Just ahead of the upcoming holiday shopping season Google has included yet another innovative product in their search results. Live, real-time results showing exactly how busy a certain store, restaurant, or bar is. This will be particularly useful for the upcoming shopping season. Now you can check how busy a store is simply by Googling it. This is very similar to how we check congestion and traffic on highways using Google maps.
You can see which store to avoid and which ones you can go to without spending hours waiting in line. This allows you to effectively plan your trip and save you time. Say maybe you and your friends decide you want to go out to dinner but cannot decide which one. By using the live feature of Google Duration you can see which one will have the longest wait times and it will help to narrow down your decision.
What is Google Duration?
Google duration (which launched in 2015) shows what the most popular times to visit certain businesses are, and how long people typically spend there. This week Google unveiled a Live component to duration. Now users can see, in real time, how busy a particular store, restaurant, or bar is. As mentioned above this is ideal for planning your shopping trips or which restaurant/bar to visit.
As of now times are only classified as “Not Too Busy” and “A Little Busy” depending on whether the number of people in the business is less than or greater than Google’s historical data. There is even an option to contribute to the data. Google displays a “Correct?” tag next to busy businesses to allow users to rate the accuracy of their system. You can tell Google whether it is busier than stated, as stated, or slower than stated. I do not expect this feature to stay forever and is probably just being used as a benchmark to help Google gauge the accuracy of their data.
How Does it Work?
Crowd – sourcing. One of the beautiful things about every single person carrying around a smartphone in their pocket is that we can track, in real-time, where large portions of people are. The same way that Google maps uses volumes of smartphone signals to determine congestion on major routes, Google Duration Live uses the number of smartphones signals within a certain area to determine “busyness”. Historically, one of the biggest problems in building a program such as this is that is was hard for Google to pinpoint exactly in which stores users were located. That was until they acquired Waze for $1.1 Billion in late 2015 which allowed them to more accurately measure the location information of smartphone signals.
Now you may be thinking that you do not want these companies being able to track your location at all times via your smartphone. This isn’t how it actually works. I mean technically they COULD do this – and it would be very easy for them – but they don’t. To qualm user outrage of mass surveillance Google uses a combination of user anonymity software that randomly generates a tracking code for specific devices and location tracking from users that have opted into GPS tracking. This system makes it impossible for anyone to use the data to track a specific user. Instead Google tracks these random tracking codes. By combining this tracking with machine learning they are able to identify high or low customer volumes.
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