How To Integrate Google Maps Into Your App

If you are reading this then the chances are you are planning to launch a website and mobile app that require an integrated map.

You have made the smart choice to go with the world’s leading map provider, “Google Maps”, and now you are wondering how to integrate Google Maps into your app.

Does this sound like your requirements? Well, if it does then you have come to the right place since I will now explain exactly how to do that here!

Contents

What is Google Maps?
Why does Google Maps matter?
How businesses deliver value with Google Maps
A brief history of Google Maps!
What goes in the making of Google Maps?
How does Google Maps fare in the market?
How to integrate Google Maps into an app?
Integrating Google Maps into your strategic web and mobile apps?

What is Google Maps?

Google, the internet giant launched Google Maps as a service way back in 2004, long before most of us even had a smartphone.

It offers detailed information to users about pretty much any geographical region in the world, including cities, towns, and even the countryside. Google Maps offers a range of services, these include everything from road maps, aerial views, street views, and exact location, to name but a few.

Everyone including you and me can contribute to the enhancement of Google Maps. This I will explain shortly. But lets not jump the gun. Lets start by looking why Google Maps is such a powerful tool to help you improve your app.

Read more about Google Maps in this TechTarget definition.

Why does Google Maps matter?

Users of Google Maps get several advantages from it:

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  • Travelers can locate places on a map.
  • Google Maps can provide directions from point A to point B.
  • Users can get details about the places they visit. These details can be personalized for them, for e.g., distance covered, shops, restaurants etc.
  • Commuters can get dynamic traffic updates, moreover, they can get suggestions for alternate routes.
  • Google Maps can suggest transportation services to users, depending on the place.
  • Users can download maps for later use.
  • Some use cases might require Satellite views, which Google Maps can provide.
  • Interested users can become local guides for Google Maps.

Read more about these advantages in this Quora Q&A thread.

How businesses deliver value with Google Maps

Most of you will know Uber, however, most of you won’t know that this cab-hailing service uses Google Maps, and this isn’t the only example. There are lots of other business uses for Google Maps, for e.g.:

  • Disney World offers a customized Google Map. Visitors can use it find attractions, restaurants, resort hotels, etc. Users can zoom and scroll through the Disney World amusement parks, using this app.
  • Doctors on Demand uses Google Maps to connect patients to the nearest pharmacy after their consultation with doctors. This helps patients buy their prescription medicines quicker.
  • Trucking companies extensively use Google Maps for their fleet management solutions, and I have provided several examples in our guide “How to build a fleet management app for trucking company?”.
  • Restaurants are location-based businesses, and they get listed on Google Maps to gain new customers.

A brief history of Google Maps!

Google Maps had a humble beginning. “Where 2 Technologies”, a Sydney, Australia-based digital mapping start-up actually came up with the idea. Noel Gordon, Stephen Ma, Lars Rasmussen, and Jens Rasmussen founded this start-up.

They originally designed it as software to be downloaded and installed, however, they subsequently met with Larry Page, the founder of Google. Page preferred web, and the 4-member team delivered it in August 2004. Google acquired Where 2 Technologies, and that’s how Google Maps came about. Read more about it in “The untold story about the founding of Google Maps”.

What goes in the making of Google Maps?

Here is a brief overview of the resources used in Google Maps:

  • Google continues to collect a significant amount of data for Google Maps. They partner with several agencies to collect detailed vector data. Google created their “Base Map Partner Program” for this. Examples of such agencies are various city councils, the US National Park Service, the US Geological Survey, the USDA Forest Service, etc.
  • Users are invited to upload pictures or places such as restaurants. Google uses these images.
  • Google Earth uses satellites, and Google Maps uses these high-resolution images.
  • Mobile location services are used to feed data into Google Maps.
  • I have mentioned about how ordinary people contribute to the enrichment of Google Maps. They are known as “Local Guides”, and there are millions of such contributors providing data for Google Maps.
  • Finally, Google uses a large number of analytics programs. These programs use complex algorithms which are used to cleanse the data and make sense of it. These programs are the backbone of Google Maps.

You can get more insights into this in “How does Google Maps work?”.

How does Google Maps fare in the market?

Google Maps is the most popular mapping app in the software market. It has the largest user base. In the US, Google Maps had a monthly active user base of 154.4 million as of April 2018, as this Statista report shows. In comparison, the 2nd most popular mapping app Waze had 25.5 million users in the country.

Other research found that 67% of all mapping app users prefer Google Maps. This report shows that Waze is the 2nd most popular mapping app, with 12% of the users saying they prefer it. Read more in “The popularity of Google Maps: trends in navigation apps in 2018”.

How to integrate Google Maps into an app?

I will now describe the processes of how to integrate Google Maps into an app.

Step #1: Determine the project scope

I assume you will build a website, an Android app, and an iOS app. Your project scope will be as follows:

  • Integrate Google Maps into the website;
  • Android app integration with Google Maps;
  • iOS app integration with Google Maps.

Step #2: Formulate the project approach and methodology

This is a software development project, therefore, you need to use a suitable methodology. Website and mobile apps are tools for businesses to use to engage customers. These require frequent enhancements with the addition of new features, therefore, you should use an iterative development approach.

