Google Maps releases COVID-19 travel alerts for commuters
As some countries ease lockdown restrictions and allow select workers to travel to their jobs, Google Maps has announced the integration of travel alerts.
Targeted at essential workers, Google said the feature could allow them to know important information such as at what times a train station might be crowded or whether a bus was running on a limited schedule.
Partnering with local transit agencies, Google’s app shows relevant alerts on planned trips, such as whether a mask is mandatory on public transport.
For drivers, Google is implementing notifications about potential COVID-19 checkpoints, such as those at national borders.
In a blog post, Ramesh Nagarajan, Google Maps’ Product Management Director, said: To ensure proper social distancing, commuters are paying attention to how crowded or comfortable their ride and transit station will be. Starting today, you can easily see the times when a transit station is historically more or less busy to plan your trip accordingly or you can look at live data showing how busy it is right now compared to its usual level of activity. Simply search for a station in Google Maps or tap on the station on the map to see the departure board and busyness data, where available.
“Rolling out over the next several weeks, these capabilities are powered by aggregated and anonymized data from users who have opted in to Google Location History, a Google account-level setting that is off by default. To protect privacy, these insights are only surfaced when we have sufficient data to meet privacy thresholds.”
The company said the alerts were rolling out in Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Colombia, France, India, Mexico, Netherlands, Spain, Thailand, the United Kingdom and the US, with more “coming soon”.
The move continues a trend starting before the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, with Google introducing crowdedness predictions last year, and more recently implementing accessibility insights.
Walmart, the next health tech giant - a timeline
Retail giant Walmart has been building its healthcare division for a number of years, but its recent acquisition of a telehealth firm and the slow down of its clinic expansion suggest its focus has now shifted to health tech. We look at key moments in Walmart's history in healthcare.
Walmart announces plans to provide "full primary care services" by 2020. The plans include opening clinics in underserved, urban areas, where the chain has many existing stores.
A series of “Healthcare Begins Here” events launch at Walmart stores, where consumers are given information on leading healthy lives, as well as free blood pressure, blood glucose and vision screenings, and access to vaccinations.
As part of the organisation's commitment to pursue a more data-centric approach to worker safety, Walmart partners with StrongArm, manufacturers of safety wearables. Staff begin wearing FUSE, a small sensor worn between their shoulder blades that detects injury risk. Within a year, ergonomic injuries decreased by 65%.
Walmart opens its first health centre in Dallas. The 10,000 square-foot "super centre" offers primary care, X-rays and ECG, counselling, dental, optical, hearing and community health services. Prices are affordable regardless of health insurance status.
The same year a partnership with Doctor on Demand is announced, a telehealth company offering mental health services. As part of the agreement Walmart employees are able to access these services for free.
The first health and wellness clinic opens in Springdale, Arkansas, providing primary care, dental care, vision and hearing services as well as behavioural health, fitness and wellness education classes.
Walmart acquires CareZone’s medication management technology. CareZone's app reminds users to take their medication and provides refill reminders. The acquisition complements Walmart's existing pharmacy service.
The Wall Street Journal reports that Walmart is in talks with Verizon to implement 5G wireless service in select sites, to help boost digital health services.
As part of its COVID-19 response, drive-thru testing is offered at hundreds of Walmart Neighborhood Market drive-thru pharmacy sites, free of charge through Humana .
The retail giant teams up with the Department of Veterans Affairs to offer telehealth services to veterans at stores in Wisconsin, Michigan and Iowa.
Walmart Mexico signs a deal with Jack Nathan Medical Corp, a Canadian tech-focused healthcare provider. This will see 153 new medical clinics open within stores across Mexico, taking the total in the country to 203.
Walmart announces it is acquiring MeMD, a multi-speciality telehealth provider. The acquisition will enable Walmart Health to provide access to virtual care across the US. At the same time it is reported that plans to open further clinics are deliberately slowing down.
"Today people expect omnichannel access to care, and adding telehealth to our Walmart Health care strategies allows us to provide in-person and digital care across our multiple assets and solutions" Dr. Cheryl Pegus, executive vice president for Health & Wellness said of the announcement.