How Google is using artificial intelligence to correct online business listings


Google has ways of knowing if your company is open for business.

Last week, Google announced a plan to use machine learning to identify incorrect business hours on its online business listings and immediately correct the listings using AI-generated predictions of accurate hours.

Google made the announcement along with the unveiling of its Maps 101 plan, the tech giant’s recent effort to make Google Maps as accurate and current as possible.

The hourly forecast model is fed by a variety of data, such as the opening hours of other stores in the area, information from a company’s website and even Google Street View images of storefronts and any visible window signs showing the opening times. It also takes into account when a business owner last manually changed hours and when the popular times, aggregated and anonymized location history data of customers visiting the business is at its busiest. So one way Google can see that business hours are inaccurate is if the busiest times occur when a business is supposedly closed.

Google doesn’t explicitly tell users when hours have been updated by its AI, the company confirmed at the edge, and it will make changes automatically if the algorithm has “a high degree of confidence that they are accurate.” However, if there is any doubt, Google will verify a change in hours with a real person, including Google Maps users and business owners, and add a notice to the listing that the hours may have changed.

The machine learning model is inspired by the constant change in operating hours for many businesses based on changing pandemic-related constraints, Google shared in its announcement. AI-generated predictions are the company’s response to the ever-changing landscape.

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