Yesterday, we showed you why Google Search was one of the best Black Friday apps to sift through deals and discounts. Google Maps now has a new feature that tells you how crowded the stores are and how long you might have to wait to get in. It also covers other establishments such as restaurants, malls and a lot more.

But don’t worry, this is about Google spying on people through satellite imagery or the Internet of Things without your knowledge. Its a simple feature that was actually launched last year, and is every similar to the Waze mapping application that collects user-generated data about traffic conditions to show you the best route possible. Google Maps collects data from users about their own wait times and aggregates that for other users to see. It also uses historical data to show you when stores are typically the busiest.

While this might not be a revolutionary feature, it’s certainly going to be a useful one during the holiday season, especially on Black Friday, which is probably the most crowded shopping day of the year. In effect, Google has turned mobile phones into two-way information devices that can gather, aggregate and display relevant information for holiday shoppers.

From another angle, Google could also use this functionality to allow store owners to define their busiest times. Besides, it’s a great opportunity for monetization as well.

Technically, this isn’t the same as the Internet of Things. In IoT systems, data is gathered automatically using cameras, sensors and other types of input devices. So Google might be violating everyone’s privacy if they used apps to automatically collect data about how crowded a store is. Of course, they can push an update to the terms of use for Google Maps, Google Search and other applications to make that happen, but it’s unlikely that such automatic data aggregation will sit well with the user community. That’s how this new feature differs from IoT, because it is based on voluntary inputs from thousands of users.

But who knows, someday Google – or another company – might allow stores to implement IoT systems that collect in-store information to tell the public how crowded it is, what’s out of stock, how many people deep each cash register is and so on – all before you even step into the store.

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