Google’s MyMaps holds many business benefits, experts say

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While targeted at consumers, Google’s new MyMaps offering, unveiled last week, could benefit a variety of businesses as well, say Canadian analysts.

MyMapsis essentially a collection of tools that enable non-techies to plot routes, mark locations and embed photos or video on Google Maps, a free web mapping service application and technology from Mountain View, Calif-based Google Inc.

The ability to draw routes, post attachments, and pinpoint locations on Google Maps has been available to developers since the product was launched two years ago.

MyMaps makes it possible for users with no knowledge of programming languages – such as XML, AJAX or HTML – to do basically the same thing with “a few mouse clicks.”

“Google Maps was the first real Web 2.0 app hit,” according to Carmi Levy, senior analyst, Info-Tech Research Group Inc. in London, Ont.

By releasing the application programming interface (API) to Google Maps, the Web search company enabled developers to “create a wide variety of online mash-ups,” said Levy. For instance, he said, developers were able to plot crime incidents in Chicago on Google Maps helping criminologists conduct location-based crime analysis.

Numerous companies were also able to associate store or branch locations with Google Maps to enhance the customer Web-search experience.

MyMaps will extend this capability to non-developers and perhaps even make it cheaper for organizations to create location-based applications, according to David Senf, senior analyst and manager of Canadian application development and infrastructure software at IDC Canada Ltd. in Toronto.

“This is just the beginning of online services being made available to businesses in the form of widgets,” he said.

The San Francisco-based free online classified network, Craiglist was among the first organizations to use Google Maps. The network’s Craiglist apartment listing which featured graphic and interactive maps was very popular with apartment hunters, Senf said.

The IDC analyst foresees more companies taking the same route with MyMaps.

Senf envisions future MyMaps mash-ups with geo-location products such as global positioning systems (GPS) and radio frequency identification (RFID) offerings that will improve productivity and customer service.

For instance, courier services can use MyMaps to help customers track packages or enable dispatchers to deploy and keep tabs of delivery vehicles.

MyMaps, the IDC analyst said, could potentially also serve as a visual aid to the deployment of emergency workers during a calamity or as an added feature for a municipal portal.

“At the moment the business community is not clamouring for a map service, but MyMaps will certainly make it easier to develop appropriate applications,” he said.

Both Senf and Info-Tech’s Levy said it is possible Google will eventually plan to make money out of MyMaps.

Google already includes paid advertisements on certain Google Map search results.

The company may adopt this approach, or offer a more advanced MyMaps version for a fee just as it did with certain online applications in the past, the analysts say.

But Lee said Google “has no specific plan” for monetizing MyMaps.

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