Using GPS in Real-time with Google Earth

GPS Driving in Google EarthGoogle’s recent GE 4 Beta release (on December 16) included a new feature for GE Plus/Pro/EC users. If you have a compatible GPS (current Garmin units work well) you can show your position in the new GE by simply turning on a new option under the “Tools->GPS->Real-time” option. For my Garmin, I used the “Garmin PVT” option with the GPS (a Garmin 60Csx) hooked up through USB to my Intel MacBook. This works on both the Windows XP and Mac OSX version of GE Pro in my tests. If you turn on the “Automatically follow path” option, GE will zoom to your current position and will automatically zoom to a level showing the path of the points most recently imported from your GPS (you can specify how many points – up to 100). I wish there was a way to set the altitude and tilt for your view while following, but the view works pretty well now. Here is a sample of a GPS track I saved after stopping at an exit off the highway. You can of course upload your entire track from your GPS and use a tool like to do fancier track visualizations.
If you are using this in your car (or other forms of transportation) you probably will not have Internet access. So, it is important to first load your GE cache up with imagery/data for the area you will be traveling before you leave your Internet connection behind. For example, I set up driving directions for the trip I planned and played the tour of my drive before I left the house. You need to make sure the playback of the tour is slow enough to allow each area of imagery to load into cache (check the GE options for “Touring->Tour Speed“).
By the way, if you are using the free version of GE, there is a free application available called GooPs which let’s you do real-time GPS tracking. It has been posted and updated by GEC member ‘davidhite’. I haven’t tested it myself yet, but I plan to since I see he recently supports an air-based feature (i.e. tracks with altitude). So, I will try this on a flight sometime soon.
For many other articles on GPS and Google Earth read the GPS category.

About Frank Taylor

Frank Taylor started the Google Earth Blog in July, 2005 shortly after Google Earth was first released. He has worked with 3D computer graphics and VR for many years and was very impressed with this exciting product. Frank completed a 5.5 year circumnavigation of the earth by sailboat in June 2015 which you can read about at Tahina Expedition, and is a licensed pilot, backpacker, diver, and photographer.

PLEASE NOTE: Google Earth Blog is no longer writing regular posts. As a result, we are not accepting new comments or questions about Google Earth. If you have a question, use the official Google Earth and Maps Forums or the Google Earth Community Forums.


  1. It�s a really nice complement to MS streets maps, especially when cascaded horizontally. Most people don�t need that though.

  2. John Sapyta says:

    There is a program called TYRE that TomTom users can use for free to use with GE4. I found it on a google search.

  3. Actually, the number of people with broadband (via cell fone) in the car seemd to be on the rise.
    Garmin PVT and NMEA should work equally well on this version.
    You can only upload a track to GPSVisualizer if you have a GPS that supports the capture of tracks – and of course that makes it rather _not_ realtime. GPSes that only report position (e.g. the “hocky puck” class of products like the GPS18) and carry laptops in their cars are more likely to find this feature more usefulthan, say, drivers with a GPS60CSX.
    For those that are sure to ask, PVT == Position, Velocity, Time. We didn’t make that up, it’s what Garmin calls it.

  4. Robert is the self-proclaimed “Chief Babel-head” and author of GPSBabel (which is the underlying code for GPS conversions built-in to Google Earth).
    Robert, thanks for explaining the PVT thing, I was wondering about that. Being the biggest GE fan like I am, it doesn’t bother me to use GE with a 60Csx at all. 🙂

  5. Nice track there. The only thing somehow blocking this interesting thing is that you have to go online and then log out and start tracking.
    Anyway, stil nice.
    But did you crashed at the exit of that highway ???
    looks pretty bad if you ask me.

  6. smokeonit says:

    this s/w lets mac users track themselves for free in GEbasic… works with all major bluetooth, usb and serial gps hardware…
    this s/w is needed in order to get the gps data into gps2geX

  7. SurveyArea3 is a PPC application that can use a GPS to log a track and email it as a KML attachment at the press of a button:

  8. I am interested in IR images. Can GE supply this?

  9. smokeonit says:

    actually i’ve been doing this a couple of times in my car with gprs internet via my treo650 to my macbook pro on GE4 under osX. i was quite impressed that gprs is fast enough to load the data, of course not as fast as wifi or 3g, but fast enough to keep the street data and basic satellite images so one can navigate in the streets. it’s so nice to have real time plugins loading from the net while your driving. there’s so much stuff that could be done like this i can’t even imagine what the next years will bring to the community;-)

  10. I make maps in remote areas. Does the Google mapping software ‘save’ the data while tracking to be downloaded, viewed and printed at specific scale for mapping?
    if not, is there another G software that will?
    There is no internet where I go. Visit my blog at
    or my website

  11. I have GE+ but under tools/GPS all I have is the ability to import log data, any idea how I can get realtime positioning in GE+ (build 4.0.2091 (beta))

  12. Doh!, ok I have now updated my copy of GE+ and have real time GPS option. Anyway of setting the serial port that the GPS is listening to?

  13. joe webb says:

    does google earth plus provide better images, that is clear up the blurred images of google earth? Joe

  14. So i bought a Garmin Mobile XT bluetooth unit and tried using it for realtime tracking, and it does not work. Someone over at google might want to stop saying that there product works with garmin units and start saying it works with “most”.

  15. Jacques LeBlanc says:

    How do you “load your GE cache up with imagery/data for the area you will be traveling”?
    I tried sveral things but it did not work. I have a Garmin 60CSx

  16. mohamed zaferullah says:

    i want to this software. it is very useful to us

  17. chino uichanco says:

    hi there frank!
    how long were the paths you used in real time gps tracking?

  18. Hi, I have gps in my mobile(android) can I use it to view my position in google earth in real time.
    I have latitude installed in my mobile, and I can see my position in map in realtime. I wanted same feature in my home pc, so, when I leave home my family can see my position in google earth. Is it possible?
    an earth lover

  19. yes

  20. OK, so I plug my GPS device which outputs NMEA into the USB port, and run google earth , and select the real-time option, and a blue dot pops up where my house is.
    I then pick up the laptop and walk 1000 feet down the street. Nothing happens on the screen. Should the dot move, or something ?

PLEASE NOTE: Google Earth Blog is no longer writing regular posts. As a result, we are not accepting new comments or questions about Google Earth. If you have a question, use the official Google Earth and Maps Forums or the Google Earth Community Forums.