SAN FRANCISCO -- In a world where location-based information is increasingly valuable, Google (GOOG) is hoping to leverage its own mapping expertise by selling software that makes it easy for businesses to build their own maps showing customer locations, building sites and other useful information.
Google says its Maps website and related services, including mobile apps, are already used by more than a billion people around the globe every month. Businesses and other organizations also use simple programming tools to integrate Google Maps and navigational services into more than a million websites and mobile apps.
The new service, dubbed Maps Engine Pro, is designed to let small and mid-size businesses build more sophisticated maps to help them visualize and analyze their own internal sales records, manufacturing data or government archives of things like building permits, weather patterns or even pet licenses.
"This is aimed at helping businesses and business users get more value out of information they already work with every day," said Heather Folsom, a product manager for the new service.
A restaurant chain might want to examine city building records to identify densely populated neighborhoods where a new outlet could be located, she suggested, or a small bicycle manufacturer might use its own sales records to identify locations where there is high interest in its products.
Google's new commercial software uses it mapping tools and an underlying database of information that Google has compiled from public records, its "Street View" cars and geopositioning satellites. Google has previously sold access to its "Maps Engine" database to big organizations that have their own mapmakers and programmers with the skills to use that data. It also lets businesses use Google's basic, consumer-style maps in a limited fashion for free, with a sliding fee scale for more extensive use.
Other tech companies such as Nokia and Microsoft also see commercial value in providing digital mapping services to business users, said Ted Schadler, an industry analyst with the Forrester research firm, who predicted, "we're going to see a pretty big battle start to shape up around maps."
Google's new products are part of its small but growing effort to market software to businesses. Google said last week that it made $1.2 billion in third-quarter revenue outside its core advertising business, up 85 percent from a year ago.
Contact Brandon Bailey at 408-920-5022; follow him at Twitter.com/BrandonBailey.