General

Google Demo Day: shining a light on European founders

Yesterday, founders from across Europe took to the stage at our King’s Cross office to showcase problem-solving startups at our first-ever London Demo Day. From feedback tools for managers to fertility trackers for women, the diversity of companies and talent demonstrated something we already knew: The European startup scene is thriving and gaining global recognition, with nearly 300 venture-backed businesses going public or getting acquired just last year. But it’s often still hard for entrepreneurs to gain visibility and raise funds to support their growing ventures—which is why we brought Google Demo Day to London this year.

For yesterday’s event, 10 investment-ready startups were chosen from dozens of startups nominated by our Google for Entrepreneurs network of startup community partners and via our Campus spaces, and 100+ others who applied through an open call. The 10 startups each had four minutes to pitch their product, business and team to a room full of the region’s top investors, with hundreds more watching over live stream. Meet our line-up:

  • AsaDuru, from Stockholm, creates self-sufficient green homes in Africa that incorporate solar energy, rainwater harvesting, and wastewater treatment.
  • Connecterra (Amsterdam) combines machine learning with sensor data to increase productivity in the dairy farm industry.
  • Divido (London) lets customers spread the cost of any purchase over a period of time while the merchant gets paid in full right away.
  • Kenzen (Zurich) provides a new way to monitor the health of athletes and medical patients to through real-time analysis of sweat.
  • Kompyte (Barcelona) provides marketers with real-time alerts when competitors make changes to their websites, products, and digital marketing campaigns.
  • Motivii (London) allows managers to better understand their teams’ performance through a feedback and tracking platform.
  • Nordigen (Riga) uses big data to help banks make smarter decisions about credit scores.
  • WOOM (Madrid) helps women maximize the chances of pregnancy with a data-driven digital platform.
  • XapiX (Berlin) makes it easy for developers to discover, combine and consume data from multiple API providers.
  • Zzish (London) provides tools for developers to create, distribute and monetize education apps for teachers and classrooms.

After much deliberation, our audience of investors and European tech leaders crowned Connecterra, the machine learning technology for dairy farmers, as the People’s Choice. Kenzen won the Judges’ Favorite based on the strength of their business model, their team, and their products.

Kenzen endeavors to transform healthcare. We’re thrilled to receive the Google Demo Day Judges’ Favorite award for our Echo Patch platform.

Heidi Lehmann

Chief Commercial Officer, Kenzen

London’s Demo Day builds on our existing support for startups worldwide, beginning with the launch of Google for Entrepreneurs five years ago. In Europe, we support tech founders through our network of partners, our Campus spaces for startups in London, Madrid and Warsaw (our next location set to open in Berlin), accelerator programs like Google Developers Launchpad, and Digital Skills training programs. “London has become one of the world centers for startups; it was the first location for Google Campus. I’m excited by the innovation in the teams Google has uncovered,” said judge Saul Klein from LocalGlobe, who was joined on the judging panel by Fred Destin of EX-ACCEL and Aurore Belfrage from EQT Ventures.

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Left to Right: Sonia Sousa, CEO and co-founder, and Heidi Lehmann, CCO of Kenzen, took home the Judge’s Favorite award.

Startups who have pitched at previous Google Demo Days in Silicon Valley have raised more than $121 million to fund the growth of their companies, often based on connections made at the event. We hope to catalyze similar opportunities for this event’s featured founders—and many more European entrepreneurs to come.


Source: Google

Gboard for Android gets new languages and tools

Attention to our friends in India and fast typers everywhere: Gboard’s latest update might be the thing you never knew you were missing. We’ve added 22 Indic languages—with transliteration support—including Hindi, Bengali, Telugu, Marathi, Tamil, Urdu and Gujarati. We’ve also dropped in a new text editing tool that makes it easier to select, copy and paste, plus new options for resizing and repositioning the keyboard so it fits to your hand and texting style. And to top it all off, this Gboard update comes with under-the-hood improvements for better accuracy and predictions while you type.  

