Not to be outdone by Apple, Google dives into passenger app arena


Back in April 2010, it came to light that Apple is working on an iTravel app and has been busy filing a series of submissions to the US Patent & Trademark Office. The mock-up iTravel app screens included with the patent documents show the app being used to make bookings for flights, hotels, car rentals, and even trains and buses.

The app, aimed primarily at business travelers and other frequent flyers, is likely to rely on Near Field Communications (NFC) technology being built into the passenger’s device, which means we may not see iTravel until the release of an NFC-enabled iPhone 5 or iPad 3.

Not to be outdone by Apple, with the release of Google Maps 6.0 for Android devices, the search giant’s app now features floor plans for the insides of buildings, including airports. For example, the map of Narita International Airport in Japan shows individual rooms, shops, toilets, and areas of interest – and in buildings with multiple stories, allows users to select the floor required.

Detailed floor plans automatically appear when you’re viewing the map and zoomed in on a building where indoor map data is available. Then, the Google Maps dot will show your location within a few meters. Google uses other data including cellular tower positioning and publicly broadcast Wi-Fi information to supplement GPS data, which is notoriously unreliable when used indoors. The app utilizes a Smartphone’s ability to measure the strength of Wi-Fi signals to determining details like floor level.

Currently only a few retailers, airports, and transit stations in the United States and Japan have had their buildings mapped, including a bunch of Ikea and Macy’s stores across the US, and the Roppongi Hills mega-complex in Tokyo.

It shouldn’t come as any surprise that in these litigious times, this feature is only available on Android phones. iPhone users will have to continue to struggle while navigating airports, as Google has confirmed that there is no specific timing for when indoor maps will be available for non-Android platforms.