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How Google Maps Platform uses AI/ML and community contributions to keep its points of interest up to date

Global businesses across industries consistently trust us when they build geospatial products and solutions for their own customers. One of the key reasons businesses choose Google Maps Platform is the freshness of its points of interest (POI) data. For example, using Google Maps Platform, a travel site can help its customers discover open restaurants near a vacation rental. Or a grocery chain can ensure its customers know its updated weekend hours. Through the Places API, Google Maps Platform provides developers with access to business information, ratings, and reviews for over 200 million businesses and places around the world.

A question we often get from our customers and industry peers is how Google Maps Platform maintains the freshness and accuracy of its POI data. In this blog, we will explore two ways in which we provide our customers with access to up-to-date POI information. 

Street View and AI/ML capabilities drive faster and more accurate POI insights 

We continue to evolve our AI and machine learning capabilities to maintain POI information. Street View imagery lets you virtually explore the world, and helps us accurately reflect local information about places. We’ve traveled across countries to capture this imagery and bring new information online—from unmapped roads to new businesses. However, to identify information like a new business or street name from signs in an image, we use text recognition, which is challenging in the natural environment—especially at scale. One reason is that the average Street View photo has more in the image than just a business name or street sign. They have cluttered backgrounds with additional buildings and cars. They show the signs from only one angle from which the image was taken. And they might even be blurry or have lighting issues. After years of training machine learning models, our text recognition systems can tune out these distractions and detect business names and addresses even when they’re handwritten on the side of a building or abbreviated. These models can understand a variety of languages across various scripts, from Latin, Cyrillic and Thai to Mandarin, Japanese and Korean.

Applying artificial intelligence and machine learning to our more than 220 billion Street View images helps us create high-quality maps faster than we could before. For instance, applying machine learning models to Street View imagery has helped improve the accuracy of address data available to customers in Google Maps Platform, resulting in more reliable geospatial experiences for their end users. Additionally, we also use algorithmic detection of businesses, facilitated by extracting details about a business from its web page, to ensure up-to-date POI information.

Contributions from our user community, business owners, and government partners facilitate constant additions and updates to POI data 

In addition to using our own geospatial data libraries such as Street View and algorithmic detection of businesses, we also rely heavily on our users, businesses, and partners to provide us with constant updates to POI information. Thanks to our Local Guides community of over 150 million contributors around the world and partnerships covering more than 10,000 local governments, transit agencies and organizations around the world, we’re able to reflect the latest information on our maps. 

We also continue to bring the most relevant features of Google Maps to Google Maps Platform so developers can incorporate helpful information into their products and services. For instance, using the Places API, you can now add editorial summaries, special business hours, and show reviews sorted by most recent or relevant. And restaurants can now add key POI attributes, like takeout, delivery, dine-in, and curbside pickup. By sharing rich, descriptive content about your business, you can give customers the information they need before they visit. 

These are just a few of the ongoing efforts to keep our POI data up-to-date. Stay tuned for the next blog on how Google Maps Platform enabled millions of businesses and government organizations to provide critical information and services during the pandemic. Until then, you can learn more about how we use AI and imagery to build a self-updating map.

For more information on Google Maps Platform, visit our website.

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