Google Next 2018: Air Asia & Airbus reaching new heights in the...
Google Cloud CEO Diane Greene
Google Cloud CEO Diane Greene, speaking at Google Next 2018

Google Next 2018: Air Asia & Airbus reaching new heights in the cloud

Despite the usual fanfare, London’s iteration of Google Next 2018 lacked the headline announcements that punctuated the San Francisco event in July. Instead, it served as a platform to reaffirm Google’s mission to ‘organise the world’s information and make it accessible and usable’, and showcase its successful partnerships.

Internet of Business says

Google Cloud CEO Diane Greene’s message was one of expansion and consolidation. Google Cloud has been investing hugely in EMEA enterprise, including projects with Airbus, HSBC, Sky and Philips. Alongside this, it is striving to gather expertise across numerous industries, to better understand the needs of its customers – users, Google claims, that have seen their investments in Google Cloud returned ten times over.

Companies of any size can now supercharge their data with analytics and AI, which accounts for the billions of users and millions of companies now using Google Cloud.

In the past 18 months, the tech giant has started offering AI and data analytics training in 20 EMEA countries, and has introduced five new cloud platform regions: London, Germany, the Netherlands, Finland and Switzerland.

Google has also laid a new private trans-Atlantic cable between France and the U.S – a very real reminder that even the ethereal cloud relies on silicon and data cables.

It’s still relatively early days, in terms of adoption – around 10 percent of all data workloads have moved to the cloud – but it’s a figure that will only grow.

Diane Greene believes this shift is about more than just how we store and process data. Companies are using the transition as a catalyst for cultural transformation, shifting the way we work, from how we manage data, all the way through to how we interact with personal devices, and each other, through cloud tools like the newly AI-infused G Suite:

“Countries are just working out their data strategies and cloud seems to be front and centre of that – it’s a revolution,” said Greene.

It’s clear that cloud is a major vehicle for digital transformation, because it’s more secure, it’s where the most advanced technologies are and there are top-line and bottom-line benefits.

Google Cloud & Air Asia

The Google Cloud CEO invited a range of organisations to share their experiences on stage. Amongst these was the unconventional Tony Fernandes, CEO of Air Asia.

“I left Time Warner because they didn’t embrace digital music, and bought an airline for 25 cents: two airplanes, 200 staff and 200,000 passengers. Over the last 16 years we’ve grown to 250 airplanes, 3,000 staff and 90 million passengers,” said Fernandes.

“When I started at Air Asia, no one used the internet for booking. We were the first airline in Asia to sell tickets online. And we really wanted to protect our data and know our customers better. Back in 2012, we saw Google+ and Drive, and I think I was one of the first people to go to their staff and say, ‘this is an amazing product’.

The conversation brushed past the untimely mention of the now condemned Google+.

“We thought, ‘this is great collaboration’. We’re all about collaboration with our customers and staff. This morphed into G Suite, which has been a really helpful change for us. It was a bit of a dictatorial decision by me to say ‘we’re moving’.”

Diane Greene was sympathetic: “That’s the best way, when the leader says, ‘we’re going!’”

So much for digital transformation starting on the shop floor.

Fernandes explained how Google Cloud has helped make the colossal data lakes they’ve built more valuable:

We’ve got a huge amount of data from the last 16 years. Google Cloud has enabled us to get that data into a position where we can do a lot more with it.

“We’re working with it in four areas. The first is predictive, for example we have 20,000 sensors on our aircraft and we’re now able to predict maintenance much more effectively, manage spare parts, and improve our on-time performance. We’re also able to predict weather patterns, so that we can tell you, ‘there’s going to be a storm, don’t bother to turn up.’

“We’re also looking to improve the operational experience of our passengers, using facial recognition and Google Cloud to look at sentiment.”

Perhaps indelicately, Diane Greene relayed a conversation the pair had shared, in which Tony Fernandes revealed he wanted to have pictures of passengers as they entered and left the airplane, and for them to be happier when they leave. Privacy concerns aside, it sounds like a tall order to have passengers smile like they’re on a log flume as the step out of the cabin after a long-haul flight.

However, Air Asia’s vision for the future of air travel is admirable:

“We’re trying to transform ourselves from an airline into a digital travel company. While we’re constantly burdened by oil prices, in Google we see the ability to go and build different business models.

“We have very strong platforms in and our loyalty program. So, we’re hoping to use the skills Google brings to build bigger platform businesses, more traffic, better products, and better value for our customers.”

All change at Airbus

Elsewhere in the aviation industry, Airbus CIO Luc Hennekens claims to have seen similar results from moving everyday processes to the cloud.

“Airbus, like many big corporations, is going through profound digital transformation. For us to become an organisation that is more agile, we need to start looking at how people work together.

“We believe that G Suite can help us change the way people collaborate. So in a way it’s really an investment in our people.

“I wouldn’t underestimate the impact that a collaboration tool can have on the culture of your company.”

Also at Google Cloud Next, we spoke to Product Lead for Google Cloud IoT Core Indranil Chakraborty about how LG is driving remarkable results with Google’s new Edge TPU.

To learn more about the power of cloud computing, IoTBuild is taking place on 13-14 November 2018, Olympia Conference Centre, London

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