Apple Maps gets indoor mapping for more than 30 airports

As of this morning, Apple Maps has expanded to include indoor layouts of 30 airports across the globe. The company has primarily made American cities thus far, encompassing what appears to be most of the big cities across the contiguous U.S. There are some key international airports, as well, including Hong Kong International, Amsterdam, Geneva, two in London and Berlin and a handful of Canadian locatings.

It’s a big roll out, all in one fell swoop, that appears to have taken quite some time in the making. Each locating involves close cooperation with airlines and the airports themselves, along with in-person surveyors. People have been recording the data in-person — sort of a human stand-in for those working street mapping automobiles that Apple and Google deploy to get a lay of the land.

If an airport is on the list, it will now sport the words “Look Inside” on the map. Tapping that will pop up a bird’s-eye position layout of the inside of the terminal. It’s that standard mapping grid view — in spite of sending human surveyors to collect data, there’s nothing here akin to Satellite or Street View. Not that most airport terminals are truly all that much to look at in the first place.

The grid position highlights each gate in yellow, with a few key destinations inhabiting the map — things like check-ins, baggage and airport lounges. Drilling down from there uncovers other places in more detail, including eateries, restrooms and the like. Tap on a eatery, for example, and you’ll get a tab with data just like you would outside the airport. It offers the terminal name and floor number, phone number, hours and reviews pulled from a third-party review platform like Yelp.

Tapping on the number in the upper-right corner toggles between terminal levels. Swiping up with two thumbs, meanwhile, offers up a 3D view of the space, with added depth. This lay of the land was assembled employing CAD files provided to Apple by the individual airports, to give the user a better sense of place while straying around the terminal.

We had the opportunity to test the new feature at JFK’s Terminal 5 so early, which was like going through all of the travel rigmarole without actually getting to go anywhere. I will say, however, that I was agreeably surprised at how good a job the system does triangulating a phone indoors. The locating accuracy is within a couple of meters, which is impressive inside, where GPS data is a crapshoot, at best.

Apple achieves this by using Wi-Fi phases throughout the terminal. That triangulation is equally accurate whether or not you’re on the Wi-Fi — which I suspect many travelers aren’t, given the number of airports that still charge for access.

It should demonstrate a handy feature for those planning out an hour or two in the airport — time I tend to expend wandering down terminal vestibules in search of slightly less terrible food alternatives. There’s still a lot of room for potential growth here, too. After all, Apple has started incorporating flight data into other pieces of iOS, this is something that would be a no-brainer.

Being able to see which gate a flight is leaving from immediately inside the map app could be supremely useful. Ditto for figuring out which carousel your luggage is on. No word on when that information is coming — that after all, is a fairly unwieldy additional stream of data layer to add in.

Meantime, you can find the full list of participating airports on Apple’s site.

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