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Google Maps Moves From The Street Outside To Interior Store Aisles

Along with a new “Night Mode” feature, Google Maps is expanding its location services in broader ways.

Google Maps has been providing more than just roadmaps — it’s moving into mapping indoor locations as well.

If you’ve spent any amount of time zooming around Google Maps recently, you may have noticed this already if you happened to pass over a large store like Home Depot. Certain larger retailers have their interiors mapped out on Google Maps, some even having various aisles labeled (e.g. the furniture aisle, cabinet aisle, etc.) with multiple floors and pathways laid out as well.google_map

A recent patent filed by Google shows how the company might be doing this – and it involves data collected from smartphone users. A few years ago Google acquired a startup called Zipdash, a traffic information company. Google most likely used the acquired resources from Zipdash to come up with its own traffic analysis system, shown in Google Maps. Essentially, the company analyzes how many smartphones are on the road, how fast they’re moving and in what direction to provide real-time traffic data to Maps users.

Compare those acquisitions to the abstract from the patent filed by Google, which reads as follows.

“Aspects of the present disclosure provide techniques for constructing a scalable model of an indoor space using crowd-sourced inertial navigation system (INS) signals from mobile devices. By tracking INS signals from a number of participating users, the user’s trajectories can be estimated as they move their mobile devices indoors. The estimated trajectories can be scored against similar routes taken by other users. Routes with the highest scores are then laid out over a map of the indoor space to identify areas most often traveled to and from landmarks and distances between the landmarks.”

The implication is that Google is using the same tools as their traffic analysis system to lay out where people carrying smartphones are walking inside a building, using the phone’s internal accelerometer and gyroscope to judge speed and direction, mapping out paths based on where people did, or did not, go.Interior-Maps-Finally-Available-on-the-Desktop-Google-Maps-Site-3

There’s a Map For That

The potential for marketers is strong. Having a device that shows not only a map of the store, but where the user is on that map is a huge plus for consumers and smart marketers will take advantage of that, raising awareness that it exists and looking into offering other location-based services as well.

Google Maps indoor moves suggests a clear complement to the company’s beacon platform, Eddystone, which was unveiled last month. The recently introduced Night Mode feature, which uses a darker color palette at night as opposed to the standard glaring white to reduce eyestrain, is could also inspire location-based advertisers to create new ad units to match the new viewing format.

Combined with Monday’s surprise restructuring of Google’s entire enterprises under a new holding company dubbed Alphabet, it’s clear each piece of the search giant’s empire will be expected to make individual advances quickly and demonstatively. The company has made large strides in location services in the past and mapping interiors of stores, especially when combined with GPS functionality, is a great way to engage customers digitally while they’re in the store physically.

About The Author
Daniel Parisi Daniel Parisi @daniel_parisi_

Daniel Parisi is a New York City-based writer and recent graduate of the University of Maryland. Daniel specializes in coverage of mobile payments, loyalty programs, and the Internet of Things.