Google Launches Indoor Maps for Airports and Department Stores

by  Lindsay Neff | Nov 30, 2011
Google maps
Google maps / RobertCorse/iStock

We’ve all been there: Your plane has landed late and you have ten minutes to get to a connecting flight in an airport you’ve never been to. You have to get from the domestic flights to the international flights and you know there’s a shuttle, but you don’t know where it is. You haven’t got the time to wait in line at the information desk or to try and figure out where the “You Are Here” signs are. Enter Google Maps 6.0 with its new indoor maps, complete with floor plans and indoor search and navigation options. Google Maps can take you to whichever gate you need, no time wasted.

Or that’s the theory, at any rate. Currently, Google Maps 6.0 is available only for phones operating with Android OS 2.1 or above, and only in select locations, most of which are airports and department stores. It’s technically only in its beta stage, so it still has a few kinks to work out, as I learned while testing the new feature in the Herald Square Macy’s.

What worked? The floor plans were clear and since all you have to do to see them is zoom in, it’s easy to use. If all you want is bedding and you can’t remember what floor it’s on, you’re set! The map will even tell you where the elevators are, or where your kid can use the bathroom before you go to Santaland on the eighth floor.

What didn’t work? Using my phone’s GPS feature and Macy’s (fairly weak) Wi-Fi, Google Maps could tell where I was on the first floor, and it wasn’t too far off on the second floor, but as I got higher up and closer to the middle of the building, it thought I was out on the streets and then decided I was at Sephora. And it can’t be denied that this app kills phone batteries with impressive speed, especially because for indoor maps to work best you need a Wi-Fi and a satellite connection.

I tested it on the day of its release, but Google Maps’ indoor feature will undoubtedly improve with time, and I certainly would have loved it last time I was at Chicago’s giant O’Hare airport which, as it turns out, is one of the locations for which indoor maps are available. Even with the bugs, having a map on your phone is much more useful than having to search one out, and the new feature is sure to make your travel easier, especially once it has a wider release.

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