Google announced a new feature that tells users what the busiest times are at millions of places and businesses around the world. It's basically using the same mobile technology that it uses to tell users about traffic to give them information that might make them want to reconsider visiting a business at certain times.
Google explains in a Google+ update:
Do you ever find yourself trying to avoid long lines or wondering when is the best time to go grocery shopping, pick up coffee or hit the gym (hint: avoid Monday after work)? You’re in luck!
Now, you can avoid the wait and see the busiest times of the week at millions of places and businesses around the world directly from Google Search. For example, just search for "Blue Bottle Williamsburg", tap on the title and see how busy it gets throughout the day. Enjoy your extra time!
Here's what the feature looks like:
Google didn't bother to mention how it's acquiring the data needed for such a feature to work properly (and it remains to be seen if it really will work as advertised on any consistent basis), but the company told VentureBeat that it utilizes technology that it uses for its traffic information.
Google has been offering aggregated traffic data since 2009. Here's the blog post about that if you want a better understanding of how this works. Essentially, it just utilizes the locations of everybody's phones. In that post, Google explains:
When you choose to enable Google Maps with My Location, your phone sends anonymous bits of data back to Google describing how fast you’re moving. When we combine your speed with the speed of other phones on the road, across thousands of phones moving around a city at any given time, we can get a pretty good picture of live traffic conditions. We continuously combine this data and send it back to you for free in the Google Maps traffic layers.
Now apply this to places and business locations, and you have a good idea of how Google is using the data.
For users, it should be a helpful little feature that helps them make better decisions about when to go somewhere. The benefits aren't quite as clear to businesses. A busy business could lose customers who are afraid of a potential crowd. The customer might decide to go somewhere else instead. Or in some cases, they might just shoot for a different time. Businesses who don't get as big of crowds might benefit from the feature and steal away some customers from the competition.
Either way it's a helpful consumer feature, and one that will be interesting to see the effects of after some time has passed. Maybe we'll see some studies on this down the line.
Image via Google