Apple and Google Updates: AI Improvements, Airport Health Measures

Last week Google announced “over 100 AI-powered improvements to Google Maps” would be coming this year; these include bringing Live View indoors, a new air quality map layer, eco-friendly routing, and support for curbside pickup in business listings.

Meanwhile, Apple Maps is now displaying airport COVID-19-related health measures based on data from Airports Council International: press release. [AppleInsider, MacRumors]

Google and Apple Updates

Google explains how they identify and take action against fraudulent content—fake reviews, fake listings, content vandalism—on Google Maps.

Meanwhile, the ability to pay for parking and transit fares is being integrated into the Google Maps app (Engadget, The Verge).

On the Apple Maps front, cycling directions have come to Portland, Oregon and San Diego, and turn-by-turn navigation has been expanded in the United Arab Emirates.

Crowdsourced Incident Reporting Coming to Apple Maps

Crowdsourced incident reporting—a feature already available in Google Maps and Waze—is coming to Apple Maps: the beta release of iOS 14.5 enables users to report accidents, road hazards and speed checks, with Siri and CarPlay integration. More at CNet’s Roadshow and MacRumors, among others; the final, public release of iOS 14.5 should come out some time in the spring, I think.

Apple Maps Updates Canada

Apple’s new maps, first announced in 2018, have finally come to Canada: they went live country-wide on 10 December. See coverage from AppleInsider and MacRumors; Justin O’Beirne compares the new maps with the old.

The update also includes Look Around, and not just in a few locations. Elsewhere in the world, Look Around is being rolled out on a city-by-city basis; in Canada it’s far more comprehensive. How comprehensive? I live in a village of 1,600 people not far from Ottawa, and my house is on it. (Based on the state of our gardening, the imagery was taken sometime in 2019, either in late summer or early fall.) Major highways are also included, not just cities. Justin O’Beirne looks at the coverage areas.

Canada is the fourth country to get the new maps: Ireland and the U.K. got them in October.

Google Street View App Enables User-Uploaded Photos

Google announced earlier this month that their updated Street View app for Android—as an Apple user I had no idea that Street View was a separate app on Android—now supports user-contributed photos to Street View. “After you record your images and publish them via the Street View app, we automatically rotate, position and create a series of connected photos. We then place those connected images in the right place on Google Maps, so your new Street View can be found in the exact location where it was taken for others to see and explore.” The idea is to supplement Google’s imagery where it’s thin on the ground. This beta feature requires an ARCore-compatible Android device and is only available in a few areas for now: Toronto, New York, and Austin TX (presumably for testing purposes), as well as Costa Rica, Indonesia and Nigeria.

Apple and Google Ban Location Tracking SDK from Apps

Last month it was reported that the X-Mode software development kit, used by many apps, was collecting and selling user location data, with the U.S. military among the buyers. In response, earlier this month both Apple and Google gave developers a deadline to remove X-Mode from their apps: seven days in Google’s case, fourteen in Apple’s. Apple found 100 apps that contained the code; X-Code claims 400 apps on all platforms, tracking 25 million devices in the U.S. and 40 million elsewhere. The Wall Street Journal story is behind a paywall; see The Verge and MacRumors for summaries.

How the U.S. Military Buys Location Data from Mobile Apps

Motherboard reported last week that the U.S. military was buying location data that originated, among other places, from Muslim prayer and dating apps. The Motherboard exposé details how it happened: how the location data supply chain works, and, for example, how data brokers pay app developers to incorporate their frameworks into apps so that user data can be harvested and sold to buyers like law enforcement and military contractors. Developers may not necessarily be aware of what they’re agreeing to when they accept those frameworks, but they don’t have to embed data harvesting algorithms in their apps either. [Daring Fireball, MetaFilter]

Previously: New York Times: How Location Data Is Gathered, Shared and Sold.

Apple and Google Maps Updates

Apple Maps

Google Maps

An Apple and Google Maps Roundup

Google Maps on the Apple Watch (screenshot)

Google Maps is now available on the Apple Watch as of version 5.52 of the iPhone app. Meanwhile, more is emerging about the behind-the-scenes mapping efforts of both Google and Apple. Google is using machine learning to predict traffic flows and improve ETA estimates (Engadget, The Verge). More prosaically, 9to5 Mac looks at how Apple collects street data, down to the software, computer hardware and make of car used.

Apple Maps Updates in Ireland, Japan and the U.K.

Justin O’Beirne reports that Apple is now testing its new maps for the United Kingdom and Ireland: the maps are available for a small subset of users. [AppleInsider, MacRumors]

Apple’s maps of Japan have also been updated—like the Look Around updates, this was probably originally intended to coincide with the Olympics—but O’Beirne concludes that the data comes from a third-party provider: the maps have even more detail than Apple’s U.S. maps in some cases, less detail in others.

Google Adds Colour and Detail to Its Maps

Google

Google has added a splash of colour and detail to its larger-scale map layers, using a “color-mapping algorithmic technique” to assign colours to more natural features like forest cover and deserts. “First, we use computer vision to identify natural features from our satellite imagery, looking specifically at arid, icy, forested, and mountainous regions. We then analyze these features and assign them a range of colors on the HSV color model. For example, a densely covered forest can be classified as dark green, while an area of patchy shrubs could appear as a lighter shade of green.” Meanwhile, cities get more pedestrian data, such as crosswalks and sidewalks. [Engadget, The Verge]

Apple’s Look Around Comes to Japan

Ata Distance reports that the Look Around of feature of Apple Maps, which is roughly analogous to Google’s Street View, is now available in the Tokyo, Kyoto-Osaka and Nagoya regions of Japan—it’s presumed that this was intended to coincide with the (now postponed) 2020 Olympics. This is the first implementation of Look Around outside the United States. [9 to 5 Mac/Engadget]

Garmin’s Slow Recovery from Last Week’s Ransomware Attack

Engadget reports that Garmin’s services are starting to come back online after last week’s ransomware attack:

[I]t looks like things are slowly but surely coming back to life. Yesterday, activity-tracking app Strava confirmed that it was again able to send workout data to Garmin’s Connect service. […] But a quick look at Garmin’s system status page shows there are still plenty of issues across its platform.

Unfortunately, Garmin’s relative lack of communication around these issues means we still don’t know exactly what went wrong or when users can expect things to be back to normal. A few other key services, like registering a new device, are also back up and running, but if you’re still experiencing oddities with your Garmin devices, you’ll have to keep being patient.

Garmin’s FAQ on the outage is not particularly forthcoming.

Previously: Garmin’s Online Services Hit by Ransomware Attack.

Update, 1:48 PM: Garmin has issued a statement confirming that “it was the victim of a cyber attack that encrypted some of our systems on July 23, 2020.” There is no sign that customer data was affected, and they expect a return to normal within a few days. [Engadget]

Apple Maps Updates Coming in iOS 14 This Fall

Updates to Apple Maps announced at WWDC last month include electric vehicle routing, cycling directions, traffic and speed camera notifications, and the ability to derive your location when GPS signals are weak by scanning the buildings in your area (presumably limited to cities with Look Around). In addition, Apple’s new, built-from-the-ground-up map data, which as of last January now covers the entire U.S., will be coming to Canada, Ireland and the U.K. later this year. The updates are a part of iOS 14, which launches in the fall. More at Engadget and The Verge.

Update, 7 Aug: MacRumors has a piece on what’s new in iOS 14 Maps.