Google wants to help you avoid the lines with real-time crowd tracking


    This holiday season, Google wants to help you avoid the crowds as you go out on your merry way shopping and eating. The company just released a set of pretty useful features in Search and Maps to let you know how crowded a location is in real-time as well as how long people tend to stay there. It should come in handy for shoppers looking to steer clear of long lines this coming Black Friday.

    Last year, Google launched the ‘Popular Times’ feature to let us see how busy a place typically gets during the week. Now, they’re expanding on that feature so that you know in real-time whether a place is busy or not before you decide to head there.

    “Just in time for the Black Friday swarms, we’re adding a real-time look at how crowded a place is right now, to help you decide where and when to go,” Google said in a blog post. “Whether you’re rushing to pick up a last minute gift or seeking a lively bar for some festive spirit, check Popular Times for a sneak preview of what to expect when you arrive.”

    On top of showing whether your favorite shop is swamped with people right now, Google will also show you how long customers tend to spend there. This way, you can “plan your itinerary to the minute.”

    The search engine is also getting more granular about business hours since some places can have separate hours for departments and services. So now you can look up the exact time you need to head to the mechanic inside your auto dealership and avoid showing up after they’ve already shut their doors.

    The new updates are probably just as much a boon for businesses as it is for customers. Not only does it inform customer as they decide when to visit, business owners can use it to mine free analytics on their busiest hours so they can plan staff schedules.

    The technology works thanks to Google’s location tracking feature on its mobile apps where take aggregated and anonymized data from users using phone GPS.

    “Much like we compute traffic data based on the anonymized aggregated movement of people on the road, we are able to determine relatively how busy a place is,” Google told TechCrunch.

    In case that sounds a bit scary, just know that Google’s location tracking technology is opt-in and you can turn it off at any time. Or revisit your past in their Timeline map and relish in that uneasy realization of just how much data Google has on your daily comings and goings. It might be unsettling but you can’t help but admit it’s pretty useful.

    Kelly Paik
    Kelly Paik writes about science and technology for Fanvive. When she's not catching up on the latest innovations, she uses her free-time painting and roaming to places with languages she can't speak. Because she rather enjoys fumbling through cities and picking things on the menu through a process of eeny meeny miny moe.