Google has shared how it uses artificial intelligence, including its restaurant-calling Duplex technology, to try to keep opening hours on Google Maps up to date. The company says that if it is confident enough in the AI’s prediction of what a company’s hours of operation should be, it will update the information in Maps.
In a blog post, Google outlines the various factors its AI analyzes to determine whether it should do these updates. First, it looks at when the business profile was last updated, the opening hours of other similar stores, and data from popular times to determine how likely it is that the opening hours are incorrect. For example, if Google sees a lot of people visiting the store when it’s supposedly closed, that could be a red flag.
The message from Google says the AI will look at even more data if it determines that the hours should be updated. It takes into account information from the company’s website and can even scrape streetview images (which may display opening hours signs) to try and figure out when the business is open. Google says it will also contact real people, including Google Maps users and business owners, to verify the AI’s predictions — the company says it will even use Duplex in some countries to ask businesses directly about their hours.
Google spokesperson Genevieve Park said: The edge that Google “only publishes business hours if we have a high degree of confidence that they are accurate.” If the AI thinks the hours may be incorrect but doesn’t have a solid forecast, it will add a notification that the hours may have changed.
Park also said that Google does not explicitly tell users when hours have been updated by its AI and explained that AI is being used pretty a lot everywhere otherwise in Google Maps. It seems that Google is quite optimistic about its AI-driven approach. In its post, the company says it is “on track to update hours for more than 20 million companies around the world over the next six months.”
Google also says it’s testing another use of AI in Maps to keep speed limits up to date. In the US, it will try to see if its partners have taken photos of sections of road with speed limit signs and AI will have its operations team help identify the sign and the speed limit on it.
While it’s no surprise that Google is using AI for these problems, it’s interesting to see how many interlocking systems are involved. There’s computer vision, pattern matching in location trends, and analyzing data about similar locations (which of course also involves figuring out what the similar locations are), all to quietly keep track of how often businesses change their business hours and make sure he knows the speed limit on certain road sections.