If you have used a smartphone in the past 15 years, you must have definitely used Google Maps. For the uninitiated, Maps is a service developed by Google that uses satellite imagery and street-level cameras in order to create very accurate maps of any area. This app works on most phones and is an indispensable part of most people’s lives in the current era. It provides people with accurate routes for a variety of vehicles like cars, bikes, cycles and even for walking from one point to another.
Google Maps’ main view a satellite image of the area from a ‘bird’s eye’ point of view. Maps also has a feature called Street View wherein the user can actually go onto the street level to view the place as if they were present in the location.
The Maps application is also available in API format for any and all developers to use the maps for their applications. Popular apps like Uber, Ola, Zomato, etc., use Google Maps to create the maps in their applications.
In this listicle, we’ll take a look at some of the most amazing facts about one of Google’s most popular services.
Google Maps are known for their incredibly quick ability to map out the often route to take when going from point to another. Hence let’s quickly take a look at some fast facts about Maps.
- Google had over 7,100 employees working for Google Maps in 2012. Six thousand of these employees are contractors.
- In 2017, Google Maps reached over 1 billion monthly users.
- Since 2013 Google Maps has consistently been one of the most popular apps, and it is the most used navigation app by far.
- Google Maps has a small number of intentional inaccuracies to dissuade plagiarism.
- Over 5.9 million websites use Google Maps, approximately 88% of all usage of maps on the internet.
Under the Hood
Before we dive into the facts and figures about this amazing utility, we should take a look into how it actually works and some statistics about its usage.
1. Google Maps has collected 20 petabytes of data: Considering the fact that Google Maps now covers almost the entire planet, it is absolutely no surprise that they have to collect a large amount of data. Some estimates suggest that Google has collected more than 20 Petabytes, i.e. 21 million Gigabytes of data till date. This is enough to completely fill up more than 328,000 iPhones!
(Source: G-Maps Widget)
2. The data on Google Maps is usually 1 to 3 years old: If you were ever wondering why you house on the Google Maps is still showing your roof the way it was 3 years ago, it is because of the fact that Google Maps are only updated every one to three years. This is despite the fact that Google Maps collects data every two weeks. However, this data then needs to be heavily processed in order to be appropriate for the map. Even then Google processes data for the areas that have changed to a significant degree first.
(Source: Google Earth Blog)
3. Google doesn’t own the satellites that provide the data for the Maps: Satellite imaging is a tough issue. There are many challenges involved in the process which are very expensive to overcome. This might be why google opts to collect data from reliable sources instead of attempting to launch satellites of their own. They even tried to purchase a fleet of satellites from an imagine company, but they quickly abandoned the idea and sold the fleet.
(Source: Google Earth)
4. Street view images are being used as reCAPTCHA to help decode objects: CAPTCHA stands for Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart. This is a service provided by Google which websites can use to prevent bots from skewing their standards. Captcha depends on humans being able to perform some tasks that involve identifying patterns/numbers and letters in the images provided by google. Google has long since used captcha to help their Artificial Intelligence, which powers the classification and identification algorithm in Google Maps, to help in increasing its accuracy. This is done by providing already classified images for captcha. When users identify an image as being wrongly classified, they get sent for review.
(Source: Tech Crunch)
Google Maps is Amazing
Google Maps has made life that much easier for everybody. IT provides amazing function to its users, that make traveling on the road not taken becomes easy as pie. From tourists looking for amazing new places, to daily commuters looking to avoid traffic, there is no end of the uses Google Maps can give you. Let’s take a brief look into some of the ways Google Map does good:
5. Google Earth was responsible for the reuniting of a family: in 1986 a boy named Saroo lived in the village of Ganesh Talai, in Khadva district, India. He was separated from his family by accident and was put up for adoption. Soon he was adopted by an Australian family. He grew up in Melbourne and went to New York to study. There he discovered Google Earth and located his village using the tool. This led him back to his family after 20 years. There was eve a movie based on his life, called Lion.
(Source: The Guardian)
6. Governments can get Google to remove sensitive information: Having secret bases show up on a public domain is a nightmare scenario for any government. However, this scenario has already occurred multiple times. For this very reason, Google has a policy of 100% co-operation with government and immediately removes any and all information that any government requests.
7. You can visit 156 museums around the world through Google Maps: Museums are the corner – stone of human culture, housing the best of the culture of the part of the world in which it is situated. These museums typically need to be visited in person and also charge an admission fees for upkeep. However, museums that are a part of Google’s Art Project upload their entire museum onto Google Street View to generate interest in their collection. Some of the most popular museums available in Google Street View are The British Museum in London, The Museé d’Orsay in Paris, and the Pergamon Museum in Germany.
(Source: Google Art Project)
8. Street View has covered more than 41 times the distance from earth to the moon: Google Street View has covered more than 10 million miles of streets across the world. For context, the distance between the Earth and the Moon is 284,000 miles on an average. The company also claims that they have covered more than 98% of all places that humans inhabit. The only areas that haven’t been covered by Street View are highly militarized areas or war zones like North Korea or Iraq.
