google heat maps

Google has expanded its operations to almost every facet of our everyday lives – search engine, social media, health, A/B testing, travel, and so on. One product by Google that is increasingly being used is its location service, Google Maps. Let alone using it personally to get from point A to point B, the operation of businesses like Uber and Lyft completely relies upon Google’s location service.

Google Map tracks and stores data on literally every step you take, if the location services or GPS is enabled on the device. Google Maps’ location history data can then be used to visualize the number of location points & pins visited over a period of time by a Google Maps user. The heatmap thus generated is referred to as Google Maps Heatmap.

Create Your Own Google Maps Heatmap in 3 Simple Steps

It is fairly simple to overlay your own Google Maps heatmap as there are many APIs and tools available on the internet that you can use to generate this type of heatmap
These tools use the location history saved on Google’s cloud from your Google account and help create a heatmap of literally every place and location visited by a user. 

Here is how you can create a Google Maps heatmap of your location history data using a tool called Location History Visualizer:

Step 1: Select Data to be Included

Head to Google Takeout to download your location history data. The Google Takeout page has a list of data that you can choose to export. On the page, deselect all and then select ‘Location History.’

screenshot of selecting Location History from Google Takeout

After selecting ‘Location History,’ scroll to the bottom of the page and click next. After clicking next, you will be taken to the second step.

Step 2: Download Data

On the second step, Google Takeout allows you to configure the delivery method, file type & size, and frequency.

screenshot of the Step 2 in Google Takeout for configuring the delivery method

After configuring the delivery method, file type & size, and frequency, click on ‘Create Export.’ After clicking on it, you will automatically be taken to the final phase, where Google Takeout processes your Google Maps data and creates an export. The time taken to create the export depends on the amount of data involved. Google Takeout sends an email to the corresponding Google account as soon as the export creation is completed.

screenshot of the Export progress dialogue box in Google Takeout

Once the export is created, click on the download button. A zipped file will be downloaded to your device.

screenshot of the next step involving Download button in the Google Takeout

Step 3: Leverage Location History Visualizer, and Voilà

Unzip the downloaded zipped file and open the folder named ‘Location History.’ Drag and drop the JSON file in the folder onto Location History Visualizer’s free-to-use heat map[3] generator. 

GIF highlighting the steps involved in generating heatmap from Location History Visualizer tool

Visualizer will take time to create your Google Maps Heatmap based on the intensity of data points it has to plot – higher the intensity, the longer it takes compared to lower intensity data sets.  And without any technical to-and-fro, a heatmap of your entire location history will be on your screen, with all the data points on a map. The heatmap generated looks something like the heatmap below:

heatmap generated based on the Google Maps location based history data
Image Source[1]


As can be seen, creating your very own Google Maps Heatmap is a simple task – all it takes is 3 simple steps. And, Location History Visualizer is only one of the many tools that you can use to create a heatmap layer on location data. Once you have your location heatmap ready, you can take screenshots, navigate through it like Google Maps, identify places you visit most, and so on. Apart from all these, it is a very interesting take on how you can go down the memory lane and revisit memories that were otherwise lost to you.

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