June 5, 2015

Google Photos for Work

A sketch of a hypothetical new product from Google

Did you know that Google has a version of Google Maps that a business can buy? It’s called Google Maps for Work - it let’s you use Google Maps in all kinds of ways, for example as a tool for tracking delivery vans across a city in real time. It’s pretty cool.

Well, Google just came out with a new product - Google Photos, it’s a cloud-hosted, unlimited storage service that backs up your photos and also layers in machine learning without you having to do anything.

What would Google Photos for Work look like?

This got me thinking? What would Google Photos for Work look like?

Imagine the following use-case:

Tommy owns a construction company and his company is renovating a new hotel in downtown Manhattan. The project is complex and sprawling - what tools can he use to better keep an eye on and manage the project? Google Photos for Work. He signs up with his Google Apps account and all of his construction workers on their phones can download a special Google Camera for Work app. As workers take photos across the project using this app all of the photos appear in a central storage stream automatically. Not only do they appear automatically but all of the photos are searchable by location, date and so on. The real magic however is when machine learning does its thing - then Tommy, sat in HQ can ask Google for “photos of the rear windows when it’s raining” to automatically see what it looks like and see how the sealant is holding up. Or - “photos of the first floor only” to get a handle on progress in a particular area.

Wouldn’t that be neat?

A few things to note:

  • Clearly you wouldn’t be limited to human-powered cameras, CCTV, dropcams (which Google owns!), drones with cameras, etc would all be archived in the cloud
  • Domain specific learning would be very interesting, if Google can sell this Google Photos for Work to enough hospitals for example, how long before Google begins to understand what is an artery, what is a vein, what’s “normal” and what’s wrong?
  • Once you have domain-specific knowledge, then a worker out in the field (whether that’s construction or medicine) could take a photo and ask a query - “Google does this rash look infected?”

What world does this usher in?

I forget the exact quote but I think it was Larry who said a few years ago that machine learning was one of the few technologies that he was worried about giving away. The implications worried him. What about now? Has the world changed sufficiently? Might we be ok with a business signing up for Google Photos for Work and getting perhaps millions of images categorized and tagged by facial recognition?

Anyway, food for thought.

Disclaimer: I worked at Google between 2012-2014. I did not work on Google Photos nor know of its existence before it launched so I am safely in the dark about the existence or not of a real Google Photos for Work. I’m just spitballing here.

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This post was written by Tom Critchlow - blogger and independent consultant. Subscribe to join my occassional newsletter: