My Google Map Blog

Tag: covid-19

Behind the scenes: popular times and live busyness information

by Matt D'Zmura on Oct.16, 2020, under 3D Models, Argentina, Australia, Brazil, California, Denmark, England, Germany, Google Earth News, Google Earth Tips, Google Sky, Google maps, Hawaii, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Mexico, Natural Landmarks, Netherlands, Sightseeing, Street Views, USA

If you’ve ever been in a rush to grab a quick bite, you may know the pain that comes along with finding out that the restaurant you chose is packed and there’s nowhere to sit. Or maybe you need to pick up just one item from the grocery store, only to find that the line is out the door—derailing your plans and causing you unnecessary stress. 


These problems were top of mind when Google Maps launched popular times and live busyness information—helpful features that let you see how busy a place tends to be on a given day and time or in a specific moment. This information has become a powerful tool during the pandemic, making it easier to social distance because you know in advance how crowded a place will be. Today, we’ll take a closer look at how we calculate busyness information, while keeping your data private and secure.

Popular times: making sense of historical busyness information

To calculate busyness insights, we analyze aggregated and anonymized Location History data from people who have opted to turn this setting on from their Google Account. This data is instrumental in calculating how busy a place typically is for every hour of the week. The busiest hour becomes our benchmark—and we then display busyness data for the rest of the week relative to that hour. 


For example, say there’s a new ice cream shop down the block known for its homemade waffle cones

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Stay informed and get around safely with Google Maps

by Dane Glasgow on Oct.16, 2020, under 3D Models, Argentina, Australia, Brazil, California, Denmark, England, Germany, Google Earth News, Google Earth Tips, Google Sky, Google maps, Hawaii, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Mexico, Natural Landmarks, Netherlands, Sightseeing, Street Views, USA

People turn to Google Maps for accurate, fresh information about what’s going on in the world—especially so during the pandemic. Activities like picking up something from the store, going for a walk, or grabbing a bite to eat now require a significant amount of planning and preparation. At any given time, you may be thinking: “Does the place I’m headed to have enough room for social distancing?” or “What safety precautions are being taken at my destination?”


Today, as part of our Search On event, we’re announcing new improvements to arm you with the information you need to navigate your world safely and get things done.

Make informed decisions with new live busyness updates

The ability to see busyness information on Google Maps has been one of our most popular features since it launched back in 2016. During the pandemic, this information has transformed into an essential tool, helping people quickly understand how busy a place is expected to be so they can make better decisions about where to go and when. In fact, as people around the world adjusted to life during the pandemic, they used popular times and live busyness information more. We saw engagement with these features rise 50 percent between March and May as more people tapped, scrolled and compared data to find the best days and times to go places.   


We’ve been expanding live busyness information to millions of places around the world, and are on track to increase global coverage by five times compared to June 2020. This expansion includes more outdoor areas, like beaches and parks, and essential places, like grocery stores, gas stations, laundromats and pharmacies. Busyness information will surface in directions and right on the map—so you don’t even need to search for a specific place in order to see how busy it is. This will soon be available to Android, iOS and desktop users worldwide.


live_busyness

You’ll soon be able to see live busyness information without even searching for a place.


destination_busyness

See live busyness information for your destination when getting directions

A new way to source up-to-date business information

It’s hard to know how a business’ offerings have changed during the pandemic. To help people find the freshest business information possible, we’ve been using Duplex conversational technology to call businesses and verify their information on Maps and Search. Since April 2020, this information has helped make more than 3 million updates, including updated hours of operation, delivery and pickup options, and store inventory information for in-demand products such as face masks, hand sanitizer and disinfectant. To date, these updates have been viewed more than 20 billion times.


Important health and safety information about businesses is now front and center on Maps and Search. You can quickly know what safety precautions a business is taking, such as if they require customers to wear masks and make reservations, if there’s plexiglass onsite, or if their staff takes regular temperature checks. This information comes directly from businesses, and soon Google Maps users will also be able to contribute this useful information.

heath_and_safety

Health and safety information is now front and center in Google Maps

See helpful information right from Live View

Getting around your city looks different these days. The stakes are higher due to safety concerns, and it’s important to have all the information you need before deciding to visit a place. In the coming months, people using Android and iOS devices globally will be able to use Live View, a feature that uses AR to help you find your way, to learn more about a restaurant, store or business.

