Google has ways of knowing whether 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 instantly correct the listings by using AI-generated predictions of accurate hours.
Google made the announcement alongside the unveiling of its Maps 101 plan, the tech giant's recent effort to make Google Maps as accurate and up-to-date as possible.
The hour-predicting model is fed by a variety of data, such as the business hours of other nearby shops, information from a business's website, and even Google Street View images of storefronts and any visible window signs that list its hours. It also considers when a business owner last manually changed hours and when its popular times, aggregated and anonymized location history data of customers visiting the business, are busiest. So one way Google can tell 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 were updated by its AI, the company confirmed to the Verge, and it will make changes automatically if the algorithm has "a high degree of confidence that they're accurate." However, if there's any doubt, Google will verify a change in hours with an actual person, including Google Maps users and business owners, and will add a notice on the listing that the hours may have changed.
The machine learning model was inspired by the constant flux in operating hours for many businesses based on changing pandemic-related restrictions, Google shared in its announcement. AI-generated predictions are the company's response to the ever-changing landscape.