Everything You Need to Know from Google I/O 2015


Each year, Google hosts its I/O conference to introduce its newest innovations and changes to the services provided by the Internet giant. Google I/O attracts software developers and other tech-minded professionals eager to discover new technology and new ways to apply Google products and services to their own companies and clients.

This year our Director of Emerging Technology Jon Hackett and Director of Search Ben Royce made the trip to San Francisco to get the latest scoop. Here they answer some questions we had about how Google is changing the way users and brands live online.


Jon Hackett
Director of Emerging Technology


What products is Google introducing to the Internet of Things?

Google is introducing two new platforms to help unify and simplify IoT. The first is Brillo, an Android-based operating system developed for Internet of Things devices, which will make it easier for manufacturers to bring IoT devices to market. 

The second product, Weave, is an open communications protocol for IoT devices to communicate with one another and other devices. Weave builds on Brillo, and can be used with Brillo or on its own. Existing IoT devices can be updated to use the Weave protocol, and Android phones and tablets will all be Weave-enabled, helping to simplify and increase the adoption of IoT devices by consumers.

How is Google staying competitive in the wearables market?

They are keeping control of the software. Android Wear devices do not modify the OS, unlike the phone market where some OEMs modify the OS, creating fragmentation. Updates to the OS have been rolling out more frequently and across the full device portfolio faster, giving Google an opportunity to refine the product in market faster and uniformly. A big enhancement over other wearables is allowing the devices to directly connect to the Internet via Wifi so a user can get notifications and respond, even when they are away from their phone (Apple is bringing this to the new OS update to Apple Watch).

How will changes to the Android OS affect app developers and mobile marketers?

There are a couple bigger changes lumped in with many incremental updates in the next release of Android, currently referred to as “M.” The biggest change is in how permissions and data transparency are handled in apps.

Consumers will no longer be asked to accept complicated permissions prompts when installing a new app from the Google Play store, and requests for permission to access the user’s data or phone hardware will be prompted only as needed once the user starts using the app. This will be a big shift in how user flows work within apps and how permissions are requested. Another overdue enhancement is native support for fingerprint scanners it will allow marketers and developers to use biometrics as a more secure authentication method for apps.

Google Now on Tap will add contextual intelligence to apps and will allow apps to integrate more seamlessly with one another. Content-based applications will benefit greatly from indexing their content with Google so apps can work together based on the contextual relevance of the content.

Which innovations do you think will have the biggest impact on the way brands reach consumers?

Android Pay will impact any brand that has a loyalty card-based CRM program. Through Android Pay, it will now be easier to digitally track and attribute engagement at point of sale. It will also allow for simple one-button payments within Android apps and on the web.

Google Cardboard is graduating from an experiment to a set of tools that allows for content creators to create immersive 3D video experiences and share those on YouTube or the cardboard app in conjunction with the cardboard viewer. There’s an opportunity here for brands to create compelling and novel experiences for this new medium.

Google collaborated with GoPro to create a 360-degree camera rig for capturing virtual reality video.

Google collaborated with GoPro to create a 360-degree camera rig for capturing virtual reality video.


Which innovations are you most excited about personally?

The work from Google’s ATAP (Advanced Technologies and Projects) lab demoed at I/O was some of the most impressive I’ve seen. The group is best know for Ara, the modular phone that can be upgraded by adding and removing hardware blocks. Some new and exciting projects from ATAP include Soli, a small chip that uses radar to sense a user’s hand, allowing them control a device with very granular and fine details.

Another, Project Jacquard, embeds touch sensing threads into fabrics, turning a piece of cloth into an interface that can control IoT devices, phones, TVs, computers and more. One compelling demo allowed users to turn lights on and off using a piece of the Project Jacquard fabric.

Both projects will offer new and exciting ways for users to interact with digital experiences.


Ben RoyceDirector of Search

Ben Royce
Director of Search


How is Google adapting to the popularity of mobile search?

Google is reiterating the importance of mobile-friendly content and sites. The so-called ”mobilegeddon” deadline has passed, but not all mobile friendly sites are comprehensively friendly across all phones and tablets. In one kiosk demo, they asked attendees to name their website and simultaneously displayed their site across 30-40 devices of all types. In some cases a site would work on only a portion of the devices, despite being “mobile-friendly.” They were clear to reiterate that mobile is a top priority, and that thorough quality assurance and testing is a necessary part of the mobile site development process.

How is Google changing the way people find and use apps?

One of the most interesting points was that the top way for users to find new apps is not by browsing Google Play, but by word of mouth. To supplement these approaches, there were a number of sessions on how to promote apps by connecting search results directly to apps, and promoting the usage of universal analytics.

One of the more popular sessions was around making your mobile app indexable. The detailed, code-based tutorial showed developers how to build and place an XML sitemap of the interfaces of their app to the browser equivalent.

A constant theme was using Google Universal Analytics to understand user behavior and usage metrics for apps. Analytics within app implementations are underutilized, but they have the potential to provide key insights about app usage, just as web analytics have illuminated user paths and events for websites.

What changes is Google making to their digital advertising services?

One of the most important marketing announcements was a new feature in Adwords that will allow you to prioritize bids to users who have a history of in-app purchases. While most users avoid them, the users who do make in-app purchases are considered highly valuable and worthy of a larger marketing budget allocation. These high lifetime value users represent more than revenue; they are often the biggest advocates for the word of mouth growth app developers and promoters rely on.

Which innovations do you think will have the biggest impact on the way brands reach consumers?

It is becoming crystal clear that web content and apps are merging. Any brand content strategy needs to have a mobile component beyond just mobile device friendliness. The risk of not connecting apps to content extends beyond search. The rise (and expected continuing rise) is only going to make mobile apps more critical to the success of content in general, and will affect the engagement of consumers. There is incredible opportunity for brands to build brand equity, trust, recall and affinity as they take information from the web into their branded experiences.

Project Jacquard uses touch sensors embedded in fabric to control devices.

Project Jacquard uses touch sensors embedded in fabric to control devices.


Which innovations are you most excited about personally?

Google I/O is a playground for new tech toys and gadgets, but the most exciting was Project Jacquard. This relatively soft fabric was touch-enabled so that you could run your fingers across it or tap it and see the visualization on screen. It will allow users to control and interact with apps or the web with the tools we already have: clothing. The possibility of controlling your phone or laptop with sensors on the outside of your pants was inspiring; it was one of the more innovative human interfaces I have ever seen.



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