Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) Maps, the online location application that helps millions of users get directions and other geographical information from all over the world, is headed indoors at select shopping malls, retailers and airports.
The search engine provider upgraded Google Maps for Android to let smartphone and tablet users in the United States and Japan see where they are and what places they might want to check out while they're indoors. Google is comparing the new directions to the physical map directories that shoppers find in malls, or those that travelers use to find their way inside airports.
Here's how it works. Google Maps 6.0 for Android will display detailed floor plans when a user is looking at a map on the app and zooms in on a building where an indoor map is available. Users' approximate locations will be indicated with a blue dot icon within several meters.
Google Maps for Android also uses the Android phone's location detection capabilities, which tap GPS, cell towers and WiFi hubs for data and communicate it to Google's location servers, automatically updating the map layout as users move up or down a level in a building with multiple floors.
Imagine being able to find the food court in a massive mall, or finding a specific gate or restaurant in an airport, by looking at Google Maps on an Android phone. See what the indoor maps look like in Google's corporate blog post.
Participants in the indoor mapping app include Mall of America in Minneapolis and retailers Ikea, The Home Depot, Macy's and Bloomingdale's in the United States. In Japan, participating parties include Daimaru, Takashimaya and Mitsukoshi locations and more.
Airports involved with the new program include San Francisco International Airport in Google's home state, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, Chicago's O'Hare, Narita International in Japan, and plenty more airports.
Google, which will add new indoor maps, invited business owners to participate in its program by submitting their floor plans. The effort is an extension of Google's bid to organize the world's information online for the purpose of leveraging it for ad dollars. Squeezing more ad money via mobile devices is a company priority.
The tricky part about mapping indoor stores and other locations is that Google must get permission first, which can be challenging. Google will have to find ways to coax intensely private states or countries to let it use its topographic information and other data online for the whole world to see.