New Languages – वाह

The full list of Gboard’s new languages includes: Assamese, Bengali, Bodo (Devanagari, Bengali), Dogri (Devanagari, Arabic), Gujarati, Hindi (Devanagari, Hinglish), Kannada, Kashmiri (Devanagari, Arabic), Konkani (Devanagari, Latin), Maithili (Devanagari), Malayalam, Manipuri (Bengali), Marathi (Devanagari), Nepali (Devanagari), Odia, Punjabi (Gurmukhi, Arabic), Sanskrit (Devanagari), Santali (Ol chiki, Latin), Sindhi (Devanagari, Arabic), Tamil, Telugu, Urdu (Arabic). In addition to the 22 new Indic languages, Gboard added support for Kinyarwanda and Waray. Through Gboard’s internationalization through machine learning, glide typing and suggestions are now available in more than 185 language varieties.

gboard indic

This list has all 11 Indic languages currently supported in the Google Indic Keyboard, plus 11 more languages, such as Urdu and Maithili. In addition to supporting each language’s native scripts, Gboard includes the QWERTY layout for transliteration, which lets you spell words phonetically. For example, type “aapko holi ki hardik shubhkamnay” and get “आपको होली की हार्दिक शुभकामनायें.”

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Some of these languages have a small presence on the web, so we worked closely with native speakers across India to collect data to train our advanced machine learning models, so people can start texting in their native script.

Gboard also comes with some features that Google Indic Keyboard doesn’t, including Google Search and Google Translate right in your keyboard (just tap the “G” button to get started). And—as a reminder—Gboard already has a Hinglish language option for those of you who often switch back and forth between Hindi and English. If you’re a current Google Indic Keyboard user, we encourage you to download Gboard and give it a go.

Edit text more easily

Besides new languages, Gboard now comes with a new text editing mode with buttons for easy cursor control and the ability to select text, cut, copy, and paste right from your keyboard. To access this feature, select the Text Editing icon in the quick features menu by pressing on the G button (or arrow) in the suggestion strip. Pro tip: if you’re trying to up your typing speed, you can also move the cursor by sliding your finger back and forth along the spacebar, or delete by swiping to the left from the delete key.

New customization options: resize and reposition your keyboard

Now you can resize the keyboard and move it to a position that feels the most comfortable for you. In the quick features menu (press on arrow or G in the suggestion strip), click “More” (the three-dots icon), and click the one-handed mode button, then you can adjust the size and position of the keyboard.

To get these latest updates and improvements to your Gboard for Android, head to the Google Play Store and make sure you’re running the latest version of the app. That’s all for now, folks!


Source: Google

Fraikin’s road warriors work anywhere with Chrome devices

Editor’s note: Today’s blog post comes from Franck Lerivrain, Development Manager at Fraikin, one of Europe’s largest commercial vehicle rental and fleet management companies. Fraikin uses Chromebooks, Chromebits and G Suite to enable mobile employee productivity and to reduce IT maintenance efforts.

Every day, Fraikin’s 57,000 trucks travel thousands of miles across Europe, Asia and the Middle East, delivering everything from fresh produce to hospital supplies and newspapers. In France, where we operate 135 branch offices, we want our office employees to be as mobile as our drivers and trucks. They can do their best work when they can go on the road to meet with customers, maintain trucks, and travel between our truck rental locations. Now that we’re building workstations based on Chromebooks and Chromebits, we can give workers access to the applications they need, inside and outside the office.

Before we began using G Suite and Chrome devices, employees used 1,500 PCs in our offices throughout France. The computers ran local versions of the software that employees needed to do their jobs, such as vehicle booking management tools, accounting solutions, and customer databases. Our IT team spent many hours updating and troubleshooting the machines, often traveling to branch offices to keep the PCs up and running.

We can give workers access to the applications they need, inside and outside the office.

Accessing legacy enterprise applications was difficult for employees. They could only use the applications on their own workstations, not on laptops or phones. We have 400 sales reps in France, and they’re usually traveling to meet customers at their own offices. The sales reps couldn’t log into our databases to update customer records until they arrived back at branch offices, nor could they look up information to answer questions from customers.

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We needed to swap out the PC workstations for tools that were more flexible, and didn’t demand as much attention from our IT team. These goals were part of our virtual device infrastructure (VDI) initiative, which we hoped would modernize our branch-office technology and allow employees to work even when not at their desks. We’re replacing all 1,500 PCs with Chromebits that plug in to monitors, as well as Chromebooks for employees who need laptops.

As we roll out Chromebooks and Chromebits to French branch offices, we’ll make it easy for employees to find the applications they need, like Google Docs and Google Drive, through the Chrome browser. We’re using Syspertec’s Virtel Web Access, installed on our mainframe computer system, to allow employees to access our legacy applications through Virtel’s thin client emulator. Virtel Web Access replaced software previously installed on each computer to connect people to applications hosted on the mainframe system. Now, anywhere there’s a Chrome browser – on Chromebooks, connected Chromebits, or Android phones – employees can find G Suite and other enterprise applications and start working.