Say you’re walking around a new neighborhood, and one boutique in particular captures your attention. You’ll be able to use Live View to quickly learn if it’s open, how busy it is, its star rating, and health and safety information if available, 

live_view_place_info

Use Live View to quickly see helpful information about a business.

The pandemic has changed how we interact with the world. Getting around, shopping for essentials and finding things to do all require more thought and consideration, and Google Maps is here to help.

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Navigate safely with new COVID data in Google Maps

by Sujoy Banerjee on Sep.24, 2020, under 3D Models, Argentina, Australia, Brazil, California, Denmark, England, Germany, Google Earth News, Google Earth Tips, Google Sky, Google maps, Hawaii, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Mexico, Natural Landmarks, Netherlands, Sightseeing, Street Views, USA

More than one billion people turn to Google Maps for essential information about how to get from place to place–especially during the pandemic when safety concerns are top of mind. Features like popular times and live busyness, COVID-19 alerts in transit, and COVID checkpoints in driving navigation were all designed to help you stay safe when you’re out and about. This week, we’re introducing the COVID layer in Maps, a tool that shows critical information about COVID-19 cases in an area so you can make more informed decisions about where to go and what to do. 

How it works

When you open Google Maps, tap on the layers button on the top right hand corner of your screen and click on “COVID-19 info”. You’ll then see a seven-day average of new COVID cases per 100,000 people for the area of the map you’re looking at, and a label that indicates whether the cases are trending up or down. Color coding also helps you easily distinguish the density of new cases in an area. Trending case data is visible at the country level for all 220 countries and territories that Google Maps supports, along with state or province, county, and city-level data where available.

Where we get the data 

Data featured in the COVID layer comes from multiple authoritative sources, including Johns Hopkins, the New York Times, and Wikipedia. These sources get data from public health organizations like the World Health Organization, government health ministries, along with state and local health agencies and hospitals. Many of these sources already power COVID case information in Search, and we’re now expanding this data to Google Maps. 


While getting around is more complicated these days, our hope is that these Google Maps features will help you get where you need to be as safely and efficiently as possible. The COVID layer starts rolling out worldwide on Android and iOS this week. 


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Ride easy with new biking features in Google Maps

by Vishal Dutta on Jul.20, 2020, under 3D Models, Argentina, Australia, Brazil, California, Denmark, England, Germany, Google Earth News, Google Earth Tips, Google Sky, Google maps, Hawaii, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Mexico, Natural Landmarks, Netherlands, Sightseeing, Street Views, USA

People across the world are opting to hop on their bikes—especially with summer arriving in many parts of the world and more people looking for safer ways to get around. Since February, requests for cycling directions in Google Maps have jumped by 69 percent—hitting an all-time high last month. Whether people are hitting the road to get their heart pumping or commute safely during COVID-19, we’re making it easier for cyclists everywhere to get on their own bike or a shared one. 

 Ten years ago, we introduced biking directions in Google Maps. Now it’s available in nearly 30 countries around the world and millions of people use it every day. As biking habits change, especially as things evolve with COVID-19, we’re constantly updating this information to help you uncover the most reliable bike route.


Raise the (handle)bar on biking routes  

To give you the most up-to-date bike route, we use a combination of machine learning, complex algorithms and our understanding of real-world conditions based on imagery and data from government authorities and community contributions. We also consider various forms of bike lanes and nearby streets that might be less friendly for your two wheels (like tunnels, stairs and poor surface conditions) so you can have the best and smoothest biking route. You can also see how flat or steep your route will be, so you’ll know if you’re in for an easy breezy ride or one that will really get the heart pumping. 

However, the best route can always change and we are hard at work to reflect new information. For instance, due to COVID-19, many cities are adding and widening bike lanes to encourage cycling and accommodate more riders. We’re already working to integrate hundreds of thousands of new bike lanes in the coming months. Local government agencies can provide this data through our Geo Data Upload tool to have their latest bike lane information reflected in Google Maps. 


Gear up for new docked bikeshare directions in 10 cities

As more people choose to cycle, they’re buying new bikes, fixing up old ones and turning to bike sharing options. In fact, worldwide search interest for “bike repair near me” hit an all-time high this month—more than double what it was last year. 

