This year’s Google I/O was all about context; here are the important things you may have missed from yesterday’s event and what they mean for government.
Each year, developers around the world converge on the Moscone Center in San Francisco for the Google I/O conference. In previous years, the conference was the birthplace of major Google products, such as Google Glass, Google Hangouts and Android Wear. This year, in addition to a new Android operating system (Android M), Google announced a series of major improvements to existing products, as well as a few new things for the Android ecosystem.
Here are the five key takeaways and their relevance for the public sector.
One of the most striking stats I heard at this year’s I/O was how large the Android ecosystem has grown. Today there are more than 1 billion Android devices connected around the globe, and within the last 12 months alone over 50 billion Android applications have been downloaded.
What this means for government: You can no longer just support iOS applications. Android not only has the market share, it also has the active users to justify cross-platform development.
I have been a big fan of Google Now for some time, and yesterday’s announcement was a big step to extend the functionality of the service into any application on your Android phone. For those new to Google Now, it is a predictive assistant that anticipates what you are interested in knowing without having to ask. It accomplishes this by factoring in your context (location, interests, schedule, email, etc.) for the exact moment you use it.
Yesterday's announcement enables a multitude of new use cases within any application or service you may be using on your phone through a new service called Now on Tap. For example, if you're texting with someone about a restaurant where you would like to eat, instead of having to manually search for the restaurant, you can now simply hold down the home button on your phone. This will bring up a Google Now card that has automatically displayed the restaurant’s reviews and gives the option to book a table directly on your screen — all without ever leaving the original mobile application.
With Now on Tap, Google uses the context of information on your mobile phone screen to provide recommended options for you to complete. Existing applications and websites indexed by Google are automatically integrated into this experience, which means developers do not need to do anything special to enable this functionality when it launches later this year.
What this means for government: The bigger picture of this announcement is that anticipatory user experiences, such as Now on Tap, will continue to become an expectation of constituents for any online service with a login — not just Google. Over the next few years, you will see more government user experiences that are built around the end user through predictive and contextual technologies.
Google’s response to the launch of Apple Pay is a new and improved Google Wallet that has been rebranded as Android Pay. Android Pay will work in a similar fashion to Apple Pay, allowing users to pay for products using only their mobile phones and a fingerprint for authorization. Android Pay will launch in conjunction with Android M this fall and will be accepted by over 700,000 merchants and within any Android application.
What this means for government: Mobile payment is no longer just an Apple thing, which means more constituents will expect the flexibility of paying with their mobile phone wherever they go — regardless of their phone's operating system.
Many companies are racing to crack the smart home platform, and Google’s announcement of Brillo marked a big move by the company into the IoT space.
Brillo is an operating system derived from Android and designed specifically for Internet-connected devices within your home. The most interesting aspect of Brillo is the fact that it leverages a new cross-platform IoT communication protocol called Weave, which enables Internet-connected devices to communicate with each other even if they are produced by different manufacturers.
What this means for government: The era of interconnected IoT devices has officially kicked off through the first major market standard to be announced (Apple is expected to launch a competing standard this fall). This announcement will provide an opportunity for government agencies to leverage this new infrastructure to enable a more intelligent infrastructure, as well as a new mechanism to help promote sustainability initiatives for constituents.
Google’s Cardboard VR has now been expanded to enable cross-platform virtual reality experiences using only a mobile phone and inexpensive cardboard viewer. Google’s self-driving cars have accumulated over 1 million autonomous miles without an accident and will be rolling out on public roadways in Mountain View, Calif., in the next few months. Project Loon, which is Google’s initiative to bring Internet connectivity to remote areas of the globe through modified weather balloons, is now expanding through partnerships with telecommunication carriers around the globe.
What this means for government: Many of Google’s moonshot programs challenge conventional regulations within government, yet provide an incredible opportunity for individuals, companies and agencies that choose to embrace them. As more large-scale private-sector firms experiment and incubate technologies within new verticals, government agencies will have an opportunity to leverage this energy to realize new ways to better serve constituents.
Each of the Android enhancements and Google product announcements at I/O 2015 demonstrates a fundamental shift toward contextual computing and user experiences designed around the specific needs of each individual. There is a growing opportunity to leverage this emerging trend as a new way to enable hyper-personalized citizen engagement, as well as drive new forms of innovation within government agencies worldwide.
What do you think? What was your favorite announcement from Google I/O 2015?
Note: For those interested in watching the full keynote and related I/O sessions, you can stream them for free online.
All images are screenshots extracted from Google’s I/O Livestream feed.