Wednesday, November 30, 2011


Google has added indoor maps of select malls, airports, and retail stores to its Android version of Google Maps, just in time for the holiday shopping season.

The update, version 6.0, shows your location, as the familiar blue dot, in relation to airport gates, mall stores, and retail departments. Google Maps has previously shown some indoor stores, but now it also displays the concourse and walkway. It can also determine what floor you’re on, and display the corresponding map.

GPS signals are typically horrible while indoors, so indoor maps is difficult to implement. Cell tower triangulation is used here, but the biggest boost in accuracy comes from WiFi hotspots. Google has created a database of routers’ signals, and they use your proximity to these networks to find your precise location. The quantity of logged hotspots will determine how precise it is.

The service is launching not only with limited locations, but also with limited functionality. Searching is currently unavailable on indoor maps, as is turn-by-turn navigation (“in 30 feet, turn left at Foot Locker, and Krispy Kreme will be on the right”). Google is silent on these features, but logic dictates that they will be added soon.

Google is also mum on adding indoor maps to iOS. Judging by the prickly relationship between Google and Apple, this may never happen. We could see an Apple Maps service before we see Mountain View and Cupertino collaborate on this.

The initial list of retail partners includes: Mall of America, IKEA, Home Depot, select Macy’s, and Bloomingdale’s. It also works in airports like Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, Chicago O’Hare, and San Francisco International Airport.

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