For riders opting to use bike sharing, we’re rolling out more detailed information. Over the last several years, we’ve launched a dockless bike and scooter integration with Lime in more than 100 cities and introduced real-time docked bikeshare information to help travellers in select cities locate bike sharing stations and real-time availability. With bikeshare providers seeing sharp increases in usage during COVID-19, it’s even more important to quickly and easily check how many bikes are available at the station you’re headed toward and if there are docks available to drop off your bike near your destination. 

Starting today, when you look up biking directions, you’ll see end-to-end directions that include docked bikeshare information. Steps will include detailed walking directions to bikeshare stations near your starting point along with live bike availability, turn-by-turn cycling directions to the bikeshare station closest to your destination with live dock availability, and, finally, walking directions from there to your final destination. And, for some cities, Maps will show you links to open the relevant bikeshare app to book and unlock the bike.

docked-bike-full.gif

New docked bikeshare directions coming to 10 cities.

Rolling out over the coming weeks, you’ll find docked bikeshare directions in these 10 cities, thanks to our partnership with Ito Worldand bikeshare partners around the world. We’re actively working with additional partners to bring this functionality to more cities in the coming months. 

  • Chicago, U.S. (Divvy/Lyft)
  • New York City, U.S. (Citi Bike/Lyft)
  • San Francisco Bay Area, U.S. (Bay Wheels/Lyft)
  • Washington, DC, U.S. (Capital Bikeshare/Lyft)
  • London, England (Santander Cycles/TfL)
  • Mexico City, Mexico (Ecobici)
  • Montreal, Canada (BIXI/Lyft)
  • Rio De Janeiro, Brazil (Bike Itaú)
  • São Paulo, Brazil (Bike Itaú)
  • Taipei and New Taipei City, Taiwan (YouBike)

As with any mode of transportation right now, cleanliness and safety are top of mind. All of our bikeshare partners have taken steps to increase their cleaning protocols during COVID-19. Please check with your local partner to learn about their latest safety measures. And as always, we encourage you to follow local health and safety guidelines—no matter how you’re getting around. 

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Get around safely with these new Google Maps features

by Ramesh Nagarajan on Jun.08, 2020, under 3D Models, Argentina, Australia, Brazil, California, Denmark, England, Germany, Google Earth News, Google Earth Tips, Google Sky, Google maps, Hawaii, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Mexico, Natural Landmarks, Netherlands, Sightseeing, Street Views, USA

Getting from A to B can be more complicated these days. Because of COVID-19, it’s increasingly important to know how crowded a train station might be at a particular time or whether the bus is running on a limited schedule. Having this information before and during your trip is critical for both essential workers who need to safely navigate to work and will become more important for everyone as countries around the world begin to reopen. 

In our latest release of Google Maps on Android and iOS, we’re introducing features to help you easily find important information if you need to venture out, whether it’s by car or public transportation. 

Get alerts about important information 

When you look up public transit directions for a trip that is likely to be affected by COVID-19 restrictions, we’ll show relevant alerts from local transit agencies. These alerts can help you prepare accordingly if government mandates impact transit services or require you to wear a mask on public transportation. Transit alerts are rolling out in Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Colombia, France, India, Mexico, Netherlands, Spain, Thailand, United Kingdom and the U.S. where we have information from local transit agencies, with more coming soon. 

We’re also introducing driving alerts to notify you about COVID-19 checkpoints and restrictions along your route, like when crossing national borders (starting first in Canada, Mexico and the U.S.). You’ll see an alert on the directions screen and after starting navigation if your route is impacted by these restrictions. 

When navigating to medical facilities or COVID-19 testing centers, we’ll display an alert reminding you to verify eligibility and facility guidelines to avoid being turned away or causing additional strain on the local healthcare system. Starting this week, alerts for medical facilities will be available in Indonesia, Israel, the Philippines, South Korea, and the U.S., and testing center alerts will be available in the U.S.

We’re showing these alerts where we’ve received authoritative data from local, state and federal governments or from their websites, and are actively working with other agencies around the world to bring even more of this helpful data to users in Google Maps. Interested agencies can get in touch here for driving restrictions and here for transit alerts. 

