4 minute read.

Microlocal – the next data grab on Google’s radar?

Paul Anthony / July 9, 2012

Posted in: Archive

Many of you will already be familiar with Google’s recent ‘Project Glass‘ I blogged previously (along with pretty much every other tech outlet) at the time when it was revealed to the world. Although arguably one of the more outrageous of Google’s research projects, many have been quick to identify it as a viable consumer device if not for its obvious privacy concerns.

Another research project that you’ll have seen emerge from the Google’s X labs to critical acclaim, are Google’s self driving cars. Now legal in Nevada and getting passed the Senate in California, something which previously would have been seen as impossible is gradually becoming a possibility.

At its very core, Google is an advertising company built around the key foundation of data, and if research projects are indicative of the direction Google are moving in in the future, for the more cynical thinkers (i.e. me) – they leave a trail of breadcrumbs towards the data which is still missing from their jigsaw, and indeed the pieces which matter the most to them. What may to the everyday punter be seen as  just a web giant playing with toys in Google Labs, has more often than not, some level of commercial intent.

Both these projects whilst not obviously similar have striking commonality. Both have firm foundations in ubiquitous computing, and they also share a grounding in personal location awareness. Google hopes they can both become mass market consumer products in the future with consumer releases of the technology planned for 2014.

More interestingly, both projects are always on, with permanent connections to the cloud.

The growth in adoption of smartphone devices has undoubtably helped not only line Google pockets, but also gain valuable location information. The goal has always been to know,  not only know you are looking for, but where you can find it fastest – and that’s just one play where location becomes relevant. There are of course, countless others.  Project Glass with its multiple sensors is even more intrusive in the data it collects and sends home, and even more accurate in its location awareness. It’s an always on beacon of where you are, and what you are looking at, and doesn’t require you to remove device from pocket, and ask it a question. When you have them on your person, you are unequivocally always online.

Google’s self driving cars again, considering they are transmitting constantly to stay on the road – are another always on device that know your location, and your destination. What their marketing video with the blind driver  doesn’t show, is the countless opportunity Google has to suggest you visit Store X, because you’ve been looking for Product Y all week. Or that Store X is running a special offer this week, and its just two minutes from your final destination. Is it unfair to be overtly negative about technology this cool? Perhaps. Is there a lucrative commercial opportunity? Absolutely.

For both projects, obtaining precision location data is going to be of great importance. A recent *eureka* post by blogger Adrian Holovalty on the connection between driverless cars and Google Street View – in my opinion is absolutely spot on, but another one of the missing pieces of their data puzzle which isn’t already covered in Google Maps – is localised, interior building information. Micro local information if you will. Google have begun the process of crowd-sourcing this information by asking maps users to submit floor plans.

I’m just going to leave this Glasses video here. It should start playing at the relevant part.

This data is massively valuable for them. Just today, IndoorAtlas – a Finnish university spinout, which uses the earth’s magnetic field to generate indoor maps launched with a bang onto the web. University of Oulu engineers headed by Dr. Janne Haverinen discovered that steel masses inside buildings twist the Earth’s naturally occurring magnetic field such that every spot produces a unique pattern. A pattern which enables the company to generate accurate indoor maps, and a product that looks like it would be right up Google’s street. (Pun intended folks. Sorry.)

Micro local information is extremely valuable when combined with products like Glass – and you’ll forgive me if I’m getting ahead of myself, but Google has to be looking at companies like this with a view to future acquisition. Particularly if they have the belief that Glasses and indeed Google as a company will become an essential part of not only finding things online – but an ubiquitous part of finding things and delivering results in our offline lives too.

  • glasses
  • Google
  • hyperlocal
  • local
  • mapping
  • project glass
  • streetview