It seems like the mapping mashup phenomenon is really beginning to take off in the enterprise, the recent story about a legal software provider integrating Google Maps into their software is one example. Now this is nothing particularly new, software vendors have been integrating with 3rd party services for some time, for example the Searchflow conveyancing web site was integrated, maps and all, into a number of 3rd party legal software products. The difference now appears to be the simplicity with which this can be done without having to build a relationship between the different service suppliers or the end users. This ease of use has done a great deal to promote the use of geography and spatial visualisation of data, but it also seems to be causing some confusion in the commercial sector.
I have seen several ITT’s recently for enterprise GIS systems that request the use of “Google satellite imagery” in the solution. These requirements have been driven either by the fact that they already have a web application that displays Google imagery, or someone has seen Google maps and wants the data in their applications. There are 2 main issues that organisations looking to use so called “Google data” in enterprise applications need to look at, both of these seem to be legal rather than technical.
The first issue is the use of the Google maps API in a non public site. It seems like the Google terms and conditions require any service to be publicly available. If its not then you can use the Google enterprise maps edition. This is not free and although they have just announced availability in Europe this doesn’t include the UK yet. I’m not sure whether this means you can’t do commercial mashups at all or whether they will allow the non commercial API to be used until its available in the UK. The reasoning behind having a commercial service is pretty obvious. As our mapping agencies are fond of mentioning collecting and maintaining high quality spatial data is an expensive business, and why would users go to say DigitalGlobe or even the O.S. when it seems they can get essentially the same data for free from Google. The availability of free applications and data has meant that the perceived value of the data is essentially free, whereas the reality is very different. Someone is paying for the data, presumably Google, but increasingly it is going to be “enterprise” users.
The second issue with integration, is the requirement that you use the API, rather than access the data directly, this is obviously driven by the same issues of data licensing, however it does put a pretty big hurdle in the way of organisations who wish to use the data in a non-web environment. Sometimes we may be guilty of assuming that everyone just uses web applications these days, but there are many many users using desktop applications for data maintenance, analysis and publishing purposes and these users are not going to be able to use the Google services.
Google however are not the only service provider that can deliver mapping data, there are free services and API’s from Yahoo, Microsoft and of course ESRI, but again these all have “commercial” versions or restrictions. For example the Yahoo maps API does not really distinguish between commercial or non commercial, but they do have some technical restrictions such as not using it with GPS derived data! (see 1.f(vi) in the terms) they also have an Image API that allows you to directly access the map images without having to use a web browser client which makes integration a bit simpler.
Microsoft have a dedicated commercial API, but don’t limit what you can do with the public API, as long as you use the API.
The ArcWeb public services are designed just for that, i.e. non commercial use. There are also terms available for organisations who wish to use services in commercial applications.