9. Street View uses trolleys, trikes, snowmobiles and even handcarts to take images: Google doesn’t always use cars to take footage for their street view service. They have used trolleys, tricycles and even handcarts to take images where a car cannot go. This includes churches, college campuses, and even some mountain tops. The Matterhorn was one of the first mountains to get Street View available on it.
10. You can drop a nuclear bomb on someone you don’t like, using Google Earth: Nuclear bombs are the most destructive weapons ever created. The good people at Carlos Labs have created a tool to show you what will happen if one of these bombs drop on any location of your choice. They have included a large variety of nuclear bombs, from the ‘Fat Man, and ‘Little Boy’ to the largest nuclear bomb till date, the Tsar Bomba. You can even see what happened when the asteroid that killed the dinosaurs impacted the Earth.
(Source: Carlos Labs)
11. Fiat pranked VW using Google Maps: Companies playing stupid pranks on each other is always fun. Burger King dissing McDonalds using signs, Wendy’s twitter handle trolling everyone, etc. never stops being amusing. However, arguably the best corporate prank was pulled by Fiat on VW. When Fiat learned that the Street View car was going to be visiting their city, Fiat had a fiat 500 drive behind the car for 30 miles, and then got the car parked and photographed right in front of the VW building.
12. Anyone can get their house blurred in street view: Upon the rising concern for privacy, Google has made it very easy for an individual to get information on their house deleted. All one needs to do is go to the ‘report an issue’ form on Google Street Views website, and request information about a particular location be deleted. This location can be anything, though Google asks its users to understand that once the information is deleted it can never be restored as even the next time the street view images will be taken, the location will automatically be skipped.
(Source: Google Street View)
13. If you’re interested in pranking someone as well, you can check when the Google Street View car will come to your city: There are a large number of Easter Eggs and pranks that can be found on Google Street View. These include a group of six men in pigeon masks, a large field spelling out a curse word, and even a mock murder scene. If after reading about the pranks you feel like you have an amazing idea for pranking everyone on Earth, you can simply look at the month that your country will be visited by the street view vehicle. The country then receives a detailed schedule of the car.
(Source: Google Street View)
14. Israeli engineers emblazoned the star of David on the roof of Tehran’s airport which got discovered on Google Earth: The escalating tensions between the Jew community and the country of Iran is a well-known fact. However, this was not always the case When Tehran’s airport was being built, in 1938, it was Israeli Jewish engineers that were invited to construct the same. They designed and built the airport as per specifications, except for one small thing. They incorporated a huge Star of David on the roof of the building, so that any plane flying into the airport may have a glimpse of the star if they knew what to look for. The star went unnoticed by Iranian authorities until November 2010 when it was spotted on google earth images of the airport. It caused massive outrage throughout the country, which since the Islamic Revolution of 1979, has had a very strained relationship with its neighbor.
15. Google Earth helped in discovery of ancient pyramids: Google Earth is a very powerful tool that can be used for a variety of purposes. One of these purposes might surprise you! Archeologists are championing the tool to locate previously unknown sites of archeological importance. Google Earth helped in discovering a series of underwater pyramids which were previously unknown. It also helped in discovering a 1000 year old fish trap, and even some temporary islands!
(Source: Mother Nature Network)
16. There is a flight simulator built into Google Earth: If while exploring Google Earth you’ve wanted to take a flight through the skies, now you can! Google has built a flight simulator on their Google Earth engine, which on can access without any further installs needed. You can control a variety of airplanes using either a joystick or just your mouse and keyboard.
17. You can view the 9/11 attacks with Google Earth: The 9/11 attacks on the twin towers in New York were among the worst terrorists’ attacks ever. They caused the total destruction of the World Trade Center. If you ever want to bear witness to the chilling event yourself, then there is plug in that was created for Google Earth to facilitate the same. It was created using the 3D modelling tools that are provided by Google for the purpose of aiding creativity. There is also an image of the WTC burning taken from one of the satellites from which Google sources its information.
(Source: Google Earth Blog)
18. The largest natural bridge on the planet was discovered with Google Earth: Natural Bridges are a beautiful type of natural arches that form over a flowing source of water, like a river or a stream. These bridges typically form in some of the most inaccessible areas of the world. The Fairy Bridge is no different. Found in the Northwestern area of the Guangxi Province, China, it is the largest known natural bridge in the world. To reach it one much take a three hour raft ride through some rapids, or trek there via unpaved roads. It is said to be one of the most beautiful sights in the world. It was completely unknown to anyone except locals before it was accidentally discovered in 2009 using Google Earth.
(Source: Natural Arches)
19. The center of the universe is at Brian McClendon’s house: The exact center of our physical universe may not be known to anyone, but the center of the Google Earth universe is very clear. If you start up Google Earth and keep zooming into the default start up point, you’ll notice it to be a small house in the state of Kansas, USA. This is the house of Brian McClendon, the creator of Google Earth. He used the co-ordinates of his childhood bedroom as the center for Google Earth from which it navigates.
