Google now offers pay-as-you-go for Google Maps API

Seriously right?  About time!  Most users of Google’s Maps API are caught between the free tier and the “I wish I had a business model to pay for the premium tier” pricing.  But Google has figured this out and introduced a new way to pay for the Google Maps API.

Today we’re introducing a simple and flexible option for developers to instantly and easily scale with these Web Service APIs, by opening them up to pay-as-you-go purchasing via the Google Developers Console. In this new purchasing structure, the Google Maps Geocoding, Directions, Distance Matrix, Roads, Geolocation, Elevation, and Time Zone APIs remain free of charge for the first 2,500 requests per day, and developers may now simply pay $0.50 USD per 1,000 additional requests up to 100,000 requests per API per day. Developers requiring over 100,000 requests per day should contact us to purchase a premium licence.

This is huge because now you’ll know what you’re paying for the API rather than wait for that huge bill at the end of the month.  Knowing what things are going to cost is key to building spatial applications. Provide your billing details and build away!

Rendering Spatial Data Without Having to Generalize Beforehand

Yesterday I posted about Chris Hogan’s walk-through of generalizing data in PostGIS to make it usable in a web app.  Basically he went through the process of finding out what is the sweet spot of quality vs speed.  But there are other ways to accomplish this.  Mapbox happened to post about a new library called geojson-vt.

Let’s see if Mapbox GL JS can handle loading a 106 MB GeoJSON dataset of US ZIP code areas with 33,000+ features shaped by 5.4+ million points directly in the browser (without server support):

Mapbox GL JS and GeoJSON-VT from Mapbox on Vimeo.

Wait, what?! A few seconds loading the data, and you can browse the whole data set smoothly and seamlessly. But how exactly does that work? Let’s find out

So that’s actually pretty amazing.  We all know what GeoJSON does in the browser and how it impacts the speed of maps drawing.  100 MB+ data rendering so quickly?  Impressive.  Read the whole post to see how they do it and the details on how to start using it.  The only limitation is that it requires mapbox-gl-js or
Mapbox Mobile[footnote]which is actually a big limitation if you think about it[/footnote].
 UPDATE: Per Tom MacWright:

Mapbox-Graphic

Still this comes down to using tools that make your mapping products better.  Maybe Mapbox does that cheaper and quicker than you could on your own.  This kind of on-the-fly simplification is what we’ve all been asking for and Mapbox is really pushing the envelope.  This could be what gets people to start using their platform.

10 Years Ago on Spatially Adjusted – “Stop Putting Commercial Software in ESRI ArcScripts”

10 years ago this week Katrina had rolled in and there were lots of posts on Spatially Adjusted about Digital Globe and Google Maps imagery being updated for the flooding.  But the post that caught my attention was this one on ArcScripts:

Can someone at ESRI please clean up the ArcScripts site? Plain as day on the ESRI ArcScripts upload page it says “Not for samples or demos of products sold at Web sites”. There are way too many products that are commercial in there and this latest one takes the cake. 15 days and then you have to buy it, what a joke. If you have to advertise, do it by buying ad space, not polluting the ArcScripts gallery.  Geospatial Enterprises is off my list of companies I’ll deal with. XTools Pro 3.0 is also a commercial product that tries to get around by offering some free tools, but it too is just a demo. Someone over at ESRI needs to get serious about cleaning this junk up and off the ArcScripts.

I mean how shady was XTools Pro anyway?  The original XTools on ArcView 3.x was open, free and a great tool.  Then some guys basically rebranded it for ArcGIS Desktop and started charging money for it.  Oh well, the madness of ArcScripts is over as well as the need for tools like XTools is over.  Still funny to think this was how we shared scripts and applications back then.  No Github or other platforms to help.  Life was so hard back then and we didn’t realize it!

Google Here Never Was

Indoor mapping is the white whale of our Spatial IT industry.  We’re always reading about how our smartphones will lead us to the best deals or how I can find the specific nail I need in Home Depot without having to ask anyone or walk down every aisle.  They key to all this is essentially iBeacon.

You can search Google News for all the latest excitement on the concept but essentially it is a way for your phone to know where things are and for the vendors to know where you phone is through Bluetooth.  Imagine walking into a store and getting alerts about your favorite beer being on sale and then the ability to navigate directly there.  Sexy right?  Plus we’ve been anticipating this happening for years.  Except

Google was set to launch a new product that added context to one of its most successful apps, Google Maps. But earlier this year, it was shut down by Alphabet CEO Larry Page, according to people familiar with the project.

Google Here worked by sending a notification to a smartphone user’s lock screen within five seconds of their entering a partner’s location. If the user clicked on the notification, a full screen HTLM5 “app” experience would launch. Google Here would know when to send the notification via Google Maps and beacons placed in the stores of participating partners. Google planned to supply the beacons to partners for the launch, according to the document. The experience could also be found by going to the Google Maps app.

Exactly what we though everyone wanted.  In testing the application was deemed too invasive and Google feared no retailers would sign up.  That’s right, Google didn’t think could get their partners to install cheap beacons in their stores AND they feared they were too big brother.  Seems weird doesn’t it, if there is one company that can get companies to spend money on ads, it is Google.  And since when did Google ever think pushing ads on us was “invasive”?

The magic about Google Here (Here as in not Here that was owned by Nokia) was that you didn’t need an app running for it to work.  Think about that for a minute, ads would appear on your phone based on where you where and you didn’t need to opt in to get them.  Now we see why Google was very concerned that Here was going to get a large backlash.  Being able to push ads on users would have been something they really could have sold well to companies, I’m not sure there would be any fear of companies not wanting to push ads on us.

Beacons are still very important to Google. Their Eddystone project talks about lots of uses of beacons but not for ad delivery.  Clearly there was feedback on this project and it jolted Google out of their normal sell more ads business model.  I think beacons will be very valuable as they start appearing in more areas, but I for one don’t need to get an ad for fabric softener every time I walk into a Target.

Chris Hogan on PostGIS generalization

Says Chris:

I am working on a project that needs to display all the neighborhood polygons in Baltimore City at one time. The file is relatively detailed… which mean that tons of unnecessary polygon nodes are being sent from the backend, when, at the zoom level and the level of detail the map users need, the high level of detail is a total waste.

While there are some great hosted options to serve up complex GeoJSON, most of the time it is better served (no pun intended) to simplify your data.  Unless you’re surveying or involved with some sort of lawyer, even a bit of generalization is a good idea with online mapping.  Chris does a great job showing how you can modify the tolerance to get your results to look great and save lots of bandwidth.  If you’re a generalization newbie, you should read his example and get a better understanding of how it works.

And if you’re an Esri user, the same concepts can be used in their stack as well.

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GIS and Git

Yesterday I had a long post about GIS and version control.  I mentioned Git in the article saying how maybe in the future Git would work with GIS files.  A couple of people mentioned an article written by Gretchen Peterson titled, “Huge increase in shareability by combining Git and QGIS”.

This isn’t the version control you’re looking for…

Gretchen does a great job showing how you can manage GIS projects with Git and I encourage everyone to read it.  But keep in mind it isn’t version control how I was talking.  Git doesn’t understand shapefiles and other binary GIS files.  It will show that a shapefile was updated, but it won’t show what you updated in it, nor will it help reconcile updates.  Gretchen is using Git to help her share projects with others which it does a great job.  But it isn’t geodata version control and she outlines that clearly in the post.

We all would love to see Github support shapefiles, but I seriously doubt it will ever happen.   For how you can use Github and GeoJSON files which isn’t half bad.