Tag Archives: Google in Asia

PolicyPal: a mobile-first assurance on insurance

Val Yap is the founder and CEO of PolicyPal, a digital insurance broker that lets people buy, understand and organize their insurance on their mobile phones. She’s also a graduate from Start on Android, a program that helps developers perfect their apps with technical support and other perks from Google before launching on Google Play.


Why did you establish PolicyPal?

In 2013, I was working in London when my mother was diagnosed with cancer. I left my job, packed my bags, and moved back to Singapore to be with her. Relocating and seeing my strong mother stricken with illness was stressful. The daily grind of dealing with medical appointments and bills made things worse, especially when her insurance claim for her treatment was rejected.


Thankfully, my mother recovered. But we unexpectedly lost my father to a heart attack later that year. We knew he had insurance, but we had no idea what. Even as we were grieving, I had to visit different insurance companies to check. That whole year was a nightmare for my family.


Coping with my father’s passing and my mother’s illness, the last thing I wanted to do was go through insurance policies. But we needed that information and there was no other choice. If we had easier access and better understanding of our coverage, this tough time for our family would have been a bit easier to bear.


We’re sorry to hear about that. How did you go about solving similar problems for others?

Many of us have insurance, but we just pay the premiums and forget about it. When an emergency strikes, we’re scrambling to understand how we’re covered. I started PolicyPal as a digital folder for people to organize and retrieve their policies quickly and painlessly. You just need to take a photo of the insurance document, and PolicyPal stores a digital copy in your mobile phone. It also analyzes your insurance policies and recommends how to fill gaps in your coverage.


As we learned more about the problems faced in the insurance industry, we expanded our product offerings. We set up PALNetwork, an ecosystem which leverages blockchain technology to automate underwriting and claims processing, and empower partners to customize new financial products. We are also the first provider in Singapore to provide insurance for people holding cryptocurrency assets.

policypal-phone

How did the Start on Android program help you in launching your app?

With the support and help from Start on Android, we received valuable feedback ahead of time from the community, helping us improve our app’s performance and user experience. We even managed to acquire and retain some early users through the program, which gave us a fantastic head start when it launched.


What are your plans for the future?

We’re focusing our efforts on serving people in more countries in Asia. I think insurance technology will develop very differently in this region from mature markets like the U.S. or Europe. People in emerging Asia will leapfrog from being unbanked and uninsured to getting insurance through novel solutions, for example, mobile apps instead of agents. We’re looking at expanding beyond Singapore to countries like Indonesia and Thailand.


You’re a female startup founder. What advice do you have for other aspiring women entrepreneurs in tech?

Find a mentor. Working with female mentors has been a game-changer for me. We go through experiences that men don’t and it’s essential that you build friendships with people who can empathize.


My second piece of advice applies to all genders! Don’t enter a sector just because it’s fashionable. Think about what problems you want to solve first and who you’re solving for. Go deep into your mission and make sure you feel it’s something you’re still going to be excited by in 10 years.

ShadowPlay: Using our hands to have some fun with AI

Editor’s note:TensorFlow, our open source machine learning platform, is just that—open to anyone. Companies, nonprofits, researchers and developers have used TensorFlow in some pretty cool ways and at Google, we're always looking to do the same. Here's one of those stories.

Chinese shadow puppetry—which uses silhouette figures and music to tell a story—is an ancient Chinese art form that’s been used by generations to charm communities and pass along cultural history. At Google, we’re always experimenting with how we can connect culture with AI and make it fun, which got us thinking: can AI help put on a shadow puppet show?

So we created ShadowPlay, an interactive installation that celebrates the shadow puppetry art form. The installation, built using TensorFlow and TPUs, uses AI to recognize a person’s hand gestures and then magically transform the shadow figure into digital animations representing the 12 animals of the Chinese zodiac and in an interactive show.

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Attendees use their hands to make shadow figures, which transform into animated characters and creates.

We debuted ShadowPlay at the World AI Conference and Google Developers Day in Shanghai in September. To build the experience, we developed a custom machine learning model that was trained on a dataset made up of lots of examples of people’s hand shadows, which could eventually recognize the shadow and match it to the corresponding animal. “In order to bring this project to life, we asked Googlers to help us train the model by making a lot of fun hand gestures. Once we saw the reaction of users seeing their hand shadows morph into characters, it was impossible not to smile!”, says Miguel de Andres-Clavera, Project Lead at Google. To make sure the experience could guess what animal people were making with high accuracy, we trained the model using TPUs, our custom machine learning hardware accelerators.

We had so much fun building ShadowPlay (almost as much fun as practicing our shadow puppets … ), that we’ll be bringing it to more events around the world soon!

