A New Navigation System Hinted at Google Maps

by Posted @ Jan 23 2020

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Changes Coming to Local Search?

Google made an announcement recently about changes to local search. Those are detailed in: Google Changes How Local Search Results Are Generated. It tells us that they are “applying neural matching to local search results.”

A new patent has also come out from Google about changes to Google’s navigation system. It looks like it will provide better results by adding intermediate destinations to journeys and better searching on those trips.

Together, these changes to local search and Google’s navigation system could have an impact on local businesses. We have seen technology make changes to yellow pages, paper roadmaps, and transportation services. Changing local search and navigation can have a tremendous impact. I’ve detailed a lot of the changes that the new navigation patent hints at. There is no timeline on when these things might go into effect.

The patent that Google was granted is about navigation systems and better search results while searchers operate a navigation system, such as Google Maps. This post ends with three detailed examples that show off how much different the navigation system described within this patent might be.

An inventor from this patent has a background that feels appropriate. The LinkedIn profile for Mark Hanson, and the types of jobs he worked on while at Google make him feel like an ideal fit for this patent:

  • Senior Software Engineer
  • Company Name: Google
  • Dates Employed: Dec 2011 – Present
  • Employment Duration: 8 yrs 2 mos
  • Location: Sydney, Australia
  • Currently Tech Lead / Engineering Manager on Google Maps for Android Automotive
  • Previously:
  • Google Maps APIs (Tech Lead / Manager)
  • Google Maps for the Mobile Web
  • Google Maps Coordinatev
  • Google Maps Business Database

This patent feels like it was created by someone concerned about making navigation from within a car feel like a good user experience.

It starts by telling us this about navigation systems:

Navigation systems are known for identifying and displaying a desired geographic location, as illustrated on a map, as well as computing a route from a current location to the desired location. These systems are commonly found on automotive vehicles as well as encompassed within hand-held devices.

The Navigation System Problem this patent tries to solve

The focus here is on better search results that are more efficient, and easier to refine.

These need improvement according to the patent, which tells us about it like this:

It is often the case that navigation systems provide information relating to points of interest (POI), such as shopping, food, and business-related locations. However, voluminous search query results are typically generated, which is inefficient and often ineffective for providing information relating to POIs.

It would be advantageous for a navigation system to efficiently provide enhanced search query results for more effective searching. It would be further advantageous for a navigation system to provide sub-searching capabilities for refining search results and therefore providing more effective searching.

Better Car Navigation

What is being invented is a navigation system that includes a graphical user interface capable of receiving input, and displaying content, with a database that contains travel-related data, and includes a processor that can execute searches to respond to search queries.

New Navigation System

The input that this navigation system receives is a destination location. With that information, it can perform a search based on that location. It can identify with the travel-related data in the database, search results based on the query, and categories associated with the results.

In addition to a location, this system can receive a keyword, and associate the keyword with one of the search categories, and provide a refined list of results according to the search categories. Those results can be displayed on the graphical user interface.

navigation search steps flowchart

A search with this navigation system can perform can use several keywords, without first receiving final location destination information. In response to that query, using the categories, the system can display intermediate destinations that can be selected from.

This patent can be found at:

Navigation system and methods for generating enhanced search results
Inventors: Francis Bourque, Sanjay Gupta, and Mark Hansen
Assignee: GOOGLE TECHNOLOGY HOLDINGS LLC
US Patent: 10,527,442
Granted: January 7, 2020
Filed: May 22, 2015

Abstract

A navigation system and various methods of using the system are described herein. Search query results are refined by the system and are prioritized based at least in part upon sub-search categories selected during the searching process. Sub-searches can be represented by graphical icons displayed on the user interface.

The Geographic Database Behind the Navigation System

The database is one with information about geographical roadways and routes.

The patent tells us that there are “a variety of commercially available databases containing map and atlas related information” which are suitable to use with this process.

That database would also contain information that:

  • Is relevant to the user
  • Has previously performed search queries
  • The patent also tells us that it can use other information like sociological data such as:

    • Neighborhood crime rates
    • Ethnicity demographics
    • Average household incomes

    And industrial data such as:

    • Type of businesses
    • Shopping related data
    • Potentially hazardous industrial locations

    It may also contain sociological and industrial profiles for neighborhoods or geographic regions.

    The search engine can perform reverse address searches to identify businesses and other points of interest (POI) within proximity of the current location.

    It can also identify a current location by the POI visited.

    If a searcher adds information about a point of interest location, that information in the database is updated

    The database can also include information relating to previous travel and other behavior selections and circumstances encountered by one or more users in the past.

    These can include:

    • Geographic travel related historical data
    • Contextual travel related historical data

    The contextual travel related data includes:

    • Frequency of destination visits
    • Search query time
    • Time-of-day associated with previous search queries
    • Current directional travel
    • Weather conditions
    • Traffic conditions
    • Current time of day
    • Frequency of current route

    The historical database can include information about:

    • Previous search queries
    • Prior travel routes
    • Prior locations visited
    • Type of prior location visited
    • Deviation distance from route for previously chosen locations

    Other kinds of information can include things such as:

    • Operating hours of a previously visited business is stored in the database
    • Proximnity to locations may play a role in how they may be ranked
      • The patent tells us about the ability to plan for intermediate destinations on a trip to a final destination. It references being about to identify parking locations near other destinations, which would be helpful in a car navigation system. It also refers to an ability to search for restaurants within a ten-mile radius.