Safely avoid crowds on public transit 

Last year, we introduced crowdedness predictions for public transit in Google Maps. Powered by tens of millions of contributions from past riders, these predictions help people see how crowded a particular bus line or train tends to be. We’re now making it simpler for people to contribute crowdedness information for their transit lines. Look up Directions, tap through to see the Transit Details, then scroll down to find crowdedness predictions (where available) and easily contribute your own experiences.

Additionally, in February, we announced new insights like temperature, accessibility and security onboard, as well as designated women’s sections in regions where transit systems have them. These insights are now rolled out globally, helping you find feedback from past riders when available and submit your own, right alongside public transit routes. To help wheelchair users around the world know before they go, we’ve added more granular accessibility information for people to find and contribute, including where there are wheelchair accessible doors, seating, stop buttons and more. 

crowdedness-10.43.gif

Find and contribute crowdedness information for transit lines. 

To ensure proper social distancing, commuters are paying attention to how crowded or comfortable their ride and transit station will be. Starting today, you can easily see the times when a transit station is historically more or less busy to plan your trip accordingly or you can look at live data showing how busy it is right now compared to its usual level of activity. Simply search for a station in Google Maps or tap on the station on the map to see the departure board and busyness data, where available. Rolling out over the next several weeks, these capabilities are powered by aggregated and anonymized data from users who have opted in to Google Location History, a Google account-level setting that is off by default. To protect privacy, these insights are only surfaced when we have sufficient data to meet privacy thresholds. 


busyness-10.43.gif

See popular times for a transit station and how busy it is at that moment.

COVID-19 has certainly impacted the way that we move around in the world. As cities and countries across the globe adapt, we’re committed to bringing the most pertinent information right to your fingertips. So when you’re ready and able to, you can safely venture out.


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Google’s new tools help businesses during COVID-19

by Jen Fitzpatrick on May.27, 2020, under 3D Models, Argentina, Australia, Brazil, California, Denmark, England, Germany, Google Earth News, Google Earth Tips, Google Sky, Google maps, Hawaii, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Mexico, Natural Landmarks, Netherlands, Sightseeing, Street Views, USA

Running a business requires a whole lot of ingenuity and perseverance. It’s those same qualities that are helping local businesses adapt, and even thrive, in today’s new normal. To adjust, business owners are increasingly turning to digital tools. According to a newly released report by the Connected Commerce Council, nearly one in three small business owners said that without digital tools they would have had to close all or parts of their business.

We’ve rolled out new features to help businesses get the support they need, adapt their operations, and quickly update customers about their latest changes.

Let people know how they can help 

We’ve seen firsthand in Google Search and Maps the impact that COVID-19 has had on small businesses and how they connect with their customers. People across the world are looking for ways to continue supporting corner bookstores, local watering holes, beloved dance studios and other businesses that give their neighborhoods character—even if it’s from a distance. 

To help local businesses share how their communities can support them during COVID-19, we recently began allowing merchants in six countries to add support links for donations and gift cards to their Business Profiles on Google. Starting today, we’re rolling support links out to merchants in an additional 18 countries such as Italy, Spain and Japan. We’ve partnered with PayPal and GoFundMe for donations. For gift cards, merchants can link directly to the relevant page on their website or to their gift card offerings with one of our eligible partners, which includes Square, Toast, Clover and Vagaro.

People around the world are looking to help—with global search interest in "how to help small businesses" reaching an all-time high in March 2020, increasing more than 700 percent since February. To help connect them with nearby businesses in need, we’ve made it possible for people to look up their favorite local businesses by name to see if they’ve added donation or gift card links to their Business Profile. And in the coming weeks, people will also be able to use Search and Maps to find all of the nearby businesses that are asking for support. 

Support Links Search

People can now look up their favorite local businesses to see if they have donation or gift card links on their Business Profile

Transition to online services with ease 

Merchants who normally provided in-person services are now pivoting to connect with their customers virtually—from yoga studios offering online classes to salons hosting virtual hair styling classes. We’re making it easier for customers to discover online classes and book virtual appointments with these new features:

  • Get discovered:Merchants who are verified on Google My Business will soon be able to add attributes like “online classes,” “online appointments,” or “online estimates” to their Business Profiles to let people know how they’re operating. Today merchants can add one of these attributes using Google My Business, and in the coming weeks it’ll be visible on merchants’ Business Profiles in Search and Maps. 