Google for Hong Kong: Fostering a smarter digital city

Hong Kong has long been an international hub for finance and business. But now new kinds of entrepreneurs who don’t wear power suits or cut deals in boardrooms have emerged in the city. Thirteen-year-old CEO Hillary Yip struggled with learning Mandarin, so she designed a language learning app for children that’s used in more than 20 countries today. Mama Cheung, a home-maker found a second career as a YouTube creator by sharing her family recipes, attracting millions of views. Edward Li started Twitchy Finger four years ago because of his passion for mobile games. Today, games that he made are played by millions of people across the world.


Hillary, Edward and Mama Cheung are part of a wave of Hong Kong entrepreneurs embracing technological opportunities. In the second annual edition of our Smarter Digital City Whitepaper, 90 percent of business leaders surveyed said they plan to increase investments in digital technology in the next two years. To benefit from digital technology, businesses also need digital talent. However, 70 percent of those leaders said they face difficulties finding the right talent.


At our Google for Hong Kong event today, we announced initiatives for Hong Kong businesses, young people and job-seekers to develop digital talent and connect it with businesses looking to hire them.


First, with new Cantonese language courses in Digital Garage, we’re on track to train 10,000 Hong Kongers with digital skills by the end of 2018. For younger tech talent, we’re expanding the reach of CS First in Hong Kong, a free online curriculum of lesson plans, projects and learning tools for kids just getting into computer science. More than 1,000 students in Hong Kong have already benefited from CS First classes, and we’re continuing to train teachers and volunteers, so that they teach students in communities that lack access to coding education. As we make more CS First learning modules available in Cantonese, we hope that more young Hong Kongers get to experience the fun of coding.
CSFirst

Some young coders graduating from a CS First class.

To help connect Hong Kongers to jobs in the digital economy, we’re launching a new search experience making it easier for job seekers in Hong Kong to find employment opportunities from popular job listing websites, online classifieds and companies. The new feature is built directly into Google Search to provide a comprehensive listing of jobs across the web, so Hong Kongers can now explore and research thousands of job listings, save promising opportunities and get alerts whenever a new job matching their search comes online.

JobsearchHK

The key to Hong Kong’s success has always been its driven and talented people. We’re excited to partner Hong Kongers in building a smarter digital city.

GamelAwan: Reviving traditional tunes with technology

We spoke with Kholis Kurniawan (who goes by the name Awan), a musician from Indonesia. His band GamelAwan creates unique songs by fusing the centuries-old tradition of gamelan, a traditional type of music played in Java, the most populous island in Indonesia, with more contemporary pop tunes. His music videos on YouTube have been watched millions of times, helping him launch a career as a musician while sharing his love for his Javanese culture with the world.


Why did you become a musician?

Music is in my blood. I was born into a family of artists in Lamongan Regency in East Java. My mother used to be in a band. I never received formal musical training, but I learnt how to play my first instrument—the drums—from my brother, Arjuna, when I was 10. He’s also a member of GamelAwan. The two of us having been making music with our friends and playing in bands since we were kids.

Arjuna

Awan’s brother Arjuna (right) taught him how to play his first musical instrument - the drums.

What got you interested in gamelan?

Javanese people are losing touch with our culture and playing gamelan is my way of helping to preserve our traditions. I have also discovered that a lot of other people share my desire to remain connected to our heritage. When I first started uploading songs on YouTube, I didn’t get many views. But the videos became much more popular when I incorporated gamelan. We hit more than three million YouTube views for our first cover song that used gamelan.

Gamelawan band
Gamelan has been played in Java and Bali since antiquity. In this image, Gamelawan band members are playing the kendang (drum), bonang (kettle gong), and gambang kayu (xylophone).

What challenges did you face in building your career?

I’m from a rural area in Java where a career in music is discouraged. People think that musicians are unable to earn a decent living. Besides dealing with society’s expectations, I also faced the same challenges experienced by other performance artists. One particular show in Bali was a disaster because the sound system stopped working as we were performing. But I learn from these experiences and it motivates me to work even harder for success.


How has YouTube helped you?

YouTube is a perfect place to publish my work because everyone uses it. Two years after we published our first video, YouTube invited me to perform on stage at YouTube FanFest in Jakarta as part of a collaboration with Weird Genius, who plays electronic music.


I am really grateful for that opportunity. FanFest is the most prestigious event a YouTube creator can play at. After our performance there, subscribers to our YouTube channel grew a lot faster. We have received a Silver Button for passing the 100,000 subscriber mark. But what we did not expect was that YouTube could get us noticed offline. Since we performed at FanFest, we have made appearances on national television and gotten requests to play at a lot more events.