        Better Searches in this Navigation System

        I was looking forward to seeing what this patent meant by discussing more refined search queries. Here is an example of what the search described in the patent tells us it might look at:

        The final destination route can be analyzed based upon contextual information, such as the approximate distance or estimated length of time and type of driving (By example, Interstate, County Highway, or City Roadway). Query results are prioritized based at least in part upon the routing context and sub-search categories selected. For example, a longer route on the Interstate can prioritize fast-food restaurants located proximal to the Interstate higher than a five-star restaurant located distal to the Interstate. If a lodging sub-search category was selected, then the results would be further prioritized based upon lodging proximity and predetermined lodging specifics.

        Including Intermediary Destinations in Navigation

        An intermediary destination is one that is on the way to a final destination. It can be added to a final destination, such as a gas station, a restaurant, or some other place that might be stopped at on the way to a place. The route in the navigatin system might be updated to include intermediate destinations. Additional information may also be looked at such as:

        • Traffic information
        • Road construction
        • Preferred routes
        • Alternative roadway information
        • Alternative methods of transportation, such as walking or bicycle travel

        Having Intermediary Destinations Being Found and Offered Along a Journey

        A search to a final destination may be requested, and that may result in a display of intermediate destinations along the journey to that final destination

        intermediary destinations

        A list of Places of Interest may be provided based in part upon:

        • Keywords selected
        • Proximity metrics to a final destination
        • Structure associated with the databases

        This patent offers three examples of how search queries can influence navigation routes (I am going to quote them directly.) These illustrate how much is being added by this patent to the experience that you may have today using Google Maps.

        Search Query Example 1

        At approximately 6:00 A.M. on a Wednesday during the winter a user enters a vehicle in downtown Chicago, Ill. and enters a search query including the keyword “Fast food” and selects an option for proximity to a final destination, which is identified as “work”.

        The search engine identifies the search query and compares the query to historical query information contained within one or more databases. After the comparison is complete the search engine generates a prioritized list of fast-food destinations within proximity to the user’s preferred route to work.

        “Dunkin Donuts” is at the top of the list, followed by several other fast-food restaurants, as well as additional Dunkin Donuts locations.

        The user presses the sub-searching icon that represents available parking near the query results. A new list is generated that refines the list based upon available parking.

        The search engine also identified the user’s contextual information, including location upon query initiation, time of day, day of the week, and season.

        After comparing the database with the user’s query and contextual information, it was identified that the user had traveled to Dunkin Donuts 12 previous times during the workweek, at approximately 6:00 A.M., during the winter while on his way to work after initiating the same or similar query. The user had previously traveled to “Starbucks” only 3 times, and therefore this location had been assigned a lower priority value.

        In the immediate case, a Dunkin Donut location without available parking was placed towards the bottom of the list, even though it was closer to the desired route. The user selects a Dunkin Donut location that is closest to the desired route and that has convenient available parking in close proximity.

        Search Query Example 2

        A search is initiated containing the keywords “Restaurants in Chicago.”

        After initiating the query a database is accessed and a comparison of the keywords is performed concerning information contained within a database having historical travel data. A list of restaurants in Chicago is provided ranked by the frequency of visits to a particular restaurant, the day of week and time of day associated with the current query, and prior visits to the results.

        Traffic Data can be collected based upon the time of day and day of the week to minimize the travel time to a location, and the list can be prioritized based upon the estimated travel time. A combination of historical, contextual, and traffic information relating to a particular search query can provide a list of enhanced search results.

        The search results represent a list of potential intermediary destinations. The user selects an arts and entertainment icon to further refine the list.

        In the present case, performing arts and entertainment venues near the restaurants in the search list are provided. A user is then able to select a performing arts venue that is conveniently located close to the Chicago restaurant they desire. It is conceived that an initial and final destination is the same, while the intermediary destination is a target destination within a round-trip travel sequence.

        Search Query Example 3

        A search query is initiated for a brand of navigation systems, such as “Motorola.”

        The search is performed and a generated list of possible businesses offering Motorola.RTM. navigation systems for sale are provided. The businesses can include electronic stores, department stores, travel-specific businesses, and alternative locations that carry Motorola.RTM. products.

        Businesses are prioritized based upon the frequency of visit, location proximity, and other contextual and historical information.

        Searching for a preferred brand, such as Motorola.RTM. navigation systems will return businesses that are associated with selling and servicing the preferred product brand.

        A user can further refine the search results based upon the need to obtain fuel for their vehicle. A fuel source icon is selected, which focuses the results list based upon fuel sources that are near the user’s current location and that provide the most efficient route to the search results on the list.

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