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Google Maps The Great Indoors (Android Only)

Google is bringing the blue dot indoors. Google Maps for Android 6.0 is going to start showing interior maps of airports, select malls and retail stores in the US and Japan. In Japan transit stations are also mapped.

The floor plan data has been obtained from all the participating entities, which Google’s Steve Lee says are “very excited” to be a part of the program. Those entities include numerous Macy’s, Bloomingdales, Home Depots and all US IKEA stores. (See the full US list at the bottom.)

Below is a Google-provided screenshot of the Mall of America before interior maps and after:

You’ll Say: “How Did I Live without This?”

The column of numbers in the screen on the right represent floor levels. Google Maps will automatically detect which floor you’re on and show you the appropriate map in a multistory building or location. However you can view maps of different floor levels simply by selecting the desired floor.

Touching the my location indicator will find you on the map — inside the building. Users will be able to see how far they are from bathrooms, escalators and the like. To those who say, “This is nice but unnecessary,” Google’s Lee responds that using the product will win converts. “You’ll say how did I live without this?” he asserts.

Lee told me that at launch Google will have “several hundred million square feet coverage,” but there’s a long way to go before Google delivers all the interior mapping coverage that it would like. To that end there will be a self-service floor-plan upload tool that Google hopes retailers and property owners of all types will use to deliver floor plans for inclusion.

Bing Has “Venue Maps”

Bing has offered similar content online and on Bing Maps for mobile since August. However Bing venue maps don’t dynamically locate you inside buildings or provide floor detection.

Unlike Bing, however, Google is not making the floor plan maps available online at this point. We can assume they will eventually. Interior mapping will be available on Android tablets. And the 3D animations and other capabilities of Google Maps for Android will also be available to the new interior mapping.

One of the biggest accomplishments and useful features is the ability to dynamically locate users within a structure. It will allow them to see how close they are to the nearest bathroom inside Macy’s or how far they are from that better airport restaurant.

Pinpointing Users Inside

Steve Lee told me that Google is essentially using the same techniques (WiFi and cell tower triangulation) to locate people indoors that it uses outside. Outside GPS is also available, but it doesn’t work inside buildings. Google has apparently made some modifications of its approach to render interior location very precisely but it’s not using sensors or any new technology.

During my call with Google I started spinning out various scenarios for these maps going forward: product inventory information, integration with interior photography, ads and deals and so on. Of course Google wouldn’t say anything about any of that. Lee told me that for the time being Google is focusing on simply getting more floor plans into the system.

A Number of Startups Working on Floor Maps

A number of other companies, including Point Inside, Micello and FastMall are also creating interior and mall maps. I asked Google if it was working with any of those companies. Google said no. (They all now become acquisition targets for Google’s competitors.)

Even though these third parties and Microsoft had been working on interior mapping for some time, Google’s entry into the segment will instantly ignite it and make interior mapping a “must have” for companies such as Nokia and even Apple, which has not-so-quietly been building its own mapping capability for the past three years.

Android users will need to update their Google’s Maps apps to get access to the new functionality. There are several videos of the new interior maps in action. We’ll update this post when they become available.

US Launch Partners (full list):

  • Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport (ATL)
  • Norman Y. Mineta San Jose International Airport (SJC)
  • Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD)
  • Chicago Midway International Airport (MDW)
  • George Bush Houston International Airport (IAH)
  • William P. Hobby Airport (HOU)
  • Las Vegas McCarran International Airport (LAS)
  • San Francisco International Airport (SFO)
  • Charlotte Douglas International Airport (CLT)
  • Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport (MSP)
  • Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA)
  • Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport (FLL)
  • Portland International Airport (PDX)
  • Lambert-St. Louis International Airport (STL)
  • Kansas City International Airport (MCI)
  • Indianapolis International Airport (IND)
  • Boise International Airport (BOI)
  • Akron-Canton Airport (CAK)
  • Macy’s
  • Bloomingdales
  • Home Depot
  • IKEA
  • Mall of America
  • DDR Corp malls, including Times Square Mall in Mt. Vernon, Illinois and Liberty Fair Mall in Martinsville, VA
  • Brixmor Property Group including Eagle Rock Plaza in Los Angeles, CA

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.

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