Google Maps is integrating live bus and train data from the local transit authorities of Boston, Portland, San Diego, and San Francisco in the U.S. and from their European counterparts in Madrid and Turin. The goal is to give consumers a 360-degree view of public-transit options -- from bus and train station locations and route departure times to alerts about delays and maintenance activities.
Google plans to expand its live transit coverage into other metropolitan areas worldwide. Meanwhile, the live updates in the six U.S. and European cities are accessible from version 1.6 of Google Maps for Android smartphones and from PC and mobile browsers, noted Google Mobile software engineer Sasha Gontmakher.
"Starting now, Google Maps for mobile and desktop can tell you when your ride is actually going to arrive," Gontmakher wrote in a blog Wednesday. "When you click on a transit station or plan a transit route with Google Maps and there are delays or alerts related to your trip, you'll now see live departure times -- indicated with a special icon -- and service alerts."
'Value in Knowing Now'
Consumers are ready to use convenient services and products -- which in mobile means immediacy and simplicity, noted Forrester Research Vice President Julie Ask.
"If my gate changes for my flight leaving in 40 minutes, I want to know now -- there is value in knowing now or immediately," Ask wrote in a blog. "Mobile is just starting to get interesting [and one day] will be the most important digital medium -- it's just a matter of when."
Software developers likewise see the incremental improvements that Google is making to the mobile experience as very important to their app customers. Retrieving local points of interest via Google Maps is one area in which developer innovation is currently taking place, according to a new survey released by Vision Mobile this week.
"Map APIs are the most common cloud APIs currently used by developers, as testified by over 40 percent of our respondents, followed by social networking and search APIs," the report's authors wrote. "The most active users -- iOS developers -- use map and social-networking APIs in their majority: 55 percent of respondents."
Setting the Stage
The Google Mobile team unleashed an update last month that made it possible for mobile devices running Android and Apple's iOS to access the same browser-based Google Maps experience delivered to PCs. "With 40 percent of Google Maps usage on mobile devices, we want you to have a consistent Google Maps experience wherever you use it," wrote Google Mobile software engineer Alireza Ali in a blog.
Beginning in May, users of compatible mobile devices were able to see their location in Google Maps as well as search for whatever landmarks, stores, parks and other public facilities were nearby. They also could use Google Maps to get driving, transit, biking and walking directions.
What's more, mobile-device users gained the ability to turn on the satellite, transit and traffic layers built into Google Maps. This set the stage for the new live transit capabilities just launched.