Finance Consumer How Google Maps took over the world
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How Google Maps took over the world

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Google Maps is making it easier to have road trip sing-a-longs. Photo: Michelle Stewart
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Google is expanding its empire by beefing up its prized Google Maps app as a ‘one-stop shop’ for not only navigation but also music streaming and rideshare service requests.

And experts say it’s all about getting access to even more of your data.

Consumers will this week be able to play music from Google Maps via in-built controls to access Spotify, Apple Music, Google Play Music and YouTube Music, without having to close the navigation app.

The upgrade includes a commute tab with information about traffic and public transport schedule changes customised for the user’s daily commute, and suggests alternative routes if there are delays.

Sydney and Melbourne users will also be able to access Taxify rideshare services, in addition to Uber within the app itself.

How Google Maps, Apple Maps work

Both Google Maps and its major competitor Apple Maps gradually download portions of a map as needed as you travel.

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Google launched eight new vehicles to capture updated Street View images around Australia. Photo: Google

They use the same GPS signal as a traditional unit and most smartphones have a back-up system if the 4G or 3G connection drops out, according to consumer group CHOICE.

Spatial information scientist Dr Martin Tomko said Google’s Street View car fleet take a few photos per minute when mapping data.

“Google’s cars are equipped with dozens of sensors, a highly accurate GPS on the roof, a camera and laser sensors which create a 3D map of the environment around the car,” he told The New Daily.

“I understand there are about 1400 Google cars worldwide and about 400 Apple cars [for Apple Maps].”

Since its launch in 2004, Google Maps now has more than one billion users around the world. An average of 400 million kilometres are driven with Google Maps each day – that’s more than the distance from Earth to the sun, and back again.

It updates its data more than 25 million times every day, including new road names, Street View images, business addresses and changes to public transport schedules.

Dr Tomko said consumers should be aware that while their experience may be more streamlined as a result of these upgrades, Google’s financial incentive is that it wants to collect more of your data.

“Google doesn’t want you to leave the app because so long as you are in the app, it can continue tracking you,” he said.

“They know that you might close the app when you arrive at your destination so they want you to stay in the app listening to music or waiting for a rideshare car.

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Google Maps wants more of your data. Source: Google

“When you have the app open Google not only knows your location, it also can see what other apps you have open and can use that information with your Google search history to piece together how old you are, your gender, interests, education and who your friends are.

“Google has the best traffic model out there, compared to competitors, because of its data.”

But Professor Kefei Zhang, the director of the Satellite Positioning and Navigation Laboratory at RMIT University, said there was still room to improve the accuracy of navigation apps.

“The standard accuracy of GPS positioning is about two to eight metres,” he said.

“The accuracy can be further improved to about a one metre level of accuracy using a technique called differential GPS (DGPS).

“The high end of sat nav accuracy – such as surveying-grade GPS receivers – can be accurate within a matter of centimetres and millimetres.”

Why the Google Maps deal is a win for Spotify users

An area yet to be explored by music streaming platforms is to individually customise music for users based on location. For example, creating a workout playlist that is ready as you arrive at the gym.

“Location services is a big piece missing for Spotify, Apple Music and Amazon Music right now,” digital music platforms expert Ben Morgan said.

“Spotify need to know where the user is in order to better customise playlists and recommendations based on context,” he said.

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