Google released on Thursday an upgrade to its Google Earth Enterprise mapping system that for the first time will let users display two-dimensional (2D) geospatial data from the product on a Web browser.
Until now, users have only been able to display geospatial data -- like satellite images, terrain renderings or aerial images -- in the product's proprietary 3D client interface.
This enhancement is expected to simplify and expand access to Google Earth Enterprise geospatial data to more users within an organization.
In addition, Google has tweaked its Google Maps API (application programming interface) so it can now be used to mash up Google Earth Enterprise Web browser views with Web applications and combine the views with information from external data sources.
Google Earth Enterprise, which starts at around US$20,000, has three components: Fusion for data integration; Server for delivering data; and Enterprise Client, which is the PC software portion.
The ability to create browser views and mash them up with an organization's proprietary data doesn't apply to the simpler version of the product, Google Earth, which is a very popular PC application available as a free download.
Google Earth Enterprise is designed to let organizations render their data on a map and give employees an alternate method of viewing, analyzing and acting on information.
The enhancements in version 3.0 are interesting for the Alabama Department of Homeland Security, which uses Google Earth Enterprise as a common tool for state government agencies to compile, share and display geospatial data.
"The Web browser idea is extremely interesting to us because we think that's where we're going to go in the future," said Norven Goddard, assistant director for science and technology at the Alabama DHS.
Currently, about 1,300 employees from about 170 Alabama local, county and state agencies use Google Earth Enterprise, he said. The Alabama DHS has been using it for about one year and it is still rolling it out to government agencies.
"We looked for a visualization package, something that would allow us to take massive amounts of data and make the data accessible and understandable across [state agencies] to make decisions," said Goddard, who is also director of the Office of Innovative Ventures of U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command.