  • Online service bookings directly on Google:We’re expanding Reserve with Google to help merchants offer easy appointment bookings for online services so customers can quickly find available times, book a slot, and add it to their Google Calendar—all directly from a merchant’s Business Profile. Millions of people have already booked in-person appointments with salons, restaurants and other businesses thanks to integrations from over 100 Reserve with Google partners. We’re now expanding this to include bookings for online services, starting with partners like Booksy, Regis, WellnessLiving, and Zooty. Merchants working with one of these partners can offer online bookings directly on Google and share details with customers about how to pay and join the meeting using their preferred video platform.

Online Class Booking

 Merchants can offer easy appointment bookings for online services. 

Keep everyone in the know with the latest business information

Sometimes it’s not as simple as “open” and “closed.” Since the beginning of the pandemic, we’ve added new tools to help merchants keep customers informed about how and when they’re operating. 

Across all business verticals, we launched the ability to mark their business as temporarily closed, as well as reopen when they’re ready to open their doors. We also added secondary hours and COVID-19 posts so merchants can communicate important information about their operations directly in Google Search and Maps. Since March, we’ve seen more than 1 million businesses share COVID-19 posts, with millions of clicks to merchants’ websites every week as consumers look for more information.

With many people unable to enjoy meals inside their favorite restaurants, demand for food delivery and takeout has skyrocketed. In response, we’ve added more third-party ordering providers, so people everywhere can order delivery and takeout from an additional 25,000 restaurants directly on Google. To give merchants even more control, we’ll soon be making it easier for food merchants to indicate their preferred online ordering partners on their Business Profiles. 

Today people are deciding where to grab food not only based on the menu, but also on how easy it is to pick up safely. We added attributes like “curbside pickup,” “no contact delivery,” and “dine-in” so that restaurants could easily share these important details on their Business Profiles in Search and Maps. Since March, more than 3 million restaurants have added or edited their dining attributes. Some restaurateurs are even ditching dining areas for good. To support all types of food merchants, virtual kitchens can now verify their businesses on Google My Business. 

We know that every day during this pandemic can be drastically different—and for small business owners, there can be a lot of uncertainty. While we can’t control what each day looks like, our goal is to continue helping businesses communicate the latest with consumers across the world. 

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Maps that bring us closer, even when we’re apart

by Chris Herwig on Apr.29, 2020, under 3D Models, Argentina, Australia, Brazil, California, Denmark, England, Germany, Google Earth, Google Earth News, Google Earth Tips, Google Sky, Google maps, Hawaii, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Mexico, Natural Landmarks, Netherlands, Sightseeing, Street Views, USA

With much of the world physically apart right now, people are finding creative ways to use custom-built maps to maintain a shared sense of community, albeit virtually.


In 2007, we launched a tool called My Maps to help people create their own custom maps on top of Google Maps. With a simple drag-and-drop interface you can add placemarks, draw lines and shapes, and embed text, photos and videos. You can share your map via public URL, embed it on websites or publish your map for others to see.


Over the past four months, we’ve seen a surge in the number of people creating and viewing My Maps. From December 2019 to April 2020, we saw nearly a billion more My Maps creations, edits and views compared to the same time period last year, growing from 2 billion to nearly 3 billion. With My Maps, communities have been sharing helpful, local information in rapidly changing situations—from COVID-19 testing sites and food banks to where first responders can access childcare facilities.


Maps can help us and our communities stay safe

A map can be helpful in ways that a simple list of text is not: it helps us instantly see information in the context of where we are, with the locations of the resources we might need.

My Maps animation

With My Maps, anyone can be a cartographer. People can import their own data into a custom map, similar to how the San Francisco Department of Homelessness & Supportive Housing mapped downtown hand-washing and hygiene stations to support hand hygiene and reduce the spread of COVID-19. With a spreadsheet or KML you can have your own custom map in no time.


Some maps take a bit more than hand-drawn points and polygons. For that, My Maps creators can import their own mapping data and mash it up with other sources. 


