Singapore has become the second city in Asia to receive the Google Maps indoor feature, software that helps users find their way inside shopping malls and other large buildings.
From this morning, Android phone users will be able to tap into the online mapping system to get floor plans and basic walking directions for any building which has submitted its indoor maps to Google.
It uses existing Wi-Fi access points to determine a user's location and follows his movement as he travels across different floors.
The app was launched in the United States in November 2011, with shopping malls and airports among the first to be mapped.
Japan was the first Asian country to use it in heavily populated cities such as Tokyo and Osaka. In Singapore, 22 malls have signed up for its launch, though Changi Airport is still not on the list.
Indoor maps for malls are not new in Singapore. In 2010, SingTel launched an app called Go! Shopping, which pinpoints a user's location and gives directions to shops on its detailed floor plan and store directory.
With Google Maps, however, there is no need to launch a separate app to view an indoor map. It swops seamlessly from outdoor maps to indoor floor plans when users zoom into the building on the screen.
To keep the app updated, businesses can upload their floor plans to Google at maps.google.com/floorplans
The product manager for Indoor Google Maps, Mr Cedric Dupont, said that Google typically takes between two weeks and two months to update a submitted map or report. "The turnaround to update the indoor maps depends on the complexity of the floor plans, the number of maps that are submitted and our own pipeline to process the maps."
The app looks set to be a hit with shoppers.
Said Ms Wendy Koh, 31, a designer who tried it out: "Indoor maps lead me to the shop I want instantly without searching around the mall."
The feature will be available on Android devices using the latest version of Google Maps. Indoor maps can also be viewed via a Web browser, but this will show only a single floor instead of multiple levels within the building.
Said the executive director of the Orchard Road Business Association, Mr Steven Goh: "With these maps of indoor spaces now available to all shoppers, everyone can enjoy a more seamless shopping experience in the precinct."
More details about Indoor Google Maps will be available in tomorrow's Digital Life.