Google Maps, Bing Maps and a number of startups have been offering indoor maps for large venues like airports, malls and stadiums for quite a while. The problem with indoor mapping, though, is that it’s pretty hard for these companies to actually tell you exactly where you are on these maps. GPS obviously doesn’t work well in these spaces and WiFi and cell tower triangulation just isn’t very accurate. Now, however, Google has come up with a plan to improve indoor location accuracy for venues in Google Maps: venue owners who have uploaded their floor plans to Google’s mapping service can now use a new Android app to provides Google with feedback about how accurate its predictions are for their locations. All they need is an Android device (including tablets) that runs Android 2.3 or up.
Once installed, the app will tell its users where to go in the venue and while they walk, the app collects data about nearby WiFi hotspots, as well as data from local cell towers. Once it has collected and analyzed this data, Google can more reliably tell its users where they are inside the building. One specific feature that this process should improve is Google’s ability to tell you which floor you are on.
It’s a shame that Google is limiting this app to users who have uploaded their own floor plans. It would have been nice to see a fully crowdsourced version of this app that would allow anybody to help out with this project. Throw in a few gamification elements or other rewards (chances are you are in a commercial venue already, after all) and Google would have an army of volunteers in no time.