Ok Google…Is there anything you don’t know?

Since Google Now first appeared on my Nexus 4 in 2013 I’ve been continually impressed by the little bits of information it has offered up.  At first it was the small things like the weather in my current location, or if I was away from home then it would let me know what the weather was like in my home suburb as well.  Then my mobile phone started offering directions to addresses or businesses I had just searched for on my PC.

When I travelled to America the true value of Google Now started to reveal itself.  A day or two before my departure I started seeing cards about the weather in my destination.  Then on the day of departure a booking confirmation for my first hotel, and an alert that my flight was delayed.  Once overseas, it kept me up to date with the current exchange rate, and staying in touch with family back home was easy with a constant reminder of the “time at home”.  With the US transit system integrated into Google Maps, the Google Now cards even made it easy to find public transport nearby.

A handy reminder of the exchange rate, and probably not a googd time to call home
A handy reminder of the exchange rate, and probably not a good time to call home

On a separate overseas trip, this time to Thailand, a particularly helpful card appeared the day before I was due to fly home.  Based on the itinerary in my Gmail inbox, Google knew what time I was flying home.  Then, based on where I was staying it proposed a suitable time to catch public transport, aiming to arrive at the airport the required 2 hours before boarding.  To be cautious I ended up leaving about 40 minutes earlier, but I think Google’s original itinerary would have worked well.

My trip to the airport was planned the day before
My trip to the airport was planned the day before

Over the past 12 months, various cards have appeared while I go about my daily activities.  These have included maps of nearby shopping centres, cinema times, reminders of where I parked the car and directions and travel times to places in my calendar. The moments that have really started to impress me recently are when there’s well thought out integration between multiple Google products.  The convenience of this service has expanded from within Google Now to the full suite of Google products.

For example, in a couple of weeks’ time I’m going to see Lion King at the Regent Theatre.  With the booking confirmation sitting in my Gmail archives, Maps has taken a peek and now reminds me the time and place of the event.  My Calendar has also automatically created an event so I can’t accidentally double book myself.  I’ve also seen an example of this when travelling interstate and seeing my accommodation highlighted on the map in preparation for my arrival.

Maps reminds me of an upcoming event in Melbourne
Maps reminds me of an upcoming event in Melbourne

My most recent Google NWow experience, and the trigger for this blog post, happened this afternoon. I was trying to login to the Qantas Frequent Flyer website, but didn’t have my membership card handy.  Knowing I had a statement somewhere in my emails I typed “frequent flyer” into the search bar of Inbox expecting to then go digging through promotional emails in search of the number.  To my surprise, at the top of the page appeared my Qantas Frequent Flyer number ready and waiting!

At this point I became curious, and pulled out my phone. From the home screen I said, “Ok Google, what’s my Frequent Flyer number?”  Yes, that’s right.  Up popped the number on my home screen.

Google even understands a personal question such as "What is my frequent flyer number?"
Google even understands a personal question such as “What is my frequent flyer number?”

I find these developments very exciting.  The service has evolved a lot in the past couple of years and doesn’t show any signs of slowing in the near future.  It’s this kind of artificial intelligence that will help to drive the uptake of wearables, and no doubt at some point permeate into the home so that our appliances know what we need before we do.

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