At Next '23, Google announced a number of innovations for its environmental and sustainability focus areas. With three new APIs on pollen, air quality, and solar energy, Google showcased the power of its Google Maps Platform for sustainability applications. Our project manager Patrick Mast led the development of the official API demos. In this interview, he gives us insight into the benefits of the APIs and the potential of Google's sustainability initiative.
Hi Patrick, what new features can we look forward to after the Google Cloud Next announcements?
What is new is that Google Maps Platform has been expanded by a fourth pillar in the product portfolio. The Environment APIs now complement the previous pillars Maps, Routes, and Places. In the new pillar there are currently 3 APIs - Pollen, Solar and Air Quality. However, these will certainly be expanded with more APIs in the future. The focus of the new APIs is even more on data than before. Thus, the APIs absolutely meet Google's claim to make data accessible to everyone.
How much impact do you think companies and users can have thanks to Google's environment initiative?
In my opinion, the potential is huge. Google reaches an extremely large number of people around the world and does detailed work with its initiative. With the help of Google products, users can make decisions about environmental protection and sustainability more easily. This is helped not only by the new APIs, but also by existing Google features such as Eco-friendly Routes or the display of cycling and public transport routes as an alternative to the car in Google Maps. With such a large target group, even small changes can have a decisive effect.
How do you rate the benefits of the individual APIs?
I see great potential in various fields of application. The Solar API, for example, makes it possible to estimate the solar potential of individual buildings. This will be a great tool to make the topic of solar energy accessible to everyone and to significantly lower the threshold for owning a photovoltaic system.
The Pollen API holds many possibilities, especially in the context of personal health. The available data on the current pollen exposure can, for example, help allergy patients to plan their everyday life in such a way that they are exposed to less pollen.
In my opinion, the Air Quality API will be particularly useful where air quality exceeds limits and poses health risks. With the help of the data, people will be able to better assess the current situation and decide where and how long to stay.
Where do you see particular potential for companies and users?
Overall, I think that the APIs and their data will help create significantly more transparency about what "the world out there" looks like. This can bring benefits not only in everyday life. The data could also be used beneficially in extreme situations, such as forest fires or threatening weather conditions.
What application would you most like to build with the APIs?
If I had the choice, I would love to build a city dashboard using the APIs and enrich it with useful information for the city and its residents. Also, a tool for emergency services or disaster management would be a great use case. Here, the data could be of great use and contribute to better orientation in extreme situations.
Thank you for the interview, Patrick!
Patrick Mast has been a project manager at Ubilabs since 2015. Together with his team, he implements projects with a focus on data visualization and supports our customers Google and ESA. As a long-standing Google partner, we developed the official environment and sustainability demos for Google Cloud Next '23 and were able to test the new APIs extensively in advance.