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Google opens the front door to indoor maps

social media Updated: Dec 01, 2011 19:16 IST
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Are you one of those people who gets completely lost when you visit the local mall or can never find your flight departure lounge in the airport maze? Google is hoping to reorient you with detailed floor plans and indoor maps with the launch of Google Indoor Maps.

The service has been built into Google Maps 6.0 for Android and will initially be available for Android users in the US and Japan.

"Google Maps for Android enables you to figure out where you are and see where you might want to go when you’re indoors," explained Brian McClendon, Google VP of Engineering, Google Earth and Maps, in a post on Google’s Lat Long Blog.

"When you’re inside an airport, shopping mall or retail store, a common way to figure out where you are is to look for a freestanding map directory or ask an employee for help.

Starting today, with the release of Google Maps 6.0 for Android, that directory is brought to the palm of your hands, helping you determine where you are, what floor you're on, and where to go indoors."

Google has partnered with retailers, airports and transit stations in both the US and Japan to provide interior maps of places such as the Mall of America, IKEA, Home Depot, Macy’s, Bloomingdale’s; Japanese department stores Daimaru, Takashimaya and Mitsukoshi; airports in the US and Japan; and the Japanese public transport companies JR and Tokyo Corporation.

You will be able to see your location "within several meters" when you are inside as indicated by a blue dot. Google has finetuned its "My Location" interface for indoors too so it will automatically display which level you are on when you are in a building with several floors.

You can watch a demo of Google Maps inside IKEA on YouTube. Another video shows how Google Maps can help you inside an airport.

In November a company in the UK called CSR debuted its SiRFusion location platform that combines "location information from multiple technologies to make extremely reliable and accurate indoor location and navigation a reality." The technology will be included in the CSR SiRFstarV family of location chips, which are expected to become available in 2012.

While detailed floor plans, shop names and the ability to show a user's location on Google indoor maps will help Android users to navigate through inside areas, the future of indoor maps is even more exciting.

One can only imagine the future applications from combining detailed Street View-like imaging with indoor maps. It’s a future where consumers could visit their local supermarket and browse or shop for their groceries aisle by aisle -- using their smartphone from the comfort of their own home.

With real-time indoor maps images people could even check how long the queue is for their favorite lunch bar before taking their lunch break.

Google is more than likely working with retailers to offer location-based deals on nearby products too, but will also have to find a solution to the privacy implications of such technologies.