Google on Monday introduced Project Sunroof, which maps the planet's solar potential one rooftop at a time -- but the technology generates data and leads for local businesses that install, support and service panels and systems.
Project Sunroof uses information in Google Maps to determine how much sun falls on a roof and takes into account things like the angle of the roof, the weather, and the obstructions such as trees and chimneys.
It takes those measurements and determines how many panels the home is likely to need and how much could be saved on electric bills, including solar incentives in the area. The calculations allow the home owner to estimate how buying or leasing panels affects the savings, and then sends the estimate to local installers, generating leads.
While Project Sunroof generates leads for social services today, Google could likely use the data to provide targeting options for search and display advertisements, along with other creative content, as well as search engine query results.
Search queries sometimes give Google engineers the next creative business idea, depending on the volume of queries for a specific topic and depth of the questions. In a video introducing Project Sunroof, the narrator describes how people search on google.com to ask questions such as those related to solar panels. "We started looking for a better way to give them answers," per Google. "That's when one of our engineers got an idea."
While it is not known how many of Google's projects begin as search queries that show interest or intent for a specific topic, one thing is certain -- a product idea comes from challenges or unknowns that people experience. Companies create a product to test the pain point, said Trip Chowdhry, managing director at Global Equities Research. "Search queries provide good insight for Google to develop brand new ideas and continually fine-tune existing projects," he said.
Similar to lead generation, the data generated by those projects and the ability to use the anonymous data for ad targeting based on ZIP code or city street should eventually also support projects -- not just from Project Sunroof, but also wind turbines and other environmental data.