Google Cloud Next Paints Digital Landscape Where Data and AI Meet

Putting some of its prime use cases at centerstage, Tuesday’s opening keynote for the Google Cloud Next 2021 virtual conference brought out Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google and Alphabet, with Google Cloud CEO Thomas Kurian.

Pichai gave a partial rundown of Google Cloud’s latest investments into networking and data centers, including this year’s expansion into Warsaw, Delhi, Melbourne, and Toronto. That expansion furthered Google Cloud’s reach to 28 regions around the world with plans for 10 more regions, he said.

Collaborations have been part of Google’s technology development efforts and Pichai spoke of previously announced partnerships with Ericsson, Nokia, and T-Systems to deliver 5G edge and hosted computing solutions.

Enterprises continue to evolve their use of Google technology. Pichai highlighted how Ford uses Google Maps to help drivers navigate along with other resources from Google to aid in driver focus and to entertain passengers.

Kurian offered more examples of enterprises that turn to Google Cloud solutions to further the efficiency, such as The Home Depot, using Contact Center AI to reduce customer resolution time by 91 million minutes and Ikea’s use of Recommendations AI to increase its ecommerce clickthrough rates by 30%. “We’re helping many businesses drive durable innovation,” he said.

For example, Kuran said Schrödinger, a developer of chemical simulation software for pharmaceuticals, biotechnology, and materials design, used Google Cloud’s resources to accelerate its clinical drug discovery by 60% to find new breakthroughs faster.

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Google CEO Sundar Pichai. Credit: Christoph Dernbach, dpa photo alliance via Alamy

Retail giant Walmart has been using Google Cloud as part of its innovation journey, said Suresh Kumar, Walmart’s executive vice president, global chief technology officer, and chief development officer. He and his team created a plan to accelerate transformation in Walmart across three areas: To build on customer experiences; optimize the business; and modernize the infrastructure and platform.

“If you move with speed, you can completely transform global operations and disrupt entire industries,” Kumar said. “Some of our most data-intensive and critical-decisioning processes are getting the BigQuery treatment.” BigQuery is Google’s serverless data warehouse solution.

Walmart’s transformation strategy with Google Cloud has already led to significant savings, Kumar said, which is expected to continue as more data is migrated. The process has also offered new ways to approach and use data, he said. “This includes enabling analytics at scale and turning data into actionable insights.”

As part of the move to BigQuery, Kumar said 30% of Walmart’s big data has migrated with plans to almost double that by the end of the fiscal year. Rather than being siloed into only working with Google solutions, he said integration is available through BigQuery with most any third-party data virtualization and analytics tools. The flexibility helped improve processing time by 23%, Kumar said. “Using BigQuery has had a direct impact on our business.” That includes being able to close the financial books in three days rather than five, he said. “Leveraging our cloud has enabled us to unleash the potential of AI across our entire business.”

Kumar said such Google Cloud-enabled AI potential has leant itself to new efficiencies such as predicting demand, managing in-store clouds, to optimizing supply chain, and freeing up time of associates to better serve customers. Walmart’s express delivery service, launched in 2020, also uses AI behind the scenes, he said, to optimize delivery routes and determine if customers qualify for the service.

By leveraging the resources made available through the cloud, Walmart seems to have opened the door to new layers of digital transformation opportunities. “We are bringing our own AI/ML capabilities to power multiple areas of our business,” Kumar said, “including classification, natural language processing, forecasting, computer vision, predictions, process automations, and a whole lot more.”

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