For example, the online newspaper Briarcliff Daily Voice created a My Map showing the spread of coronavirus cases in the New York City metropolitan area, using data from three state healthcare agencies and the city’s health department. Pennsylvania.gov has leveraged My Maps to inform Pennsylvanians about coronavirus cases by county. And The Chicago Sun-Times has a map showing where to get tested for coronavirus in the Chicago area.
Food bank

Anyone can be a force for good with simple, easy-to-use maps

In the past few months, we've seen how powerful this small set of relatively simple features can be. People are using My Maps to to be forces for good and coordinate relief efforts.


Map by map, people are connecting each other to resources for caring for ourselves and others, while staying healthy and informed. We’re seeing everyone from members of Congress to local nonprofits use Google My Maps to visualize information like school lunch pick-up spots to the spread of the virus in our communities.


Here are 10 helpful My Maps we’ve seen developed by communities around the world:


Keeping a shared sense of community, even when you're physically apart

As much as these maps are informative and helpful, they’re also uplifting. After a group of Brooklyn, NY moms asked neighbors to put pictures of rainbows in house windows so kids could track them down, one woman created a map showing the rainbows’ locations all over the city and suburbs. Now people worldwide are pitching in and adding their own rainbow locations to the map.

Mapping Rainbows with Google My Maps

If you’d like to experiment with My Maps, we’re putting together tutorials on skills like merging datasets and embedding maps online. Visit the Google Earth Medium channel in the coming weeks to learn more.

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Maps that bring us closer, even when we’re apart

by Chris Herwig on Apr.29, 2020, under 3D Models, Argentina, Australia, Brazil, California, Denmark, England, Germany, Google Earth, Google Earth News, Google Earth Tips, Google Sky, Google maps, Hawaii, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Mexico, Natural Landmarks, Netherlands, Sightseeing, Street Views, USA

With much of the world physically apart right now, people are finding creative ways to use custom-built maps to maintain a shared sense of community, albeit virtually.


In 2007, we launched a tool called My Maps to help people create their own custom maps on top of Google Maps. With a simple drag-and-drop interface you can add placemarks, draw lines and shapes, and embed text, photos and videos. You can share your map via public URL, embed it on websites or publish your map for others to see.


Over the past four months, we’ve seen a surge in the number of people creating and viewing My Maps. From December 2019 to April 2020, we saw nearly a billion more My Maps creations, edits and views compared to the same time period last year, growing from 2 billion to nearly 3 billion. With My Maps, communities have been sharing helpful, local information in rapidly changing situations—from COVID-19 testing sites and food banks to where first responders can access childcare facilities.


Maps can help us and our communities stay safe

A map can be helpful in ways that a simple list of text is not: it helps us instantly see information in the context of where we are, with the locations of the resources we might need.

My Maps animation

With My Maps, anyone can be a cartographer. People can import their own data into a custom map, similar to how the San Francisco Department of Homelessness & Supportive Housing mapped downtown hand-washing and hygiene stations to support hand hygiene and reduce the spread of COVID-19. With a spreadsheet or KML you can have your own custom map in no time.


Some maps take a bit more than hand-drawn points and polygons. For that, My Maps creators can import their own mapping data and mash it up with other sources. 


For example, the online newspaper Briarcliff Daily Voice created a My Map showing the spread of coronavirus cases in the New York City metropolitan area, using data from three state healthcare agencies and the city’s health department. Pennsylvania.gov has leveraged My Maps to inform Pennsylvanians about coronavirus cases by county. And The Chicago Sun-Times has a map showing where to get tested for coronavirus in the Chicago area.
Food bank

Anyone can be a force for good with simple, easy-to-use maps

In the past few months, we've seen how powerful this small set of relatively simple features can be. People are using My Maps to to be forces for good and coordinate relief efforts.


Map by map, people are connecting each other to resources for caring for ourselves and others, while staying healthy and informed. We’re seeing everyone from members of Congress to local nonprofits use Google My Maps to visualize information like school lunch pick-up spots to the spread of the virus in our communities.


Here are 10 helpful My Maps we’ve seen developed by communities around the world:


Keeping a shared sense of community, even when you're physically apart

As much as these maps are informative and helpful, they’re also uplifting. After a group of Brooklyn, NY moms asked neighbors to put pictures of rainbows in house windows so kids could track them down, one woman created a map showing the rainbows’ locations all over the city and suburbs. Now people worldwide are pitching in and adding their own rainbow locations to the map.

