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Google takes Maps indoors, but challenges remain

Adam Bender | Nov. 15, 2012
Low adoption and insufficient research has slowed the movement of Google Maps indoors, a Google software engineer said today at the Indoor Positioning and Indoor Navigation conference held at the University of New South Wales in Sydney.

Navigation is useful when driving because it's cumbersome to use paper maps and difficult to stop and ask for directions, he said. By contrast, indoor locations like malls usually have good signage and it's easy to find someone to ask for directions, he said.

A wrong turn outside can be much more costly than inside, Kadous said. "Think about this way: How hard is it to do a U-turn walking versus driving?"

More interesting applications for indoor location might be an app that provides the location of friends in a mall, or one that can provide the location of a particular item in a store, he said. A study of user behaviours could help develop more ideas, he said.

Kadous acknowledged possible privacy concerns with location tracking indoors, including businesses seeking to learn customers' locations in a building. The concerns have led some to propose laws banning the practice.

"Have we received requests from businesses for [location data]?" asked Kadous. "Yes."

However, Google has "taken steps to safeguard users' privacy," he said. All of Google's indoor location services rely on anonymous data, and all calculations occur on the user's device, he said. With apps like Latitude, users can choose with whom they share their location, he said.

"But this technology is designed deliberately for privacy as much as possible."

While indoor maps is not yet available in Australia, Google has steadily added features to Google Maps here in recent months, including cycling and public transportation directions and a tool allowing Australians to make their own maps.

 

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