What is the Google Maps API and how is it used?


Google Maps is an invaluable asset for millions of users, and it is not just available through Google’s official site and apps, but can also be harnessed by third parties thanks to an API.

If you are new to the world of APIs, or simply want to know what can be achieved with the Google Maps iteration of this solution, keep reading for a lowdown of all the main features and perks.

Quick overview

It is first worth mentioning that there is not one single API for Google Maps, but rather a set of different APIs which allow for different functions to be integrated with distinct apps and websites.

If you are uncertain which one will best suit your needs, the API Picker is a handy way to get to the bottom of this question.

In short, everything from making maps available for navigation and route tracking purposes to including specific functions, such as using the Google Maps API in React for geocoding, is possible depending on which you adopt and how you use it.

Google Maps can be included in apps for Android and iOS, as well as on websites using the JavaScript API. This should give you ultimate flexibility in terms of how you harness it.

Practical uses

While we have briefly touched on some of the potential deployments of the Google Maps API in its various incarnations, it is sensible to explore how it can be harnessed more thoroughly to give you an idea of the true potential it offers.

First and foremost, it is a great way to provide directions between two or more locations. This is relevant whether you want to help customers find their way to your business, provide employees with optimal routes to drop-off points on a delivery round, or find alternative ways to get from A to B depending on the types of transport that are available.

Another hugely impactful aspect of Google Maps is that the API lets you highlight points of interest and filter these according to their relevance using Places. This can be utilised especially effectively by real estate businesses, for example, to pinpoint amenities and attractions of neighbourhoods for prospective customers within their apps or on their websites.

Geocoding comes into its own as a means of improving accuracy when singling out a specific location on a map. It takes street addresses that you might find on a typical business listing and translates these into unique coordinates, and vice versa.

Data-based benefits

A lot of the capabilities of Google Maps which are unlocked through the use of an API can also have additional benefits outside of merely improving the functionality of a given app or service from a user-facing perspective. When correctly leveraged, they can give businesses a new way to glean fresh insights into customer behaviour and much more besides.

For example, Google Maps offers a Roads API which is designed to combine data from GPS and other forms of connectivity to improve the precision with which location-based information is offered to users, while also making it easier to track and analyse both where users are right now and where they have roamed in the past.

Coupled with that is the ability to adapt the implantation of Google Maps with your own data, pulled from other sources. This makes it capable of doing everything from keeping up to the minute information on staff movements within a given area, right up to providing price comparison across utility bills and other amenities in a given area. These are just some of the reasons that Google Maps underpins so many digital services today.

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