Google has rolled out a new search results feature that shows mobile users an estimate of foot traffic within a given venue at specific times on each day of the week. This feature is not device or browser-specific. Rather, it is part of Google search results and it shows up on mobile versions of Chrome, Safari and even 3rd party manufacturer browsers found on many Android phones.
So far there does not appear to be any specific region-based access to the feature. Anywhere that Google has data for is a potential beneficiary.
Not every venue or store has data displayed for it at this point, but try giving your favourite establishment a Google and see what turns up.
How do I do it?
Easy. Pop on over to Google’s browser search page and type in the name of the establishment you’d like to check. If it is located, there should be a small blue tab with a down-arrow hiding the extra-info section. Tap it and the data should appear close to the top. Scroll sideways to browse different days of the week.
If you see nothing, then this venue is not yet supported. Try another place and start again.
How does Google do it?
It’s probably very similar to the way that Google Maps gives live traffic updates. Google already knows where the roads are, and it’s always tracking literally millions of Android devices’ GPS locations.
If you’re located on a road and travelling over a certain speed, Google can make the educated assumption that you’re travelling in a car, bus, tax or other road vehicle. When you come to a traffic jam, your speed suddenly slows to a crawl. It’s not a far cry for Google to make the connection that: road + fast movement followed by slow movement = traffic.
By the same token, Google also has the locations and addresses of countless venues. It can use that same location tracking data to make assumptions about how busy a certain venue gets at different times of the day.
Whether or not you think that sounds creepy, it’s an undeniably useful feature.
“Do you think [x bar] will be too busy tonight for a few quiet ones?”
“I don’t know. Let’s Google it.”
- Everyone you know from now on