Back in 2015, Google introduced Project Sunroof, an innovative feature within Maps. By synthesizing location, sunlight, and navigation data, it showcased the potential energy solar panels might produce if installed on any given roof, a feat that covered nearly every household globally. This initiative was a brilliant move to promote Google’s dedication to environmental sustainability while simultaneously showcasing the prowess of its platform.
Come Tuesday, at the Google Cloud Next event, the tech giant is set to launch an advanced set of sustainability APIs. Drawing on Google’s AI prowess, these tools will offer developers immediate access to data on solar capabilities, ambient air quality, and pollen concentrations. Yael Maguire, the VP of Geo Sustainability at Google, expressed in an upcoming Maps blog post, “With the integration of these tools, we’re inching closer to our goal of aiding individuals, urban centers, and associates in collectively slashing 1 gigaton of carbon equivalent emissions every year by the close of this decade.”
Evolving from the foundation set by Project Sunroof, the Solar API leverages the sophistication of contemporary mapping and superior computational resources. This newly developed API is slated to encompass an impressive 320 million buildings spanning 40 countries, including prominent regions like the US, France, and Japan, as Yael Maguire shared with journalists in a pre-release discussion on Monday.
Maguire highlighted the burgeoning demand for solar energy solutions, saying, “The recent years have witnessed a significant uptick in solar adoption.” This observation is backed by the 60% surge in search queries related to “rooftop solar panel and power” in 2022. “This shift towards solar energy has been palpable, presenting us with a golden opportunity to extend this innovative technology and crucial information to global enterprises,” he added.
At the core of this initiative is a meticulously trained AI model. It possesses the capability to discern the intricate angles and gradients of any given rooftop purely from aerial or satellite imagery. By fusing this information with estimations of shade from proximate trees, historical meteorological data, and contemporary energy tariffs, a comprehensive solar potential analysis is generated. Such an approach offers solar panel installation firms and property owners a robust prediction of the solar yield they can anticipate from specific panels, negating the need for an on-site visit by a technician. This not only streamlines the decision-making process but also fosters greater confidence in transitioning to solar solutions.
Google’s commitment to sustainability and public health is further demonstrated with the expansion of their Air Quality layer. Originally indispensable during the 2021 California Wildfires, this feature is being developed into a standalone API, poised to serve over 100 countries globally.
Elaborating on the sophisticated workings of this API, Maguire mentioned, “It meticulously vets and organizes several terabytes of data every hour, drawing from a diverse array of sources. This includes government-run monitoring stations, meteorological insights, sensors, and satellite data, culminating in a localized as well as global index.”
Furthermore, the system is designed to factor in real-time traffic situations and vehicular density. By doing so, it offers a nuanced forecast, pinpointing likely predominant pollutants. Maguire elaborated on the broader implications of this technology, noting, “Such a comprehensive approach empowers enterprises spanning sectors like healthcare, automotive, transportation, and beyond. They can now offer their users precise and timely air quality metrics, irrespective of their location.” This endeavor not only showcases Google’s technological prowess but also their dedication to fostering a healthier, well-informed global community.
Beyond just tracking man-made pollutants, Google is amplifying its focus on the natural environment by transforming its existing pollen-tracking Maps layer into a standalone API. Maguire emphasized the growing environmental challenge, stating, “The surge in global temperatures and greenhouse gas emissions has led to the proliferation of pollen-producing flora in newer regions, while simultaneously boosting overall pollen production. This poses heightened risks for individuals battling seasonal allergies.”
The newly minted Pollen API will actively monitor the seasonal dispersion of tree pollen across over 65 countries. It will incorporate regional wind trajectories and yearly trends to present users with granular data on local pollen counts, in-depth allergen details, and heatmaps indicating the most allergy-prone zones. “Anticipating the zones of intense sneezing could soon be a click away,” remarked Maguire.
Seeing the broader implications of this technology, Maguire believes travel-oriented applications could harness this data. He says, “Such insights can revolutionize how we plan our daily routes or holiday getaways, ensuring a more comfortable experience.” Developers can look forward to integrating these apps into their platforms starting August 29th, opening up a world of health-focused possibilities.