AI at the core of Google’s new moves on enterprise business

Jayadevan PK April 11, 2019

Search giant Google is making a big push to bake in artificial intelligence powered features into its suite of apps and solutions, bringing powerful new features to solutions it sells to thousands of customers over the cloud.

“Google has invested many years of work in AI- ML… Voice, language, video, images, text, translation… on top of this platform, we have built a number of solutions to make it easy for our customers and analysts around the world to build models,” Thomas Kurian (in picture above), the newly appointed chief executive officer of Google Cloud, said on Wednesday in San Francisco.

At Next 19, Google’s annual shindig for enterprise customers, developers and partners, the company announced the new features making further inroads into the enterprise technology industry, traditionally dominated by services providers and digital transformation companies.

The company announced features targeting enterprises in general and also features for the retail and contact centre industry. Here’s a quick lowdown on the key enterprise-AI announcements:

Contact Center AI

The contact centre AI was first introduced last year by Google. Now it has announced solutions such as Virtual Agent, Agent Assist, and Topic Modeler, updates to its voice models, and improvements to Agent Assist to bubble up useful content while agents are on call.

The company has also partnered with 8×8, Avaya, Salesforce and Accenture to integrate speech recognition, synthesis, natural language understanding, and agent assist to improve the contact centre experience, it said.

Andrew Moore, Google Cloud’s Head of AI, was earlier Dean of the School of Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon University| Photo: Google

Google is positioning its solutions as tools to assist call centre agents, not something that will take away jobs. “People who are buying contact centre (solutions) are buying to increase productivity as opposed to simply taking them out of the picture which usually is not what the user is looking for,” Andrew Moore, the head of AI at Google Cloud, said a press briefing on Tuesday. The Indian BPO industry, about $30 billion in size, employs millions and many companies have already started automating tasks and launched AI-based solutions like chatbots for customer support.

Also see: Meet Agara Labs, the stealth startup taking BPO automation to the next level

Google Cloud for Retail

Google Cloud for Retail enables retailers to quickly take advantage of AI for retail-specific specific use cases. This includes vision product search, Recommendations AI, and AutoML Tables, which make it possible for retailers to build and deploy machine learning models on structured data.

Document Understanding AI

The document understanding AI is a solution for businesses to digitise documents and automatically classify, extract, and enrich data within scanned or digital documents. The solution will integrate with technology stacks from partners and third parties — Iron Mountain, Box, DocuSign, Egnyte, Taulia, UiPath, and Accenture are already using it today, the company said.

AI platform for developers

Besides several updates to Cloud AutoML – a suite of machine learning products for developers to deploy – Google also announced a number of products that make it easier for developers and data scientists to build and deploy new machine learning models.

The new Google AI platform is an end-to-end development platform that teams can use to prepare, build, run, and manage ML projects using a shared interface, the company said.

“You can ingest streaming or batch data, and use a built-in labelling service to easily label training data – like images, videos, audio, and text – by applying classification, object detection, entity extraction, and other processes,” the company said in a blog post.

AI-powered smart features for G Suite users

Google Assistant, the company’s virtual assistant will now talk to the calendar and other G Suite apps. A user, for instance, will be able to talk to Google Assistant and ask what his or her schedule is, make changes, and send emails. They will also see newer features such as cloud search, hangouts meet updates with automatic live captions, connected sheets, hangouts chat among others.

More than five million businesses use G Suite apps like Gmail and Google Drive.

Enterprises spent nearly $23 billion on cloud infrastructure in the fourth quarter of 2018, making it a hotly contested market. Amazon’s cloud service, the AWS, had a 32.3% marketshare, Microsoft’s Azure 16.5%, and Google Cloud 9.5%, according to market research firm Canalys.

“Looking forward, we’re making some improvements to the smart compose feature adding features like suggested subjects and readings and thinking harder about how do we help individuals create great content,” Julie Black, who leads a group called Knowledge intelligence for G Suite, the search giant’s cloud computing, productivity and collaboration offering, told FactorDaily at the sidelines of the conference. Black said that the grammar check feature rolled out in Google Docs last year will come to other G Suite apps as well.

Google’s catch-up plan

Enterprises spent nearly $23 billion on cloud infrastructure in the fourth quarter of 2018 alone, making it a hotly contested market. Amazon’s cloud service, the AWS, had a 32.3% marketshare followed by Microsoft’s Azure at 16.5%, and Google Cloud at 9.5%, according to a recent report by market research firm Canalys.

To push its way up, Google named Oracle veteran Kurian to the CEO position at Google Cloud last November. The company, Kurian outlined in an interview to the Wall Street Journal, plans to beef up sales and marketing as well as its product offerings and cloud infrastructure. Kurian has already met with “hundreds of customers,” Google CEO Sundar Pichai said at his keynote address. Google counts several Fortune 500 companies as its clients.

For Google, which sees itself as a AI-first company and has several AI-first products on its product roadmap, having more data and applications running on its cloud is important. To that end, Google announced Anthos (renamed Google Cloud Services Platform) for managing hybrid cloud applications across on-premise and on other cloud services including AWS and Azure on the first day of the event.

Google’s first-mover advantage with several AI technologies is also something that might help the company in its bid to corner a bigger marketshare.

At the three-day conference, Google also said that it has partnered with several open source companies such as Confluent, MongoDB, Redis Labs, DataStax, Elastic and InfluxData so users can manage these services within the Google Cloud Platform. The company also launched Cloud Run, using which enterprises can port applications on to the cloud without having to rewrite code.

(Disclosure: This writer was at Google Cloud Next ‘19 at the invitation of Google which paid for his travel and stay.)


               

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