I/O 2013: Google's location APIs likely to fuel Google Glass apps

Google delivered a series of location-based APIs to track movement automatically and improve mapping tools. These are nice additions to Android devices, but the real impact may be with Google Glass apps.
Written by Larry Dignan, Contributor

SAN FRANCISCO---Google released a series of application programming interfaces designed to trim battery drain when location services are turned on, automatically track a user's activity and determine if a person is walking, driving, running or cycling and more control over pinpointing an area.

The APIs, outlined by Hugo Barra, vice president of project management for Android, during the Google I/O keynote break down like this:

  • An enhanced Google Maps API that developers to better integrate 3D mapping and movement into applications.
  • A location API dubbed Fused Location Provider, which can add location more accurately. The real win: The API uses less than 1 percent of the battery per hour.
  • Geofencing, which allows developers to define specific areas and create borders.
  • And activity recognition, which allows can enable apps to recognize physical movement via a phone's accelerometer. Via machine learning and algorithms, this technology will enable Android devices to know when you're walking, running, cycling or driving.

By themselves, these APIs are nice additions to the Android platform. However, these APIs will also better enable applications for Google Glass, those quirky specs that are being worn all over Google I/O. Toss in the sensor technology Google is using to track environmental conditions and you see a lot of applications for Glass. 

More from I/O: Google developer tool releases include new Maps, Games, Google+ APIs | Google I/O by the numbers: 900 million Android activations | Google to use open-source sensors to monitor I/O conference | TechRepublic: The business value of Google Glass and wearable computing | CNET: Full coverage: All things Google I/O




Google Glass today doesn't have a ton of applications. However, the future is likely to include movement tracking as well as location-based services. These APIs could enable the following use cases:

  1. A runner with Google Glass can track distance, time and calories burned on a run without a GPS watch or other device. Lightweight sunglasses would work well.
  2. Google Glass could enable 3D map deep dives when in an interesting location.
  3. A Google Glass consumer could get offers that are even more targeted via geofencing.

On the surface, Google's location APIs are nice additions to Android devices. I'd argue the real impact will be with Google Glass.

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