Google’s Marissa Mayer Says Location Is Everything

Marissa Mayer is one of the most powerful women in tech. As Vice President of consumer products at Google, she’s the gatekeeper for all of the company’s new features and applications. She’s also one of the company’s most public faces, frequently appearing in media interviews and at events like South By Southwest.

This year, Mayer gave one of the featured keynote presentations at SxSW, speaking to a packed crowd at the Austin Convention Center in  a session called “Location, Location, Location.”

At the beginning of her address, Mayer asked the crowd to raise their hands if they’ve accessed maps on their phone today. Almost everyone did –evidence, Mayer says, that Google should be paying lots of attention to location technologies.

“Today our focus is still on search, but what search can be is so much broader,” she said. “The mobile phone really acts as a cursor that connects the physical and digital worlds together.”

Mayer dropped a number of interesting data points to back up her point:

* 40% of Google Maps usage is mobile

* There are more than 150 million users of Google Maps for mobile

* More than 35 million miles are driven a day using Google Maps Navigation –that’s 12 billion miles a year.

* The route around traffic feature saves users 2 years worth of time –every day.

* “Google places with Hotpot,” which went public in November, allows users to rate places and provide recommendations. It’s Google’s answer to Yelp!, and so far it appears to be working; users have entered 3 million ratings so far.

Mayer also took a few minutes to highlight some future applications of location technology that Google is pursuing:

* “Contextual discovery,” allows for smarter search results and better answers to questions. For instance, if you saw a bird outside SxSW and wanted to know what it was, Google could use the contextual information that you’re in Austin and it’s March, to narrow down the possibilities.

* “Structured recommendations” pull recommendations from your social network to provide subjective judgments. For instance, if your phone knows you’re in an ice cream shop, and Google Hotspot has a lot of reviews of that shop, you could search for a term like “what kind of ice cream should I order” and the system would know to tell you “to try the mexican vanilla with strawberries.”

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