Google announced recently that it will be using artificial intelligence (AI) and a machine learning (ML) model to automatically update the local business hours and real-world road information of over 20 million businesses listed in Google Maps and Google Search.

They mentioned that the model would look at a multitude of areas, including popular business operating times, the hours posted on a business’s storefront via the street view imagery and more. Google is currently experimenting with the use of AI for Google Maps to allow the most accurate speed limit information in a specific location through the use of road images and further identify potholes, school zones and where construction is happening.

Google mentioned that the overall goal of this initiative is to provide their users with the latest information about a neighbourhood or suburb as it changes. 


Google Using AI To Update Business Hours

COVID-19 changed the way that many businesses operate and influenced the hours that retailers and restaurants were permitted to be open. To assist with these changes, Google developed a machine learning (ML) model that automatically identifies if a business’s hours are wrong and need to be updated. The factors that Google’s AI takes into consideration are:

  • When the Google Business Profile was last updated
  • The hours of other local businesses in the area
  • Popular business hours using real user location data
  • The business hours that are captured by Google Street View images of the business storefront
  • The use of Google Duplex, which assist in carrying out real-world tasks “over the phone”

Once the wrong hours are identified, Google updates the company’s profile with the AI-generated predictions. 

(Source: SE Roundtable)


Machine Learning (ML) Updates Real-World Road Conditions

Google is also experimenting with other ways it can use imagery for AI and ML. Rolling out in the United States first, they are launching a third-party pilot system that will provide the most accurate speed limit information for users travelling in certain locations.

They outlined that if their systems identify that the speed limit information on a particular highway needs to be updated, using the help of third-party imagery partners, they request a photo of the specific stretch of road that also includes a speed limit sign. If the partner has this photo available, they will then use a combination of AI and the operations team to identify the sign in the image, extract the new speed limit information, and update Google Maps. Google further aims to add information about potholes, construction sites and school zones.

The overall goal of this machine learning technology is to improve driver safety and add more details that can make driving efficient. 


Privacy Will Still Remain A Factor

The third-party pilot system will be designed with the emphasis of privacy remaining as a key component. The images used for reference will only come from public roads and partners of the pilot system will be required to blur identifying information in the background, including faces and license plates. Once the image is received by Google, the photo will be further blurred and is deleted after Google Maps has been updated.


Why do we care?

Over 200 million businesses worldwide are ever-present on Google Maps and Google Search, who sometimes fail to update their business information. This new idea of innovation will help businesses keep their customers up to speed with the latest business information and provide Google users with accurate information when making purchase decisions. 

Although this calls for businesses to consistently check the information that is being provided on the Google Business Profiles to ensure that the information is accurate and is a reflection of their business.

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