Has Google Maps just revolutionized the wayfinding industry? Used primarily as an outdoor tool up until now, Google Maps has been instrumental in helping people visit new cities, drive through unfamiliar parts of town or find the nearest subway or train station. But it appears that’s about to change as Google has just announced that it’s Maps 6.0 version will help you figure out your location and direction, not only in getting from point A to point B, but while you’re indoors as well.

Environmental graphic designers and firms know that directional maps are an integral part of nearly every signage and wayfinding program. However, they are not always as intuitive as we need them to be. Currently, the common way to figure out where you are is to look for a freestanding map or directory. If you’re lucky, it’ll have a “You are Here” location on it. But as most of us know, it’s not always entirely simple to get from “You are Here,” to there; wherever “There” may be.

Now, using Google Maps, if you zoom in close on a building, detailed floor maps will automatically appear where indoor map data is available. The floor plan will update if you go up or down a level in the building and the familiar blue dot of your location will appear, accurate to within several meters. As of now, indoor maps are only available in select locations throughout the U.S. and Japan and only for Android 2.2 or above devices. But Google does plan to add new indoor maps to public buildings across the world and encourages business owner interested in getting their location’s floor plan included to visit plans for more information.

In the midst of a challenging wayfinding project myself, I can definitely see the value in this type of program. I know there are similar types of programs out there, like Identia and the app that GNU signs employee, Julie Kelly recently developed, called Surveyor, but these programs are mainly for programming and sign locations rather than actual pedestrian wayfinding. While incredibly useful tools, one similar to Google indoor maps would be instrumental in getting people through difficult to navigate areas (ever been to Horton Plaza shopping center in San Diego – that place is a labyrinth). This type of tool could be especially helpful for the visually impaired as well, through voice activation.

Other EGD firms/designers – what are your thoughts on Google maps indoors as it relates to our industry? Do you see it adding value? Is there a way to potentially integrate static wayfinding signs/directories with this type of digital program, perhaps through the use of a QR code? I imagine this could generate a large amount of discussion and would love to hear your thoughts on the subject!

  1. This is so so great, I am so happy that they keep on upgrading all the Google applications, they get better and better. I personally don’t have GPS system so I use Google maps instead and it works just perfect for me. Thank you for this post and for the video. It was just great to get to know it.

    Sincerely, Deena Hutchinson wma to mp3

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