New Google search tool helps you avoid crowds in real time

This could come in handy for finding some peace and quiet on Black Friday.

Alfred Ng Senior Reporter / CNET News
Alfred Ng was a senior reporter for CNET News. He was raised in Brooklyn and previously worked on the New York Daily News's social media and breaking news teams.
Alfred Ng
2 min read

Google's live look at how crowded businesses are will come in handy on Black Friday.

Courtesy of Google

Bah, humbug.

Just in time for the holiday shopping frenzy, Google is rolling out a tool to let you know how crowded a business is in real-time -- so you know exactly where to avoid.

Think of it like Waze, but for pedestrians. Waze, a Google-owned crowd-sourced traffic app, warns users when there's traffic on certain roads or things to watch out for such as a crashed car or speed radars. But instead of saving you from traffic jams, Google's live-crowd feature helps you dodge packed places, like the swarm that'll surround your mall on Black Friday.

Starting Monday, just look up a business and tap on the arrow to get more information. Google will give a live analysis on how busy the business is and what you're up against if you go there.

The search giant's live feature builds off its Popular Times tool, which lets you know when a place is at its busiest. That tool compiles the hours when certain businesses reach peak popularity by collecting data from users who store their location information on Google's servers.

The latest enhancement will determine how crowded an area is within an hour time frame based on aggregated, anonymized location history data. That might help you decide between heading out to your nearby stores for deals on Black Friday, or choosing to stay home and waiting for Cyber Monday deals.

It can also help users manage their time by providing live crowd numbers for specific businesses. If there're too many people shopping at Best Buy at a particular moment, you could check the stores around it to see where you can go to kill time until the crowd dies down.

You'll be able to use it for restaurants and bars. That will give you a sense of how long you might have to wait for a table well before you even reach the door.

If you're anything like me, you'll be sure to use the live-crowd feature to find the most remote bar in New York City on New Year's Eve -- you don't need an app to figure out where nearly 1 million people will be crowding that night.