Mapping Rainbows with Google My Maps

If you’d like to experiment with My Maps, we’re putting together tutorials on skills like merging datasets and embedding maps online. Visit the Google Earth Medium channel in the coming weeks to learn more.

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Street View is helping this tour guide stay in business

by Katie Malczyk on Apr.24, 2020, under 3D Models, Argentina, Australia, Brazil, California, Denmark, England, Germany, Google Earth News, Google Earth Tips, Google Sky, Google maps, Hawaii, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Mexico, Natural Landmarks, Netherlands, Sightseeing, Street Views, USA

On March 24, government restrictions due to COVID-19 went into effect across the United Kingdom. With nonessential businesses forced to close, public gatherings banned, and most people required to stay at home, these regulations instantly transformed daily life. They also presented a serious threat to Katie Wignall’s business: Katie makes her living as a tour guide, showing curious visitors the highlights of London.

But instead of trying to simply wait out the crisis, Katie looked to technology for a solution to creatively keep her business going. We chatted with her to find out how she’s successfully managed to take her walking tours virtual.

Beaver statues on London's Oxford Street

One of the beaver statues on Oxford Street

Describe your business, Look Up London.

I provide walking tours all over London for public and private groups. I’m a Blue Badge Tourist Guide, which is the top accreditation for tourist guides in the UK. We do two years of training, pass 11 exams, and we’re the only guides that can take you inside the Tower of London and Westminster Abbey.

Look Up London started originally as a blog and social media channels, where I shared quirkier bits of London history. The name is all about spotting the little details in the architecture around you, to tell the story of why something looks the way it does. For example, on Oxford Street, which is famous for its shopping, there's a building decorated with sculptures of beavers. They're a clue to the fact it used to be a hat factory—slightly gruesome, but a detail that is so often missed by passersby!

How has your business been impacted by COVID-19 and the government restrictions?

I’ve had to shut down, basically. I can’t go out; we’re not able to meet up in groups to deliver the normal tours. All of the work I had booked going into the summer—the busiest time—has just been cancelled or postponed. Literally overnight there was no work at all. 

Katie Wignall giving a tour of London's Guildhall

Katie giving a tour of the Guildhall

What gave you the idea for virtual tours?

It was actually a suggestion from a follower on Instagram who asked, “Is there a way you could do virtual tours?” I started out by going out myself and having my husband film me on London streets, but then as the situation escalated, we weren’t allowed outside.

So then I thought I’d experiment with Google Street View. If I couldn’t go outside, I could offer people the next best thing, through a screen. I was already using Street View a lot for my work—it’s really good for my research. I love the feature where you can go back in time. It’s not possible for every location, but for a lot of central London, you can select a place in Google Maps for desktop, drag the Street View pegman into the picture and click on the clock in the top left corner to explore imagery from the past. You can see where buildings have been demolished and what used to be standing where.

So now, every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 2 PM London time, I use Street View to give a virtual tour on Instagram Live. And for anyone who can’t make that time, I post the recordings on my website. They’re all free, and if people enjoy them, they can make a donation.

What’s been the response?

People have been so lovely. From the comments, I think it’s been very helpful for people in lockdown, who maybe are older and can’t get out of the house as often, or people who’ve had to leave London and are feeling homesick. Lots have messaged me to say it’s made them feel like they’ve been outside. They’ve really learned something new and taken their minds off the situation for twenty minutes or so.

Any advantages to using Street View compared to being there in person?

The great thing about Street View is that you can hop about—you can jump a mile down the road and people don’t have to get on a bus or actually walk, so you can cover a lot of ground.

And then there’s that feature to go back in time and see things how they appeared years ago, back to 2008. On a normal tour, you can show pictures and give people an idea, but if people are on Street View and feel like they’re standing in a space and seeing the changes right there, it’s a different experience.

One example, on my Aldgate tour, is a garden space that has been relandscaped. The garden looks beautiful now, but three years ago you could see the cobbles of Victorian London. And those cobbles happen to have been the site of the murder of Catherine Eddowes, who was a victim of Jack the Ripper. That was an evocative thing to be able to show.

Any advice for other small business owners who are trying to figure out how to adapt right now?

I think you have to do the thing that you enjoy doing. I don’t think I’d be able to do these three times a week if I didn’t enjoy them. If you have something that you want to share, there’s no reason you shouldn’t do that. Technology has made everything so accessible, and if you care about something, chances are others care about that as well.