We expect that the cost of purchasing and maintaining Chromebooks and Chromebits will be only a fifth of the cost of the old PC workstations. Much of the savings will come from reduced maintenance. In addition, we’ll save on the cost of the old software we needed to connect to the mainframe. My IT staff won’t need to travel to branch offices as often, since we can update software from our home office. Employees can simply log in through Chrome and access the latest software, without any action on their end. G Suite is updated automatically, so that’s another maintenance task we can cross off our list.

Our sales teams may benefit the most from flexible hardware and software. They now use Android phones, so if they’re at a customer site and need to look up rental pricing or truck specs, they can find it in just a few taps instead of driving back to the office. Our employees’ new mobility is the right match for a company that’s all about staying on the road and keeping business moving.


Source: Google

How British charity Comic Relief processed millions of UK pounds in seven hours on Red Nose Day

When you concentrate two years worth of fundraising into seven hours, every second counts. That’s the reality for Comic Relief, one of the U.K.’s most notable charities. Held every two years, Comic Relief’s Red Nose Day encourages the public to make the world a better place in the easiest way imaginable: by having a great time.

For this year’s fundraising event, Comic Relief turned to Google Cloud’s technology partner Pivotal to host its donation-processing systems. The platform also automated management of the underlying cloud infrastructure. Cloud services from Google Cloud Platform (GCP) were used to run Pivotal Cloud Foundry during Red Nose Day. In advance of the 2017 event, the charity was forecasting peaks of several hundred transactions a second for its online donation system. The stakes couldn’t have been higher.

We’re happy to report that Comic Relief raised over £73 million (and counting) for its marquee event! We caught up with David Laing, director of software engineering at Pivotal, to discuss running Pivotal Cloud Foundry on GCP for the 2017 event.

What kind of scale were you expecting for Red Nose Day?

Comic Relief does most of its two-year fundraising cycle in a seven-hour window. The donation system needed to scale with 100% uptime and reliability. It’s your classic elastic, spin-up/spin-down use case for the public cloud.

There are more than 14,000 call center reps that take donations via phone. The reps log donation details in the system. We also expected up to 100,000 concurrent web sessions, where individuals donate online. We expected nearly a million donations in all, with up to 300 donations a second.

What kind of apps did you run on Pivotal Cloud Foundry?

These were cloud-native applications, authored by consultancy Armakuni, in conjunction with Comic Relief. The apps used horizontally scalable, stateless microservices. Capturing donor information and processing their donation immediately is critical. This core availability requirement drove the architecture to have layers upon layers of redundancy. We hosted three independent shards of the full system in different datacenters spread over four countries and two continents, balancing traffic between them using DNS. Each shard then load balanced donations to multiple payment providers. Choosing availability over consistency and an “eventually consistent” architecture like this prepared us to continue to take donations in the event of multiple system failures. An async background process collected all the donation information to a central reporting shard.

What was it like working with GCP’s services?

At Pivotal, we love the performance and rapid provisioning of Compute Engine. The automated usage discounts on Google Cloud are so refreshing. You don’t need engineers to parse through consumption data to minimize your bill.

The load for Comic Relief is highly variable, with major consequences if performance suffers during traffic spikes. Unlike other clouds, GCP load balancers don’t require a call to technical support to pre-warm. This saves our cloud admin’s time and allows us to survive unexpected load increases. It gives us peace of mind knowing that GCP load balancers are built for scale, and backed up by the largest network of any cloud provider. In our experience, Google Cloud is able to handle traffic spikes that might stress other cloud providers.

We used Stackdriver Logging in our weekly capacity tests. We really liked its tight integration with BigQuery and Google Cloud Storage. Having the telemetry data stored in a massively scalable data analysis system helped us to analyze and pinpoint problematic areas ahead of time.

Identity management is another area where GCP shines. Since we already use G Suite for our corporate identity management, user management to all the GCP services was effortless.

How was the deployment of Pivotal Cloud Foundry on GCP? 

Both Pivotal and Google have invested a lot in making Cloud Foundry and GCP work well together. 

Pivotal Cloud Foundry

Deployment of Pivotal Cloud Foundry on Google Cloud “just worked.”  From the application’s perspective, Pivotal Cloud Foundry makes GCP look identical to other clouds; making multi-cloud deployment very simple. We followed the recommended deployment architecture and our reference architecture patterns for GCP.

red-nose-day-pivotal

The only real work was in figuring out how many Compute Engine VMs were required to handle the expected traffic.

