What is Google Earth Pro?
Google Earth Pro is a free software program that provides photographic views of the earth from the continent to the street level. The application resides on the desktop and requires internet access to access images and maps. Google Earth Pro is available for Windows (NT-based versions), Mac OS X 10.4 or later.
The data originates from satellite and aircraft imagery, as well as street level photographs taken by roaming Google field teams.
Images in Google Earth Pro are displayed at varying resolutions (depending on original content), with a minimum of 5 m per pixel and print at a 48800×3200 pixel resolution. You can save, print or email the maps that you create in Google Earth Pro.
Images are available for sites throughout the globe, with variable resolution in some areas. Urban areas seem to be the primary focus of the more detailed photographs, otherwise you tend to see topographical maps. Street level views are widely available for much of the U.S. and Japan (particularly urban areas), and other mostly urban areas elsewhere. Google Earth displays available street view imagery as blue lines. Other areas of the world have two- dimensional aerial information only.
Google ideally posts images used for the program that are not more than three years old. So although the program is constantly updating to include more recent imagery, it is not operating in real time. Google Earth Pro imagery is updates usually on the 6th and 21st of each month, with each update covering a small portion of the globe.
How is it useful for social science research?
From a social science perspective, the power of this software comes from the “layers” function. You can view a geographic area and choose to have different kinds of information overlay the image, including information you provide. Some layers of interest to social scientists include:
US Demographic layer
US maps can be viewed at the census tract level. Clicking the demographic data icon (picture of the two blue people) will give you the number of the census tract. For each block group may include information on the following demographics for residents: age, gender, education, households, income, marital status and vehicle availability. Population data is currently 2011-2013 but may also include projections of five years into the future.
US Parcel Data
Property address with nine digit zip code, county name, assessor parcel number, assessor legal description, assessed value, and zoning information.
Global Awareness layers: Nonprofit organizations create annotated maps to illustrate and advocate for their work.
Historical Imagery: You can see how places have changed over time from the air by using the button, using the slider bar if Google has imagery from the past available.