iOS 14.5 Apple Maps Japan in-house place ratings

In advance of a rumored iOS 14.5 rollout of Apple Maps in-house point of interest (POI) ratings for the USA, the feature went live today in Japan for iOS 14.5 RC users (and iPadOS•macOS devices logged in with the same Apple ID). Once past the introductory slash screen prompt in Maps app, various POI such as parks, restaurants, cafes, stores show the ability to rate and add photos. Based on limited checks it appears possible to rate and add photos to most 3rd party supplied Japanese POI data: Foursquare, Tabelog, Tripadvisor, but not Recruit’s Jalan, and not Yelp which is being phased out (good riddance). Hotels, Shinto Shrines, Buddhist temples, etc. are off limits, another good thing.

Poor quality 3rd party POI data has long been the bane of Apple Maps in Japan, and most other countries. I have doubts about Apple’s ability to filter and verify Apple ID user uploaded photos and ratings…but it’s probably better than the junky POI data Japan has now.

The POI rating and photo upload intro screen, tap continue to add the Maps service.

UPDATE: the feature has gone live for all users with the official iOS 14.5 release.

Look Around for Hiroshima Pulled (Updated)

Now you see it, now you don’t. The Apple Maps Japan story has been consistent…consistently flawed and second rate. Look Around was rolled out for the (now postponed) Tokyo Olympics in August 2020 covering greater Tokyo, Osaka and Nagoya but it hasn’t expanded much. A December 2020 update added Fukuoka, Hiroshima and Takamatsu but over the past week of March 8 or so, Hiroshima Look Around has disappeared. That nobody seems to have noticed or cares is all that you need to know about Apple Maps use in Japan.

This is the first time that Apple has pulled a Look Around region after the official rollout, why they would do so is a mystery. It may be temporary until Apple improves the quality and extends coverage (new pedestrian and car JP data collections starts this month) as the quality for December Look Out Japan additions is spotty. But I am not optimistic and even Justin O’Beirne thinks Japan is not a candidate for the next big update. Put another way, this just proves that Apple isn’t serious about their map product in Japan, after all Apple Maps refuses to even acknowledge the Sea of Japan.

Meanwhile Google Maps JP and Yahoo Japan Maps are pulling way ahead in transit directions that include real time transit and crowding information…and acknowledging the Sea of Japan. If the Tokyo Olympics goes ahead this year those will be the go-to solutions. Apple Maps Japan doesn’t offer it and has not signed on any transit company that provides real time transit and crowding information to Google and Yahoo Japan.

UPDATE
Tested Look Around on 4 devices with different network connections with Hiroshima missing from them all. The iPad had not been used for 2 weeks and briefly showed it for a split second until the Maps screen refreshed as the cache updated. An iOS user in Okayama confirmed it. One interesting bit about the Apple Maps Japan pedestrian image collection 2021 schedule: if you click on the link you can see exactly what areas are being mapped.

Miyagi
Sendai
Tomiya

Tokyo
Shinjuku
Chiyoda
Machida

Kanagawa
Yokohama
Fujisawa
Zushi
Yamato

Ishikawa
Kanazawa
Hakusan
Nonochi
Kawakita

Hiroshima
Hiroshima City
Nisogi
Hatsukaichi
Yano

Fukuoka
Fukuoka City
Kasuga
Itoshima
Kasuya-gun

Kagawa
Takamatsu
Sanuki

UPDATE 2
Look Around for Hiroshima was restored on March 19 but coverage is problematic, there are areas which do not display as Look Around coverage but work anyway. Hit and miss as to what works and what doesn’t.

ETC 2.0 RSA Security Update

Twitter user shao posted an interesting series of tweets relating to RSA security and ETC 2.0.

In case you didn’t notice, or don’t drive much, the wireless Japanese Electronic Toll Collection (ETC) system has gotten a big upgrade to ETC 2.0 these past few years. The enhanced ITS SPOT antenna network using DSRC (Dedicated short-range communications) 5.8GHz band for ETC 2.0 duplex communication has been in place on the ground since 2011 but it wasn’t until 2015 when ETC 2.0 ready car navigation systems began delivering ETC 2.0 services to drivers. Unfortunately ETC 2.0 still only represents 25% of the user base though ETC 2.0 navigation systems are due to be ‘standard equipment’ from the 2021 car model year.

