Google's annual festival of technology (I/O) was recently held in San Francisco, announcing a raft of updates, improvements and new products. A week on and with the dust settled, it's time to take a look at some of the key announcements that came from the conference.
The general consensus amongst Googlers is that this conference was more about refining the wide range of existing products as opposed to reinventing the wheel. Here's a few of the key announcements and a few we thought were missing.
Google officially announced their own payment platform, Android Pay. The service, which rivals Apple Pay, uses NFC technology to replace cash and card based transactions. With only 50% of transactions using cash in the UK, this is sure to help paper money to slide into obscurity once the service comes to these shores.
As a consequence, consolidating payment methods into one place (similar to PayPal), has the potential to make website payments faster and less costly to business users.
For decades, voice recognition and the subtle contextual information that is used in speech has proved to be problematic. Through machine learning programs such as Deep Mind, Google have seemingly cracked context, opening up a new possibilities for technology.
Messages, emails and searches can be contextually analysed and turned into calendar reminders and web searches. Utilising this means customers can action your business information quicker and more effectively.
The new Google Photos promises to finally solve the cloud photo problem. Photos are automatically backed up from your devices, analysed, organised and optimised to produce a timeline feed. Storage space is unlimited and the restrictions on image quality should be more than adequate for all but the most ardent of photographers. For those who need high-resolution images, Google offers paid storage.
Under the hood, Google Photos uses machine learning, a technology behind many of this year's announcements, to detect people and scenes. It then groups similar shots together, and even pick out specific people and track them through time.
This does, though, raise some legitimate privacy concerns. In some countries — including the UK — the facial recognition feature is blocked, likely due to stricter privacy laws.
Although Google have stated they are starting on a foundation of trust, Photos still has the potential to become another huge source of data to add to that which Google already knows about you.
There was a distinct lack of announcements regarding Android Wear which we found surprising, especially given the coverage the Apple Watch has received lately.
Whilst there were announcements covering refinements to the platform, we were hoping to see some progression from this young technology. That being said, Android Wear did recently receive a hefty update, so it's likely more developments will come in the weeks ahead.
Perhaps Android Wear will be the main theme of the 2016 conference, when Google Glass is expected to rise from the ashes in a new incarnation.
R.I.P Google+ ?
I/O seems to have marked the beginning of the end for Google+ – at least in its current form.
The splitting off of Photos and Hangouts reduces the platform to a collection of notifications for a variety of Google services. Even this is set to change as Google have recently demoted links to the service from across their product range.
Whilst things are set to change greatly for plus, we're sure that the platform that Google have spent 4 years building will live on in one shape or another.
Battery life is one of the key issues with smartphones. Today's high powered devices and resource hungry apps can quickly drain the battery, giving many users only a single day between charges. We noticed the improvements to battery life with the recent Android L update, and this is set to make an even bigger difference.
One of the biggest improvements within Android M comes from the new ‘Doze‘ mode. This promises to extend battery life by up to 50% by putting the device into a sleep state when the devices internal sensors stop detecting movement.
Improving battery life is likely to increase the number of transactions whilst consumers are on the move.
A big feature of this year's I/O was Google Cardboard, a very low-cost VR headset that uses your Android phone and a cleverly designed cardboard viewer to give an immersive 3D experience. It's even possible to build your own viewer!
VR is poised to make a big comeback in the months ahead, and Google's Cardboard offers a very interesting take on the technology.
Over to you
Did you watch the keynote? Were you lucky enough to attend Have you tried the new Google Photos service? What do Google's latest announcements mean for your business? Let us know by tweeting @plymsoftware.
We can now look forward to Apple's upcoming developer conference (WWDC) next week when we expect to hear some great announcements including details of the new iOS 9.