Google Maps to start predicting crowdedness on public transport

Google Maps is already one of the most popular ways to plan the comings and goings of daily life, but a new update makes it just a little bit better.

Launched at the end of last week, Google Maps will now tell users how busy public transport is likely to be and whether users should anticipate delays on a journey. It’s a simple upgrade, but this extra little bit of information is an example of why Google Maps is such a popular application around the world.

“On days when everything runs smoothly, taking public transit is one of the best ways to get around town,” Google stated in a blog post. “Not only is it cost-effective and efficient, but it also lets you stay hands-free, so you can sit back, relax and maybe even read a few chapters of your favourite book.

“But unexpected delays or overcrowded vehicles can quickly turn your ride from enjoyable to stressful. Starting today, Google Maps is rolling out two new features to help you better plan for your transit ride and stay more comfortable along the way.”

There are two new snippets of information which are being introduced here. Firstly, users will be told whether there are any delays on the bus to be aware of. Many estimates on time of arrival are based on the average time in which it takes the bus to get from point A to point B, not taking into account the conditions at that time. To counter this problem, Google will introduce live traffic updates.

Secondly, the Maps application will begin to tell users whether they are likely to snag a seat on an up-coming bus, train or underground journey. This section is more guesswork than anything else, using data collected on journeys through the last two years to figure out the current situation. That said, these guesses are usually correct and might be useful for anyone who gets a bit fidgety during the busy periods of travel.

These two features will be rolled out in 200 cities across the world, including numerous locations in the UK such as Cardiff, London, Nottingham and Reading.

Google Maps is turning into a wonderful money maker for the team, and this is perhaps the very reason why. Numerous features are being introduced without necessarily tying them to the bottom line. Google is not necessarily going to make money from these updates, but more people might use the product. It’s the built it and they will come attitude, focusing on nailing experience before turning to profits.

Augmented reality maps ensure you’ll always know what that hill is called

Ever wondered the world would look like without sign posts, information points or road markings? It might not be that far away…

Over at Ordnance Survey (OS) the team has decided to intertwine some augmented reality technology into its maps. It hasn’t gone as far as removing sign posts just yet, but it’s a nice little quirky idea which shows some of the potential for AR tech which hasn’t really caught on just about yet.

On the OS Maps application, users can now use their phone or tablet’s camera view to identify certain landmarks around the UK. Just hold out you camera and hills, mountains, coastal features, lakes, settlements, transport hubs and woodland in the vicinity are identified and labelled. Click on the label and a page of information about that location is displayed.

“This fantastic new feature really gives you a clear and accurate context of your environment,” said Tim Newman, Digital Product Manager at Ordnance Survey. “While we always recommend people carry a paper map when outside (they never run out of batteries!) we recognise that people are increasingly enjoying the benefits of using mobile phones for navigation.

“Mobiles can provide you with excellent knowledge of your immediate surroundings but you can lose the wider perspective on a small screen. The new augmented reality view helps address this by showing what is on the horizon. We hope people will find this fun and informative, as well as being a useful tool to help improve basic navigation skills.”

The feature is available in 200,000 locations throughout the UK, free to subscribers of OS Maps. It is augmented reality in action, and could offer some interesting ideas in terms of making money. Google is starting to see the benefits of investing in its Maps product, and there are some new advertising models which are starting to rise. Applying the same idea to augmented reality (i.e. selling reference points to local businesses), could generate some serious cash.

How often have you stood on a high street wondering where the nearest pub or café or tube station is? The first move is to pull up Google Maps and spin around in circles to get your directional bearings. This could be a more advanced version of that.

But it isn’t all about money. Think about the first question we asked. Imagine what your city would look like without sign posts, information points or road markings. It would be completely different. It might transform the high street, you’d actually be able to see the buildings! And then you pull out your phone and get hit by a wave of information and advertisements. Nothing comes for free.