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Street View is helping this tour guide stay in business

by Katie Malczyk on Apr.24, 2020, under 3D Models, Argentina, Australia, Brazil, California, Denmark, England, Germany, Google Earth News, Google Earth Tips, Google Sky, Google maps, Hawaii, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Mexico, Natural Landmarks, Netherlands, Sightseeing, Street Views, USA

On March 24, government restrictions due to COVID-19 went into effect across the United Kingdom. With nonessential businesses forced to close, public gatherings banned, and most people required to stay at home, these regulations instantly transformed daily life. They also presented a serious threat to Katie Wignall’s business: Katie makes her living as a tour guide, showing curious visitors the highlights of London.

But instead of trying to simply wait out the crisis, Katie looked to technology for a solution to creatively keep her business going. We chatted with her to find out how she’s successfully managed to take her walking tours virtual.

Beaver statues on London's Oxford Street

One of the beaver statues on Oxford Street

Describe your business, Look Up London.

I provide walking tours all over London for public and private groups. I’m a Blue Badge Tourist Guide, which is the top accreditation for tourist guides in the UK. We do two years of training, pass 11 exams, and we’re the only guides that can take you inside the Tower of London and Westminster Abbey.

Look Up London started originally as a blog and social media channels, where I shared quirkier bits of London history. The name is all about spotting the little details in the architecture around you, to tell the story of why something looks the way it does. For example, on Oxford Street, which is famous for its shopping, there's a building decorated with sculptures of beavers. They're a clue to the fact it used to be a hat factory—slightly gruesome, but a detail that is so often missed by passersby!

How has your business been impacted by COVID-19 and the government restrictions?

I’ve had to shut down, basically. I can’t go out; we’re not able to meet up in groups to deliver the normal tours. All of the work I had booked going into the summer—the busiest time—has just been cancelled or postponed. Literally overnight there was no work at all. 

Katie Wignall giving a tour of London's Guildhall

Katie giving a tour of the Guildhall

What gave you the idea for virtual tours?

It was actually a suggestion from a follower on Instagram who asked, “Is there a way you could do virtual tours?” I started out by going out myself and having my husband film me on London streets, but then as the situation escalated, we weren’t allowed outside.

So then I thought I’d experiment with Google Street View. If I couldn’t go outside, I could offer people the next best thing, through a screen. I was already using Street View a lot for my work—it’s really good for my research. I love the feature where you can go back in time. It’s not possible for every location, but for a lot of central London, you can select a place in Google Maps for desktop, drag the Street View pegman into the picture and click on the clock in the top left corner to explore imagery from the past. You can see where buildings have been demolished and what used to be standing where.

So now, every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 2 PM London time, I use Street View to give a virtual tour on Instagram Live. And for anyone who can’t make that time, I post the recordings on my website. They’re all free, and if people enjoy them, they can make a donation.

What’s been the response?

People have been so lovely. From the comments, I think it’s been very helpful for people in lockdown, who maybe are older and can’t get out of the house as often, or people who’ve had to leave London and are feeling homesick. Lots have messaged me to say it’s made them feel like they’ve been outside. They’ve really learned something new and taken their minds off the situation for twenty minutes or so.

Any advantages to using Street View compared to being there in person?

The great thing about Street View is that you can hop about—you can jump a mile down the road and people don’t have to get on a bus or actually walk, so you can cover a lot of ground.

And then there’s that feature to go back in time and see things how they appeared years ago, back to 2008. On a normal tour, you can show pictures and give people an idea, but if people are on Street View and feel like they’re standing in a space and seeing the changes right there, it’s a different experience.

One example, on my Aldgate tour, is a garden space that has been relandscaped. The garden looks beautiful now, but three years ago you could see the cobbles of Victorian London. And those cobbles happen to have been the site of the murder of Catherine Eddowes, who was a victim of Jack the Ripper. That was an evocative thing to be able to show.

Any advice for other small business owners who are trying to figure out how to adapt right now?

I think you have to do the thing that you enjoy doing. I don’t think I’d be able to do these three times a week if I didn’t enjoy them. If you have something that you want to share, there’s no reason you shouldn’t do that. Technology has made everything so accessible, and if you care about something, chances are others care about that as well.

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