Google wants to turn business owners into cartographers with a new mapping tool designed to visualize their companies' data.
On Monday, Google launched Google Maps Engine Pro, a cloud-based software tool designed to let businesses organize data such as shipping routes, warehouse locations and sales territories when just a clunky spreadsheet or a massive database won't do.
It's about solving geo-related problems: Picture a company that wants to better design its shuttle routes by looking at where its employees live on a map, or an insurance company that wants to price out its premiums more quickly by seeing whether a client lives in a high-risk area.
The idea is to help companies get more value out of the location-based data they already have. If that data can be plotted on a map, it will be easier for business owners to make decisions, Google executives said Monday during a media briefing at the company's offices in San Francisco.
It's taking "the consumer experience with Maps, but bringing a more powerful form of mapping to successful business owners," said Brian McClendon, VP of Google Maps.
With Maps Engine Pro, companies can import data such as addresses, names, office locations and sales leads from various file formats onto a map, which can then be edited and shared among any number of people working at the company.
The maps can be customized, too. For example, companies can use different colored pins to show various points of interest or add text to parts of the map.
Businesses can share their maps with as many people as they want, just like regular Google Docs files. But the data behind the maps is secure, according to Google. The tool is built on Google's existing account systems, so users can utilize security options such as two-factor authentication to keep others from accessing the data, the company said.
More than 50 percent of U.S. companies already use some Web-based mapping, according to Google, but less than 5 percent of employees have access to those maps. Google says it wants to democratize the process.
"We want to move maps from a read-only experience to do-it-yourself understanding, share it, and make it a public experience," said Vinay Goel, director of global product management for Google Maps for Business.
Google Maps Engine Pro will cost US$5 per month, or $50 per year. It is launching Monday both for the desktop, available at the Google Maps for Business Site, and also on mobile for Android-based devices, in the Google Play Store. There is no iOS version yet.
The product is designed to serve any company that has a small or medium-sized amount of business location data. It is built on top of Google's Maps Engine platform, which is geared toward power users and businesses working with larger datasets and more complex maps.
Google also announced several new features for its Maps Engine on Monday, such as more data import tools and a free account option.