I recommend the Agile methodology for such projects, with its’ focus on iterative development. Read our guide “Waterfall vs Agile: which methodology is right for your project” to understand why.

Step #3: Form a capable team

As the next step, you will form a team with the following roles:

  • Business analysts;
  • UI/UX designers;
  • Web developers;
  • Android developers;
  • iOS developers;
  • Testers;
  • A project manager (PM).

Consider building a team suitable for Agile development. Consult our guide “How to build an Agile development team?”.

Read How We Helped a Marketing Company to Build a Back-Office Custom Ads Dashboard

You will not need infrastructure architects and mobile backend developers with this approach as I recommend using a “Platform as a Service” (PaaS) provider for the web app and a “Mobile Backend as a Service” (MBaaS) provider for mobile apps. I will elaborate on this shortly.

Remember to hire a project manager with good knowledge of modern PM tools like Trello, Asana, Zoho, etc. You will find our guide “The 10 best Agile project management tools in 2018” useful in this regard.

Step #4: Use Google App Engine PaaS for the web app

I recommend you use Google App Engine for the web app. It’s Googles’ PaaS, and it will address the following:

  • Cloud infrastructure including server and networking;
  • Middleware;
  • Operating system (OS);
  • Runtime environment;
  • 3rd party API integration;
  • Application scaling and monitoring.

You can focus on the development, and expedite your project. Read “10 top PaaS providers for 2019” to understand the benefits of using a PaaS.

Step #5: Use Google Firebase MBaaS for the mobile app

Google Firebase is a robust MBaaS for your mobile app. You can concentrate on the development while they take care of the following:

  • Cloud infrastructure;
  • Persistent storage;
  • Database;
  • Push notification;
  • User management;
  • Security;
  • 3rd party API integration.

Our guide “How to choose the best Mobile Backend as a Service (MBaaS)?” explains the benefits of using an MBaaS in detail.

Step #6: Integrate google maps into a website

Google Maps platform offers a JavaScript API, using which you can integrate Google Maps into your website. Access this tutorial. It provides you with relevant tips, for e.g.:

  • Loading the API;
  • Using HTTPS for secure interactions;
  • Accessing libraries;
  • Using different map options.

Please review the Google Maps pricing plans here.

Step #7: Embed Google Maps on a website

Let’s talk about how to embed Google Maps on websites. Google Maps platform has an API for that too. You can access it here. There are comprehensive guides, as follows:

Step #8: Google Maps integration into an Android app

I will now explain how to integrate Google Maps in an Android app. Google Maps platform provides you with an Android “Software Development Kit” (SDK). Your development team can access the SDK here. The SDK documentation is comprehensive, and includes the following:

  • How to use it;
  • Getting the API key;
  • Configuration instructions.

Step #9: Integrating Google Maps in an iOS app

There is an iOS SDK for Google Maps, using which you can integrate it into your iOS app. Access the SDK here, and learn the following:

  • How you can use it to incorporate the Google Maps data in the iOS app;
  • The process to get the API key.

Step #10: Complete the web app development

It’s now time to start the development process for your web app. I recommend the following:

  • Use Java to develop the web app. You can find instructions for using the Java runtime environment on Google App Engine here.
  • You need robust tools for automated testing, build management, deployment, etc. A comprehensive DevOps solution is what you need. Check out the DevOps solution in Google App Engine.

Step #11: Mobile app front-end design

Your project team should take adequate care to design a “User Interface” (UI) that’s user-friendly and elegant. The team needs to address the following aspects:

Step #12: Android app development, testing, and deployment

Now that you know about integrating Google Maps into the Android app, you need to proceed with your app for Android development. Your project team needs to do the following:

Step #13: Develop, test, and deploy the iOS app

You have learned about the Google Maps iOS SDK already, therefore, take the following steps to complete the iOS app development:

Step #14: Employ the “Scrum” technique for project management

“Scrum” technique supports iterative development, therefore, it’s a good choice for this app development software project. I recommend you use it, which will involve the following:

  • You create a “Scrum” team led by the PM, who performs the role of a “Scrum master”. It’s a cross-functional team where designers, developers, and testers work together.
  • A “Product owner” provides requirements or features in a document, which we call the “Product Backlog”.
  • The team conducts a “Sprint planning meeting”, which involves estimating and prioritizing the features in “Sprints”, i.e., iterations.
  • During the execution of a sprint, the team conducts a “Daily stand-up meeting” to discuss the project status.
  • Project stakeholders review the completed features in a “Sprint review meeting”, where the team demonstrates the features. Stakeholders approve a sprint provided all the developed features work according to the requirements.
  • A scrum team also conducts a “Sprint retrospective meeting” to learn lessons from the sprint they just completed. They implement any lessons learned in the next sprint.

Get more insights about this technique in “How to build a Scrum development team?”.

Integrating Google Maps into your strategic web and mobile apps?

SDKs, APIs, PaaS providers, MBaaS providers, IDEs, and several guidelines can help your team in building web and mobile apps that integrate Google Maps.

However, if you are planning a strategic app with customized mapping requirements, then you will encounter a higher degree of complexity. I recommend you engage a reputed Agile software development partner in such cases. Our guide “How to find the best software development company?” can help you find a reliable development partner.

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