For mission-critical workloads—like this scenario with Comic Relief—multi-site availability is a common pattern. This often takes the shape of multi-cloud, as it did with Red Nose Day. What’s your guidance for organizations looking to move to this model?

Organizations need to evolve their application architectures following two key architectural patterns.  

The first is to adopt a microservices architecture that breaks an application into components that are stateless and stateful. Stateless components are easy to scale and distribute; so doing as much of the “work” in these components provides flexibility. Stateful components are harder to manage; so it’s good practise to minimise these and ensure your application degrades gracefully should one of these fail or stall.

The second is to follow 12 factor app principles and build each microservice so that it can be run on an infrastructure agnostic platform like Pivotal Cloud Foundry. Pivotal Cloud Foundry abstracts away all the differences between different clouds. This makes it trivial to deploy and run the exact same application artifacts in multiple clouds.

An application architected according to the above two principles allows an organisation to wire the full stack together based on performance needs as well as organisational and governance requirements. Most importantly, you get the flexibility to change quickly as requirements change.

Comic Relief—whose donations app is architected like this—can massively scale up the application to run on multiple clouds with multiple layers of redundancy for the seven hours of the year when donations peak. For the rest of the year, they can run a single copy of the donations application in a scaled-down form to minimize costs.

Since Pivotal Cloud Foundry makes all clouds look the same, Comic Relief gets to choose the best cloud provider(s) every year. Over the past five years the app has been run in a private data center and across three public clouds—all with no changes to the application code.

What was the multi-cloud experience like for the engineering teams supporting the event?

This is where Pivotal Cloud Foundry can really help. The platform makes all infrastructure targets look the same. For Comic Relief—and everyone for that matter—Pivotal Cloud Foundry abstracts away the  differences between running  on-premises  and running on GCP. Once the Pivotal Ops team figured out how to run Pivotal Cloud Foundry on GCP, there was basically no work involved for the app developers. They just had to target a new Pivotal Cloud Foundry endpoint and rerun cf-push to get their application running on GCP.

If something unexpected happened on Red Nose Day, the application operations team can simply remove the affected site from the DNS round-robin list. Traffic would be re-directed to the other installations while we calmly triaged the issue. Regardless, despite a potential disruption, we knew that donations would still be accepted and processed.

Want to learn more about how Pivotal and Google are collaborating? Check out the Cloud Native Roadshow in a city near you. To hear more from Comic Relief, please register for Google Cloud Next London May 3-4.


Source: Google

Now we're cooking—the Assistant on Google Home is your secret ingredient

Cooking without burning the food can be hard enough. But before you even get there you have to prep your ingredients, all while trying not to get flour and eggs on, well, everything. Unless you’re a graceful TV chef, your favorite recipe book may end up covered in unbaked cookie.

But what if you could listen to a recipe and your favorite music, all at the same time? To help you perfect your kitchen skills, we’re introducing the ability to cook with the Google Assistant on Google Home.

Thanks to Bon Appetit, The New York Times, Food Network and more, you’ll be able to follow step-by-step cooking instructions for more than 5 million recipes. Creating your next banana bread masterpiece or stuffed chicken valentino for a dinner party feast will be easier than ever.

So here’s your recipe … for recipes on Google Home:

Step 1: Pick a recipe! Go to the Google Assistant on your Android phone or to Google Search (iOS or Android) and find a recipe. Once you pick your favorite, select the “Send to Google Home” button. Whether you’re at home or on the go, your recipe will be saved.

Step 2: Once you’re ready to cook, just say “Ok Google, start cooking” or “Ok Google, start recipe.”

Step 3: Gather your ingredients, your apron and you’re halfway there.

And, for those times when you’re not sure if you missed a step or just need to repeat the directions, say “Ok Google, repeat” or “Ok Google, what’s step two?”

Step 4: While you stir and taste test, you can also continue to get things done with your Google Assistant on Google Home. All while you’re following the recipe, you can play your favorite music, ask about conversions (teaspoons to tablespoons, tablespoons to cups — who can remember that stuff?) and set a timer or two.

Step 5: Enjoy your meal!

cooking with the Google Assistant on Google Home

This feature will roll out over the coming week, so if you don’t have it yet, try again in a few days! And if you’re looking for inspiration, you can also say “Ok Google, let’s make macaroons” and we’ll give you a recipe to start.

There’s no set-up necessary—just send a recipe to your Google Home or start on the device and you’re ready to start cooking.


Source: Google

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