Google Maps Takes a Stab at Bing with Indoor Maps Feature for Airports and Malls

Starting today, Android users with Google Maps 6.0 can navigate through 60+ airports, shopping malls and other retail stores throughout the US and Japan.

While search competitor Bing has offered floor plans for select malls since 2010 for desktop users, it does not let users track where they currently are in stores. Despite now offering 400+ mall floor plans on mobile devices, it does not work with the native apps for iOS and Android, but rather only on Bing's mobile site.

"When you’re inside an airport, shopping mall or retail store, a common way to figure out where you are is to look for a freestanding map directory or ask an employee for help," the Google blog states. "Starting today, with the release of Google Maps 6.0 for Android, that directory is brought to the palm of your hands, helping you determine where you are, what floor you're on, and where to go indoors."

Detailed floor plans now automatically appear when you're viewing the map and zoomed in on a building or store that has indoor map data available. And if you use Latitude, you can find nearby friends indoors. 

As with outdoor maps, a person's location is highlighted by a flashing blue dot so they can see exactly where they are in relation to where they want to go.

Currently, Google has partnerships with retailers, airports and transit stations in the US and Japan such as IKEA, The Home Dept, Macy's, Bloomingdales, San Francisco International Airport (SFO), Chicago O' Hare (ORD) and more. See list of other locations here.
"To make it all work, [ Google Product Management Director Steve ] Lee says, they’ve been able to fine tune the location-based services Google uses for the outdoor locations, including cellphone towers, Wi-Fi hotspots and GPS — without requiring the retailer to install any new hardware," Tricia Duryee writes on All Things D. "He claims it’s so accurate that the phone can pick up on the fact that a shopper is taking the escalator up or down and automatically changes the display of the store’s floor layout accordingly."
There are several other startups that have created floor plan apps for shopping malls, such as FastMall, PointInside and Micello. Some of these companies, however, use data that is already available from management companies or mall developers and require users to download the maps. 

As The New York Times reported last year, many worried that Google "might crush the tiny indoor mapmakers by creating its own competitive service."

Using Google Maps Floor Plans service, businesses can upload floor plans to Google for mapping internal layouts of buildings.

Back in October, we spotted a couple of instances of Google Store Views, which revealed the inside of stores for desktop users. In February, Amit Sood, who is the head of the Google Art Project, helped bring street views indoors to let the masses access art from major museums. 
"This technology for indoors is still very much in its infancy and we'll continue to develop it so that we can add more museums to the project and improve on what we've done so far," Amit told LAUNCH in February.

The new indoors feature is available for Android OS 2.2+ devices with Google Maps mobile version 6.0+.


Shopping malls before floor plans and after.  

Airport map before floor plans and after. 

Google Maps Floor Plan service for businesses.  

Bing Maps floor plan for Roosevelt Field Mall.