider making a difference to battery life, in order to make app development easier and also to improve the user experience. It will be interesting to see how these new APIs fit in with apps for Google Glass as well, especially the Activity Recognition API.