The Google Now app is a new innovation which strives to give users information when they need it and not just when they actively search for something. This may sound futuristic but it is just a further development from Google’s search results ‘preview’ option, for instance when you type in the letter A, Google may immediately offer you the result Amazon. This is an algorithm which Google is known for and Google Now uses the same technology. However it also tracks location, movement and further browsing behavior of the user. As described by Google, Google Now tells you ‘what you need, when you need it’.
Initially introduced on Google´s 7 inch tablet Nexus 7 during the Google I/O in mid-2012, it is now available for all devices which run the latest Android version 4.1. As Android have the largest market share worldwide for mobile operating systems, it is not surprising that Google chose them as their app launch partner.
The information Google Now shows the user is displayed on information cards. For example, Google recognizes when you are en route to your workplace and when you are travelling home. It then tells you when your train is leaving right before you leave the office or when you travel by car, Google Now will tell you if a traffic jam is blocking your route home. It will also become smarter after a certain amount of time by reminding you when to leave the house to get to an appointment on time or what the local currency is when you are overseas. This real-time optimization happens constantly in the background without pressing a single button; you just need to be online.
But even the smartest machine has to be set up first and Google Now is no exception. Google Now does not work on default so users don’t have to worry if they want to avoid the service. When the user first downloads Google Now on an Android device, he manually has to agree to Google’s terms to take part. The service starts running in the background after that and further options can also be chosen to define what information the user wants to receive.
The first days with Google Now can be disheartening. Except some weather cards showing you the temperature on the current location, Google Now stays relatively quiet. However, after a couple of days and weeks the service then starts to evolve by showing you interesting locations nearby, reminding you when your favorite sports-team is playing or simply giving you feedback how may kilometers you traveled last month. Of course, these things can only be fully utilized when the user carries their mobile device with them all the time and stay connected to the web.
To speculate about the future of Smartphones in relation to real-time, it is likely that devices will become one step smarter and turn into a more personal adviser, rather than a mobile information cloud. The optimistic view would be that Google Now will improve how we organize our private and work lives which in turn, will give us more time to focus on other things. Nevertheless, critics say Google Now could bring us one step closer to complete dependency on Google and give up even more personal information. For example, if a user searched for information about the newest iPad using their mobile device, Google Now could tell them when an Apple Store is nearby.
From a user perspective, Google will collect new insights on people’s daily routine by tracking locations and therefore will make the service more ergonomic. From an advertising perspective, the possibilities are vast for targeted advertising as well presenting a developing opportunity for marketing through PPC/CPC and SEO. Watch this space for future advertising opportunities.