Google Cloud Next day two: Empowering non-profits and improving data insights

25 Jul 2018

Google campus in California. Image: Google

Google Cloud is using data analytics to help non-profits and has big plans for machine learning at the edge.

Google Cloud Next is well underway in San Francisco and eagle-eyed IT professionals are watching closely for new updates.

As more and more companies are either migrating totally to the cloud or considering hybrid solutions, the demand for innovation grows – but it’s not just profit-making organisations that are using it.

How can non-profits make better use of data analytics?

Google Cloud’s vice-president of product marketing, Carol Carpenter, today (25 July) announced the launch of Data Solutions for Change, which could help organisations around the world make better use of their data. In essence, non-profits can avail of help from the new programme to use analytics in smart and accessible ways. A credit grant, self-training sessions and role-based support are all on offer.

The Foundation for Precision Medicine is already using the technology to try and find a cure for Alzheimer’s, leveraging the anonymised data to speed up progress. Harambee, a Johannesburg-based employment accelerator, is using Google Cloud to help unemployed young people find entry-level positions.

Even more G Suite updates

The new Gmail is now generally available to G Suite customers, so new security features and machine learning protections are now included, as well as redesigned security warnings, offline access and snooze.

Google is best known for its search capacity, so it makes sense that Google Cloud Search was introduced in 2017. A new feature within this will help organisations organise their third-party data beyond the G Suite environment.

Search results can also be tailored for each person, so only authorised people can access confidential information. Accenture and Whirlpool are already implementing the new feature.

Remote teams will be happy to hear that an enterprise version of Voice is coming to G Suite, with integrations ready for Google Calendar and Hangouts, among others. Administrators can try out new capabilities especially for businesses. If your organisation only uses Google Drive Enterprise, it will now be available as a usage-based standalone offering.

IoT at Google Cloud Next

The data generated from internet of things (IoT) devices is set to exceed 40trn GB by 2025, according to vice-president of IoT at Google Cloud, Injong Rhee.

To manage this, Google Cloud has launched a new hardware chip – the Edge TPU – and Cloud IoT Edge, a software stack that will extend AI capabilities to connected devices. These could lead to faster predictions in real time and local processing will reduce data privacy risks.

Closing the gap between data and insights

Google Cloud also announced some new features it says will help admins look at data analytics in a more accessible way and reduce the need to manage the infrastructure itself. BigQuery ML is a new machine learning system that will help with customer segmentation and sales forecasting using simple SQL systems.

Naveed Ahmad, senior director of data engineering and machine learning at Hearst, said: “We’ve been using BigQuery to analyse multiple data sources, including subscription data, customer service data, browsing data, newsletter usage.”

Other new features will help with visualising geospatial data and connect data from Google Sheets directly to BigQuery.

A number of updates to help people get more out of open-source data analytics tools such as Apache Spark and Hadoop were also announced at Google Cloud Next.

Securing the cloud

While the advantages of the cloud environment are well-known, the security (or often lack thereof) is a cause for concern for many IT professionals.

Jennifer Lin, product management director at Google Cloud, explained that the company has built on the 20 security enhancements it made in March to keep the environment safe.

Context-aware access will allow organisations to organise and define access to G Suite, APIs and third-party SaaS apps based on the user’s identity, location and context of their request. Lin added: “This increases your security posture while decreasing complexity for your users, giving them the ability to seamlessly log on to apps from anywhere and any device.”

A new FIDO security key dubbed ‘Titan’ has in-house firmware, followimg the news that security keys have kept phishing down at Google. Consumers will also be able to buy these eventually.

Other new cloud security features include improvements to its DDoS defence service, Cloud Armor, and the introduction of Cloud HSM, a managed cloud-hosted hardware security module service. A handy new feature, Password Alert, will let IT admins know when their employees are reusing their work passwords on external sites, guarding against compromise.

Ellen Tannam was a journalist with Silicon Republic, covering all manner of business and tech subjects