Ranking Local Businesses Based Upon Quality Measures including Travel Time

An Antique shop, formerly an apple factory
An Antique shop, formerly an apple factory

Can the amount of travel time someone might take to get to a place be a good indication of the quality of that place? That is the assumption behind a recently granted patent from Google.

Travel time in the patent is referred to as a “time investment a person may be willing to make to visit a specific location.” The patent provides more details with the words:

Quality measures for locations are often based on one or more reviews related to the locations. For example, user reviews and/or professional reviews may be utilized to determine a quality measure for a given location. The quality measures may be associated with the given location in a database and may be utilized by one or more applications and/or provided to a user. For example, a user search for restaurants in a particular area may return search results for restaurants that are ranked based on the quality measure and/or that are displayed in combination with an indication of the quality measure. Indications of the quality measure may include a numerical rating, a number of stars, etc.

This patent reminded me of one granted last week, which I wrote about in the post Google May Check to See if People Go to Geographic Locations Google May Recommend. In both, Google is looking at whether someone might have actually visited a place found in Google Maps, based either upon a recommendation of a place or seeing a place in search results. The “time investment” referred to in this patent does mean the actual time it may have taken to visit a place seen in search results:

The present disclosure is directed to methods and apparatus for determining the quality measure of a given location. In some implementations, the quality measure of a given location may be determined based on the time investment a user is willing to make to visit the given location. For example, the time investment for a given location may be based on comparison of one or more actual distance values to reach the given location to one or more anticipated distance values to reach the given location. The actual distance values are indicative of actual time of one or more users to reach the given location and the anticipated distance values are indicative of anticipated time to reach the given location. In some implementations, the anticipated distance value may be one or more distributions. Likewise, in some implementations, the actual distance value may be one or more distributions. Such distributions may be continuous and/or discrete. In some implementations, the quality measure may be based on additional factors such as one or more location characteristics of the given location and/or one or more user characteristics of the visitors to the given location.

How far away would you travel for a slice of pizza or for a fish taco? Google seems to be using such a measure as a potential way to rank businesses against each other.

We are told that a ranking of this travel time to reach a particular location might include a ranking that indicates how many competing locations may have been bypassed to reach that particular location.

The patent is:

Determining the quality of locations based on travel time investment
Inventors: Andrew Tomkins, Sergei Vassilvitskii, Shanmugasundaram Ravikumar, Mohammad Mahdian, Bo Pang, and Prabhakar Raghavan
Assignee: Google
United States Patent 9,558,210
Granted: January 31, 2017
Filed: March 15, 2013

Abstract

Methods and apparatus related to associating a quality measure with a given location. For example, an anticipated distance value for a given location may be identified that is indicative of anticipated time and/or distance to reach the given location. At least one actual distance may be identified that is indicative of actual time for the one or more members to reach the given location. In some implementations, the anticipated/actual distance values may include one or more distributions. A quality measure is then determined based on a comparison of the anticipated distance value and the identified actual distance value. The quality measure is associated with the given location. The quality measure may be further based on additional factors.

New Features at Google Maps

Google Maps is issuing some interesting new approaches, and new features as well. The patent that this post is about notes how travel time to a place, and whether or not people are willing to take a journey to that place may boost the rankings of places in search results. Just as whether or not someone may visit a place recommended in Maps results could boost or reduce the appearance of recommendations for places, as in the patent I wrote about yesterday. Today, an article has come out that tells us about the ability to make shareable lists of places with Google Maps – Google Maps makes your favorite places social with launch of shareable lists.

It’s fun seeing these new features and processes added to Google Maps, and may leave us guessing what may come next.

The patent looks at other aspects of a “time investment” that people may make which could be used as a measure of quality of a place found in search results, such as whether people were willing to walk to a place rather than driving.


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