SAN FRANCISCO — The adage “Location, location, location” took center stage at a real estate technology panel Saturday highlighting Google mapping and new high-speed Internet access cell phones, as well as Global Positioning Systems.

“The technology behind Google Earth was invented by people who worked for government military agencies such as the Pentagon,” John Hanke, product director for maps, local and Google Earth, told an avid audience of about 300 at the National Association of Realtors convention in San Francisco.

Google released its free satellite imagery-based mapping product Google Earth in April. Though Hanke said the company had only “a hunch” that the offering would be useful, hundreds of companies have adapted it for their own uses, especially real estate companies. Google’s mapping function also has been incorporated into many real estate sites.

Based on Keyhole technology, Google Earth enables users to fly from space to street-level views to find geographic information and explore places around the world. Hanke is the former head of Keyhole.

“The real estate industry was one of the earliest adopters of the technology,” Hanke said.

Hanke gave a slideshow demonstrating how many real estate brokerages and other companies have modified Google Earth for their own use. Among them was Prudential Chicago, described by Hanke as a “poster child” for such modifications, which Google encourages, according to Hanke.

Prudential Chicago in July created a plug-in that integrates the brokerage’s listings with Google Earth. Consumers need only download Google Earth, then cruise by a special page on the Prudential Chicago site one time to grab the plug-in. From then on, they’re good to go with listings that update six times a day, courtesy of Prudential Chicago.

“You can view new MLS search listings on top of our map,” Hanke said., Oodle, ZipRealty, and RE/MAX’s Denver office were other examples of successful real estate uses for Google Maps and Google Earth displayed by Hanke.

Hanke brought up the RE/MAX site,, on the video screen, brought up a list of properties, then clicked on the “Google Earth” link. A photographic map of the U.S., covered with green trees, flashed up on the screen. As Hanke dramatically zoomed in on a 3-D view of Colorado, murmurs spread through the audience.

“You can plot property from your Web site on top of our maps. You don’t have to send us the data. You can do it yourself,” Hanke said.

Google Maps doesn’t have to be installed on a PC, but can be accessed directly online. Google earth must be downloaded from the Google site.

“If you have broadband access on your cell phone, you can show clients such things as schools, libraries and the like on the spot using Google Earth and Google Maps,” panel moderator Ian Smith of NAR’s Center for Realtor Technology said.

Sprint in September rolled out high-speed access via a new cell phone model, the EV-DO Ready Sprint PPC-6700, which costs about $630, Sprint’s Roger Gaunt told the group.

Agents can receive and respond to prospect e-mails when waiting to show a house, take quality photos with camera phones, upload and send property photos, access the Net to check for the latest listings, pull up Global Positioning Systems to get directions to showings and respond to buyer questions immediately on the new cell phones, Gaunt said.

Verizon also offers broadband on cell phones.

The high-speed access is only available in certain cities, but will broaden to all the cities that have regular cell phone access by early next year, according to Sprint.

Similarly to Google Earth, GPS was developed in 1970 by the U.S. military. The system is a constellation of 28 satellites rotating the earth that sends information to five ground stations, said Peter Lickl of GPS Navigation Specialists.

Bad weather doesn’t affect GPS, Lickl said; it was used during rescue operations after Katrina in New Orleans.

“You can get GPS from your PC, laptop, cell phone or built into your car. You can also get a portable unit – let’s say your client has baby seats they don’t want to transfer to your car. You can take the portable unit with you,” Lickl said.

“You can put up to 25 addresses in and get directions from where you are to one place and the next,” Lickl said. GPS costs between $300 and $50,000, he said. It’s possible to get a GPS system that gives verbal directions, so you don’t have to look away from driving to read the map, he said.

The GPS representative gave a ringing testimonial to the efficacy of his company’s product.

“I am directionally challenged,” Lickl told the group. “I used to get in arguments with my wife about the best routes. GPS technology may have saved my marriage.”


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