The Google Now service started out as a relatively simple system that recognized what users did with their devices when and where they did it and prepared a Now card before the user asked for it – for example, if you checked the weather every morning right after waking up, Google Now would pull up a weather card. Over the years, Google Now has become smarter and better at anticipating our needs. The Google Executive who has headed up Google Now since the start of the year, Aparna Chennapragada, has explained the three legs that the product stands on. The first is giving Google Now access to Google’s full “Knowledge Graph” database, which details the people, places, things and critically the interconnections people use the Internet to gather information for.
The second leg is context. The example above of a customer checking the weather means that Google Now must be aware of the location in order to provide the correct weather forecast. By context, Google Now is able to look through your appointments to see if you need to be somewhere, it understands how you tend to travel so can provide directions or options if you use public transport. If you enter a shopping mall, it understands what people in your location have tended to search for. In time it will understand what you tend to search for and it may have an understanding based on your recent search history. Aparna explains, “Both your feet are at the mall. You shouldn’t have to spell it out.Why should I futz with the phone and wade through 15 screens?”
Google Now already does much of the above, but the third leg is where the development team are currently working on. This is how to tie the context knowledge and online database with the applications already on your device and those available in the Google Play Store. Since 2013, Google has indexed fifty billion links within applications and in April, it began listing applications together with links for users to install that were relevant to a particular Google search. As Android evolves, smartphones and tablets with the latest version (Android M, to be released this fall) will include indexed applications with Google Now on Tap. Google Now could quickly become the smarter way to use applications on our devices and could start a seismic shift in the mobile ecosystem. Aparna comments: “It’s one of the key pieces of brokering that Google can do. How do you match the right piece of content? That’s the third piece that we’re building out.”
The driving force behind the Google Now service is to make our smartphones smarter. Google’s advances in intelligent systems, cloud computing and of course the experience of millions of users is already giving the Android platform a headstart over the rest of the industry, notably Apple. As for Apple, we understand that with the help of Microsoft Bing, the business is also indexing applications and has murmured that a future version of iOS will include a search facility that will present search results straight into applications, cutting out the traditional websearch completely. Apple’s new search technology is likely to only be available for Apple iOS customers whereas Google’s technology is available on many different platforms.