Introducing Google Now

by Stuart Ridgway, Original Music for Film and Television

I originally posted this article on AWAREForum.org on July 5, 2012.

For those of you who own Android Smartphones, Google would like to get relevant information in front of you without you even asking. “With the predictive power of Google Now, you get just what you need to know, right when you need it.” Google Now should be available with Google’s next mobile operating system, Android 4.1 (aka Jelly Bean).

About to start your daily commute? Google Now presents the traffic conditions ahead of you and provides an alternate route without you even asking. Off to the airport? Google Now let’s you know if your plane is on time. Severe thunderstorms sweeping across your neighborhood? Google Now lets you know…well, nothing. Yet.

How Now?

In typical fashion, Google is not sharing how it is so adept at predicting what you need to know and when you need it. Yet, it’s not difficult to imagine that Google tracks your search history, reviews your calendar, and takes advantage of location based services to determine what you care about, what you are doing, and where you are going.

By accessing data from an ocean of available API’s, Google Now can find and present to you the information that is probably most relevant to you. Do you often search for baseball scores for the same team? Google Now can keep track of your team’s scores and present them to you when something pertinent happens.

Alerts for Google Now

It is no big leap, then, to imagine that Google Now could provide relevant IPAWS-type alerts in a timely fashion. If you’ve added to your Google calendar that your next meeting is in Washington DC, Google Now could determine whether or not there is an alert for an imminent event and notify you. If you’ve been searching AMBER alerts, Google Now could automatically notify you of an AMBER alert in your neighborhood.

Google already has the capability to provide weather, public safety, and earthquake alerts as demonstrated on their Google Public Alerts website. It should be easy enough for the mighty Google to access AMBER alerts directly from the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC).

Wouldn’t it be nice, though, if Google could track alerts directly from IPAWS? If Google talked about where they obtained such vital alert information, it would be great promotion for all of the hard work FEMA, NWS, and NCMEC has been doing. In fact, Google may actually have this capability already and are piloting Google Now first before they start rolling out alerts. Nothing would kill Google Now faster than irrelevant alerts that annoy users.

Alerts For All Is Just the Beginning

As Google leads the way providing predictive information, how will the rest of the development world follow suit? Not everyone can have an agreement with FEMA that allows direct access to IPAWS. What if FEMA made the alerts publicly available so all developers could use this invaluable information for their own predictive apps, as we’ve suggested before? What if all government agencies opened their data empowering developers to determine what’s most relevant to the public?

FEMA could instantly increase the value of hundreds of computer, mobile phone, smart car, and smart device applications by providing open access to IPAWS data. Talk about giving back to the community! Not to mention meeting President Obama’s recent call for agencies to “identify ways to use innovative technologies to streamline their delivery of services to lower costs, decrease service delivery times, and improve the customer experience.”

As Google Now takes off, it will demonstrate the need to have direct access to relevant information. Hopefully, agencies across the government will get on the band wagon and make their “relevant” information instantly available to all.

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