Google Earth: Real-time recycling and bus info

We’ve seen a lot of interesting real-time data feeds into Google Earth over the years, the most common being real-time air traffic and a feed of real-time satellite locations.

A new set of models from iNovmapping brings it to a different level — stationary objects with real-time data inside. For now, their demonstrations are for bus information, found by clicking on a bus stop, and recycling information, found by clicking on a recycling container. Here are a few screenshots and KMZ files to show you what we’re talking about.

Bus Stop – KMZ


Recycling Container – KMZ


What makes these very unique is that the KMZ files aren’t necessary to make them function — they’re just to help you locate the models. In every other real-time product we’ve seen in the past, it’s been managed via a network link. In this case, they’ve added an iframe to the description box on the 3D model itself, and then they can update the information inside of the iframe with up-to-date data about that location. You don’t need to load any external KML files or network links; you can just use the standard “3D Buildings” layer in Google Earth.

If I’m not mistaken, this is the first time we’ve ever seen something like this and the potential for it is huge!

• Find a house on the beach, click it to get real-time rental prices.

• Click on a restaurant to get operating hours for today.

• Click on a house for sale to get info about pricing, open houses, etc.

• Click on a conference center to see what events are happening inside today.

The possibilities are endless, though most of the business ideas mentioned above don’t have 3D models yet. Those that do would then need to find a way to keep the iframed page updated daily, which could be technically challenging and/or time consuming. While there are some issues to work out, this is still quite impressive.

iNovmapping wants to take it even further, though. Some ideas they have for the future:

For example, developers could incorporate feeds of shows in Theaters or of expositions in Museums. This would turn the 3D layer more useful and would create an incentive on the part of the real-estate owners to put their buildings on the GE 3D Layer. Another feature … is the possibility of clicking buildings on the Earth Layer of Google Maps. Everyone likes to see realistic models but we appreciate it evan more if they speak back at us.

They make some great points. While Google Earth is an amazing tool, it’s historically been quite anti-social. Any social games or social apps of any kind end up using the plug-in via the browser, rather than try to do it inside of Google Earth. I tried making a discussion forum inside of Google Earth a few years ago, but it was quite clunky. If (when?) Google ever moves “My Places” into the cloud, that could help with sharing, but until then it’s very limited. It’s great to see a company like iNovmapping try to push the envelope a little bit with methods like this.

Maps in Comics: In Maps & Legends

In Maps & Legends #1 In Maps & Legends is a digital comic book series about a fantasy mapmaker who finds herself drawn into a mysterious world she’s been mapping.

Kaitlin is a newly single freelance artist who is stuck in the rut of the well-paying, for-hire covers and maps she creates for fat fantasy novels.

But at night, driven by some strange compulsion, Kait has been working long hours on an intricate, mixed-media map of a place she’s never been, a map that covers all four walls of the window-less spare room she keeps locked next to her tiny bedroom. She’s not sure where the inspiration for the map comes from, but she can’t seem to help herself.

One cold night, Kait is visited by a disheveled man named Bartamus who claims to be from another world. He needs her to finish a map of his dying world so he can use his skills to save it.

The comic is available through a number of venues, including e-book readers,, and Comixology. Four of ten issues have been published so far, with a new issue coming out every six weeks. Each issue costs 99¢. The first four issues are also available as a combo e-book for the Kindle and the Nook for $2.99.

I read the combo e-book on the Kindle app for the iPad, which is a less effective interface than the Comixology app (which has a free eight-page preview). The art is full-colour on the iPad, and is rotated 90 degrees: enable your screen lock, rotate your iPad and, counterintuitively, scroll up.

In Maps & Legends (screenshot)

The artwork by Niki Smith is, as you can see above, beautifully done, with steampunky bits and lasers contrasting with map-influenced earth tones. The story, written by Michael Jasper, makes full use of what Jo Walton calls “incluing” — things are revealed in bits and pieces rather than in a giant infodump (as in the description I quoted above). It’s an effective literary device, but it does mean that it is not immediately clear what is going on, particularly when, as in a comic book, description is purely visual: we’re shown, not told, unless it’s spoken or thought. The fact that it’s a serial is a little frustrating: it’s hard to stop at issue four, and wait six weeks for each new installment, when things are still so mysterious — I want the rest of the story now, which I think is a good sign: it’s tense and it’s gripping. Definitely worth a look.

Tips for creating a free business listing in Google Places: Adding useful descriptions and relevant categories

With this blog post, we’re concluding our three part series about the Google Places quality guidelines. Today, we’ll discuss how to choose the best fitting categories for your business listing as well as how to provide a useful description. In case you missed the first two blog posts, you can find here the first post about business titles and here the second part about business types.
Adding useful descriptions
As a business owner, we encourage you to add a specific description of your business in the “description” field. This gives potential clients more information to understand what your business is about and see if your business matches what they are seeking. You can also use this field to provide further guidance about the location of your business which might be useful in some cases where it is hard to find, e.g. if the entrance of your business is only accessible via the rear.
Keep the description clean and concise, so it is helpful to users and catches their attention. A series of repeated keywords or categories may turn off potential customers, but a crisp and catchy summary of the services you offer help users determine if your business is right for them.
Choosing relevant categories
If you provide appropriate and accurate categories, we can better match your business listing to relevant user searches. We recommend choosing specific categories that describe the core of your business well instead of broad ones. A good way to find representative categories for your business is asking yourself the question “What is my business?” Be sure to capture what your business is as opposed to what it offers or sells – in that sense, “bakery” would be a good category as opposed to “cakes” or “bread”.
Also, do not include location information in the categories field. If you would like to provide such additional information about your business, you can use the description field and, if appropriate, the service areas feature.
You will be asked to choose at least one category from our standard list – just start typing in the categories field to see what is available via the auto-suggestions.
We recommend always choosing the best matching and most specific category for your business – for any specific category, Google will be able to automatically determine the more generic category as well. That means, if you are a Mexican restaurant, you should go for ‘Mexican Restaurant’ and not ‘Restaurant’ – Google then automatically knows that if you are a Mexican restaurant, you are also a restaurant.
You can provide up to five categories for your business listing. After picking a standard category, you can add up to four customized categories. To add another category, just click on ‘Add another category’ and an additional field will be triggered. Put only one category per entry field. Entering more than one category into a category field is not compliant with our quality guidelines and could result in your listing being suspended and not appearing in Google Places. In case you find it difficult to find an appropriate standard category to start with, just pick a category that fits best and add more specific custom categories. If you are uncertain about categorizing your business, you can also ask for advice in the Google Places help forum and discuss with other business owners.
We hope that this information helps you add a concise description and accurate categories to your business listing in Google Places. This gives potential clients more information to determine if your business matches what they are seeking. For further questions you can visit our Google Places help forum.