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BLOGS Last modified on December 2, 2011

Blog post: Why we need to be wary of Google maps

Google Maps application for airports Google Maps application for airports
This comment piece is in response to the article entitled "Never get lost in an airport again" which appeared on Airport World online on December 1, 2011.
The highly acclaimed Google Map application installed in most smartphone’s helps thousands of users to find their way in a city or out on the roads each day.

Seventy two hours ago Google took a giant leap forward by announcing that the application (Android only for now) will also handle indoor navigation for shopping centres, airports and other large complexes. It will come as no surprise that most airports in the current release are based in the US (18 in total).

Airport operators who are currently looking to update or release mobile applications face with Google yet another option since chances are that Google will fairly swiftly want to implement the new web application at most of the globe’s hubs.

So far so good...a free wayfinding tool for my airport. Brilliant!!!

But lets us stop to analyse this for a second.

One key reason for an airport to get an app in the first place is to create a broadcasting channel; a forum through which to share crucial information, may that be from your FIDS or your twitter feeds, to establish a relationship and a dialogue with the traveller.

Another reason is to create a consumer focused product, where obviously wayfinding will always play a big part, but just as important is the ability to promote and sell services and merchandise through the app, some of which are location based.

Yet another reason to get a mobile application is to create new and perhaps innovative revenue streams.

Google might be a friend, but Google is also a money making enterprise. By offering the new indoor navigation service, Google will create vast money making opportunities in advertisement – but the airports will see none of that.

Revenues from click value will vanish so will brand advertisement opportunities, or at least they will be diminished.

The service will also cripple other revenue sources, such as ecommerce related opportunities. A campaign for instance that ties back into a location will no longer be in the control of the airport nor will concession advertisement.

The performance and the reliability as well as the accuracy of the maps are another issue. Google will want to feature the concessions that pay the most, i.e. concessions will be featured differently.

Also services of less commercial value, the not so obvious things like prayer rooms etc. will have very low or no priority. Again all this takes place outside the control of the airport.

For the above reasons (and I am sure several others) Google Indoor navigation will be a great supplement but not a replacement for consumer focused airport applications and wayfinding tools.



About the author
Mattias Sjolund is a partner at Airport Commercial Development, a Sweden-based consultancy specialising in eCommerce, travel retail and commercial due diligence.

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