If you have not had a chance to look up your home or business to see what you can see on Google Maps, you are a little behind the times. Google Maps has moved beyond its original function as a source of maps and driving directions, and has taken on a new life. Here is a look at some of the more creative ways in which people have been using the service recently.
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has been using the service to track the spread of Swine Flu, also known as the H1N1 virus. It started in New York, where the highest number of cases was reported at the time, but if you look at the map now they are tracking other outbreaks across the country as well.
News stations used Google Maps to track the progress of the Jesusita wildfire in Santa Barbara that is still being put out. The map featured areas of active fire, mandatory evacuations, and voluntary evacuations. It also detailed where people can find shelter, including public shelters, Red Cross evacuation centers, road closings, and other significant fire information.
The Henry Hudson Foundation is celebrating the 400th anniversary of explorer Henry Hudson’s search for the elusive Northwest Passage. It is the anniversary of his third voyage, in which he sailed up the Hudson River. To celebrate, the foundation used Google Maps to chart all of Hudson’s voyages. It is not the first time that historical data has been plotted using the service, but I think it is one of the more interesting.
To the dismay of corporate drivers across America, new technological developments have led to an integration of Google Maps and GPS technology. A new software program has been developed by Fleetmatics, called the Fleetmatics GPS Vehicle Tracking Solution. It allows businesses to keep track of where their vehicles are at all times, and your boss can now see when you are spending a little too much time on that lunch break.
Astronaut Scott Parazynski is using Google Maps in his quest to become the first man to experience both space travel and the achievement of climbing Mt. Everest. He will be attempting the climb with a GPS system, which will allow his fans to track his process using the map service. I think that it would have been more interesting if it was able to track his journey into space, but maybe that is thinking a little to far ahead.
The New Jersey Transit System has uploaded all of their data to Google Maps. This allows commuters to map out their destinations anywhere in the city. You can plan a trip via car, walking, or public transportation. The public transportation feature is a huge innovation, considering how many fold-out maps and bus schedules it can take to get to one place or another. Now, you can look up where you, see what is close by, and what time you can catch it.
If you are not interested in pushing the boundaries of technology, you can follow the example of Australian Rhett Dashwood. He spent an unspecified (but I assume, very large) amount of time browsing Google Maps after he noticed that there was a building that was perfectly shaped like a letter of the alphabet. He has since fulfilled his goal of locating all twenty-six letters in building form, which are mostly in Australia.
Well, thanks Google, for your technology and your typography. I can’t wait to see what will be happening next.