(Source: CN Travels)
Google Maps is Not Amazing
We have been praising the various ways Google Maps is an amazing piece of innovation. However, this doesn’t mean that the application can do no wrong. In fact, there have been many incidents in the past that have shone an ugly light on some aspects of Google Earth.
20. Google Maps records the user’s position, even if the user doesn’t want it to do so: Google Maps is a piece of software that is distrusted by a lot of people. This isn’t without cause. Google Maps has been revealed to collecting user data even when the user chooses to opt out of sending their location. They claim to only collect passive usage data and not anything personal at all.
(Source: AP News)
21. Google helped put stoners in jail: There is a wide consensus on the internet that a huge chunk of Google’s ‘weird’ section of the engine comes from marijuana smokers. However, the company didn’t appreciate the sentiment when the Swedish police service found a 2 – Acre marijuana farm using Google Earth. The field was first spotted by a local and was reported to the police. Google then aided the police in obtaining recent data based on which the police arrested the farmers.
22. Android Phones are actively tracked by Google Maps, to generate real time traffic data: One of the most important features provided by Google Maps is the real time traffic data that it overlays on top of the road maps. This data aids a lot of people in planning their trips and commutes. However, have you ever wondered how google is able to generate this data? It is by tracking all the android phones on the road at that moment. They average the speed at which each phone is travelling to determine factors about the traffic on the road.
23. At one point anyone could go to Google Earth and shoot people with automatic rifles: Some people are just tasteless, and some of them are also psychopaths. Maybe that is why someone created a plug in for google earth that let people go into street view while carrying an automatic rifle, and then shoot the pedestrians. There were sound effects and blood animations flying out from the pedestrians. It was taken down by Google within three days, although by that time the website was receiving 3,000 visitors per minute.
(Source: Business Insider)
24. At least one murder scene was on display on google maps: Google Maps cover a vast area of the planet. So, it should come as no surprise that some very morbid scenes have been caught on the Maps. One such scene was when a family in Richmond discovered that the murdered body of their 14 year old son was on display in Google Street View. Understandably it caused them a great deal of anguish, and Google removed it very soon after.
(Source: Mercury News)
25. Google Maps often causes border disputes: National Borders are a matter national security for every country. So, when the world’s most popular map displays disputed territory as belonging to one of the countries, it is cause for great concern for the two countries. This has happened often in the past with heavily contested territories like Kashmir and The Hungyan Islands.
(Source: The Guardian)
26. Google maps almost caused a full scale war: Border Disputes can often cause massive misunderstanding between the two nations. However, this came to a head when Nicaraguan troops accidentally invaded Costa Rica. They dredged the river and set up camp on what they thought was Nicaragua. Costa Rica responded to them by sending out security agents to secure the area, since they don’t have a military.
(Source: The Telegraph)
Google Maps is Going to be Amazing
Google Maps have some amazing features. From voice navigation to street level photos of a huge area of the world. Google keeps adding even more new features to the application with constant updates. The updates make the application even more user-friendly that it already is. Let’s take a look at some of the best upcoming features of Google Maps.
27. Google is developing an AR based feature for Google Maps: Augmented and virtual reality is the new thing in the technology word. So, it should come as no surprise when one of the biggest tech companies in the world rolls out an AR feature for their Maps service. Google’s new feature, currently being tested in USA, will allow users to generate AR images and overlays in their Maps application. These will include arrows on the streets pointing your way, information about places in bubbles above them, among many others.
28. Google Maps’ new feature will tell you about your monthly statistics: Everyone loves finding out interesting things about their own life. To this end Google has rolled out a feature that will allow users to find out statistics about their own life. This will include things like total kilometers drives, total distance walked, locations most visited, etc.
29. You can now stream music straight through Google Maps: Most people prefer to listen to some music or a podcast on their commutes. It is a hassle to switch between your navigation app and your music app. Google has managed to avoid that frustration completely by allowing Spotify to seamlessly integrate into the Maps app. Now you can listen to music while navigating easily! Click on the link in the source for a detailed list of instructions of how to achieve this!
30. Your robot butler can tell you where to go: The ‘For You’ tab got/is getting a huge update (according to your location) which can track your activity on Google Maps. This is then taken into consideration by an AI powered algorithm which can then give you locations around that you will find interesting. This AI algorithm can also tell you what you would like in the place you are at by virtue of data collected from everyone who has been to that particular place.
Data Sources & References
- G-Maps Widget
- Google Earth Blog
- Google Earth
- Tech Crunch
- The Guardian
- Google Art Project
- Carlos Labs
- Google Street View
- Google Street View
- abc News
- Mother Nature Network
- Google Earth Blog
- Natural Arches
- CN Travels
- AP News
- Business Insider
- Mercury News
- The Guardian
- The Telegraph