By Stan Horaczek
More than a billion active users find their way places using Google Maps, which provides the organization with monstrous piles of data about where those users go, how they get there, and what they do at their destination.
This year, Google took the data it collected from Maps users during the 2017 Thanksgiving holiday and crunched the information to find out what times are particularly busy when it comes to driving on highways, visiting local restaurants, and even going to the movies.’
The outcomes turned up some interesting trends that could help users avoid busy roadways and shopping centers.
Here are some of the things they learned.
Thanksgiving Eve is for buying booze and cakes:
A study of popular visit times, which tracks when users go to different businesses, found that early Wednesday afternoon is the most popular time to hit up the bakery and early Wednesday evening is prime time to pick up a bottle from the alcohol store.
Friday night, after all the Black Friday shopping is done, individuals flock to the movie theaters. Looking at the overall chart of visiting times, late afternoon Wednesday and noon on Thursday seem like great times to remain at home.
In order to analyze this sort of data, Google looked at information from devices with location services enabled. Google anonymizes this data so it does not track back to individual users.
If you had Google Maps running at all last year, your data could be part of the aggregate data used to determine all this.
Driving on Wednesday is predictably terrible
If you expect bad traffic on Wednesday evening before Thanksgiving, you won’t be disappointed.
It’s somewhat surprising, however, to see traffic still spiking into “heavy” area, even after midnight across all 25 cities Google looked at. Black Friday traffic, however, mimics that pattern of a typical Friday morning commute.
To get this information, Google analyzed the total number of vehicles on the road “determined by the speed and location of Android phones that have location services enabled,” according to the portion of the examination dedicated to methods.
The Google blog post includes a tool that lets users input their desired city as a destination and then find out when the optimal drive time windows might be.
While this is a cool demonstration, you are probably better off using something like Waze, Google’s other navigation service, which offers more real-time traffic data.
Just this past September, Waze gained compatibility for Apple’s Car Play tech, which allows it to sync with a car’s in dash navigation system.
The search data is boring if you’re not a robot:
While traffic and visiting data are interesting to Google, search is still fundamental, and the company shared some of its search trends for the 2017 Thanksgiving holiday as well.
There are not many big surprises on the list, but you can certainly see regional trends if you look at the map or use the online tool that lists popular queries.
While the results are not exactly enthralling, the process by which Google put the lists together is fascinating.
“Trending categories are determined by comparing the total number of direction requests during the Thanksgiving Holiday Period to the total number of direction requests two weeks before and two weeks after Thanksgiving week.
The categories with the highest ratio increase during Thanksgiving week are viewed as top trending categories. The trending categories in each state were then compared to the ratio of trending national direction requests during Thanks giving.
Categories that were searched more frequently in a state than nationally were considered “remarkably famous” in that state,” the report explains.
In short, if you use any Google Service or product over the weekend, you are probably contributing to data gathering initiatives like this one.
It’s the similar sort of technology that enables features like Google Assistant’s ability to warn you if it thinks delays on your daily commute are going to make you late for work.
So, while this data is very useful to robots, in this case, it’s at least somewhat useful to us, especially if you don’t mind going to pick up that bottle of wine before you go get the cake.