Shao pointed out that ETC 2.0 got a security update in 2018 with older less secure ETC 2.0 card readers ‘good until 2030’ unless a security threat forces a quicker update. Unfortunately it is not easy to tell the difference between newer devices with the security update and older potentially less secure devices. He also notes that Suica uses RSA which is another good reason for JR East to upgrade everything to the newer more secure FeliCa OS version based Super Suica format. With all that hardware out there that can’t be upgraded sometimes you have to pull the trigger and pull the plug on compatibility in favor of the new.

ETC 2.0 readers on the left have the latest RSA security enhancements and are hard to tell apart from older less secure units

One central ETC 2.0 feature is the ability to connect with smartphones and deliver much more detailed traffic and road information but so far there are very few options out there. The only stand alone unit I could find was the Denso ETC 2.0 reader + Android App product that went off the market in 2020 with no replacement. ETC 2.0 integration for Google Maps and Apple Maps would be great to have but looks unlikely. Dedicated car navi systems are the best, and only, way to enjoy the benefits of enhanced ETC 2.0 content.

Apple Maps Japan Look Around Expands to Hiroshima, Fukuoka, Takamatsu, Nara

Apple Maps vans and walkers were busy in Japan from May to October 2020 and the first cites to receive Look Around from the data sets are: Hiroshima, Fukuoka and Takamatsu. This is not part of the Apple Maps 2.0 ‘New Maps’ cartography that has rolled out in USA, Canada and UK, just the same lousy IPC map data with a Look Around cherry on top. According to Justin O’Beirn these were added in mid-December.

In addition to new areas he lists, the Look Around Tokyo area region has been extended deeper into the greater Kanto area with more Chiba, Saitama and Kanagawa coverage, though I don’t see any pedestrian data gains in areas that need it (major shrines, temples, parks, and other public areas off limits to vehicles). In the Kansai area, southern parts of Osaka and Nara have been added as well.

At this rate we should have Look Around additions for Sendai, Ishikawa, more Kanto and other regions coming soon. Apple Maps Look Around first appeared in August 2020 for Tokyo, Nagoya and Osaka regions from data collected in 2019.

Google Maps ‘Real-Time’ Crowdedness Caveats: wherever data is available

Google Maps Japan has offered crowdedness transit information since June. The latest app version is expanding this feature:

If you need to take transit, Google Maps can help you more easily social distance with live crowdedness information. On Android and iOS globally, you’ll start seeing how crowded your bus, train, or subway line is right now based on real-time feedback from Google Maps users around the world (wherever data is available).

Google Maps updates to get you through the holidays

Crowdedness is missing altogether in Apple Maps Japan transit, not surprising as Apple is very slow adding new features and transit only just got around to adding train platform numbers. Google Maps crowdedness information is a welcome feature but be wary about the ‘real-time’ label with the ‘wherever data is available’ sticker.

As the announcement explains, crowdedness data is ‘real-time feedback’. In Japan the feedback is solicited in the app: ‘how crowded is your train’. This is a completely subjective observation and depends on whatever the person making said feedback thinks and feels. Manual feedback may not the only measure, but it is time and train specific beyond the capability of GPS and carries the most weight.

JR East provides crowdedness information collected from train and station cameras that they plug into the JR East app. They also supply this to Google Maps, Yahoo Japan Maps and other map services. Detail level depends on the line: Yamanote line train cameras and sensors provide car by car crowdedness and much more while Chuo line trains sensors only summarize the entire train.

The gap between Google Map feedback and JR East crowdedness data sets can be seen in Google Maps transit directions. JR East supplied data is highlighted in red text labeled ‘live’, Google feedback data is not. In the above screenshot Google Maps feedback lists the Yamanote train as crowded, JR East data does not. The take away: use transit agency data when available, after a few months of using it I find Google Maps feedback crowdedness data is, at best, subjective.