YouTube was even my match-maker! I met my future wife after she left a comment in one of my videos.

AwanandSani
Awan and his wife Nur Farida Sani.

What are your plans for the future?

The Indonesian and international creators we met at YouTube FanFest inspired us to work on an album of original music. It is a huge shift from our original approach of just covering other artists’ songs. We want to create unique music for people to enjoy, while staying true to our culture and musical traditions. So we will continue fusing gamelan and more contemporary music genres in our next album. Our mission is to use the universal language of music to help communicate Javanese culture to Indonesians and people across the world.

YTFF Gamelawan
Gamelawan playing at YouTube FanFest in Jakarta.

Next Junction: Explore Indian Railways with Google Arts & Culture

Over 151,000 kilometres of track, 7,000 stations, 1.3 million employees and 160 years of history. Indian Railways is one of the most celebrated railway networks in the world. A few months ago, we celebrated the 400th Indian train station connecting to the internet with Google Station, our public Wi-Fi program. Today, we’re bringing Indian Railways’ heritage and sights to the entire world. The most gorgeous architecture, iconic trains and charismatic personalities of Indian Railways can now be found on Google Arts & Culture.


The first rail journey in India, a 14-coach train from Bombay to Thane in 1853 ushered in a new era of an India connected by track, rendering previously remote villages accessible. A century and a half later, just as trains once opened passages across the subcontinent, Google Arts & Culture’s new project  “The Railways — Lifeline of a Nation” is making these passages accessible for the world to experience.


Anyone can now explore India’s railways in unprecedented detail with over 100 exhibitions that bring together more than 3,000 images, 150 videosand 150 iconic locationsacross India. Zoom into ultra-high resolution images made with our Art Camera, like maps of the East Indian Railwaysthat the British used to connect Calcutta with the North West Provinces; get a 360 degree look around the workshops of cardboard rail model enthusiasts; or take a behind the scenes peek at Darjeeling loco shed.

We invite everyone to take an online journey with us to see the breathtaking sights of India’s railways on Google Arts & Culture’sonline platform and the free Google Arts & Culture mobile app on Android and iOS.

Cruising around a supervolcano lake in Street View

Around 75,000 years ago (give or take a couple of millennia), a supervolcano erupted on the island of Sumatra in Indonesia, throwing out so much ash that it created a volcanic winter lasting several years. The eruption was so massive that the volcano collapsed under its own power, creating the caldera we now call Lake Toba.


At over 100 kilometers long and 30 kilometres wide, Lake Toba is the largest volcanic lake in the world. A small team of Googlers spent the last two months scouring every meter of its coastline, using a Street View Trekker mounted on a boat,  to collect gorgeous 360-degree imagery around this former supervolcano.


It may have been a fiery pit of lava in the distant past, but today, Lake Toba is a lush Indonesian rainforest, home to an abundance of native animals like orangutans and tapirs. We weren’t able to catch any of these creatures in the imagery, but we did get a lot of other natural attractions.

Lake Toba looms large in the imagination of the Batak, the people who have inhabited the area for centuries. According to Batak legend, a fisherman caught a fish that turned into a beautiful princess. She married him on the condition that he never reveal her true origin. One day, in a fit of impatience at their son, the fisherman called him a son of a fish. When the princess heard her husband had broken his oath, she told her son to climb to the highest peak in the area. She prayed and it began to rain so hard that the resulting flood created a huge lake. The peak, which her son was on became the island of Samosir, revered by the Batak in the area as their original home. The princess? She went back to being a fish!


Today we invite you to explore Lake Toba, now part of our Street View collection of other amazing places in Indonesia like Borobudur and the sites for the 2018 Asian Games.

Source: Google LatLong


Google for India: Building services for every Indian, in their language

India has the second largest population of internet users in the world—and it’s only getting bigger. Around 40 million new users come online in India every year, and not just from metropolitan centers, but increasingly from rural areas as well. And they’re no longer predominantly men: in the next three years, we expect 45 percent of internet users in India to be women. This rush of new users online has greatly transformed the Indian economy and culture, from the rise of local startups to the growing use of e-commerce, digital payments, ride sharing, and online video by people from Jammu to Thiruvananthapuram.


Sometimes technology can help in extraordinary circumstances. India has gone online to rally behind the victims of the Kerala and Karnataka floods. Our Crisis Response team turned on SOS alerts on Google Search in English and Malayalam, and activated Person Finder to help people search for family and friends. Locations of flood relief resources like shelters are being shared on Google Maps. Outside of the tech support, Google.org and Googlers are contributing over $1 million to support relief and recovery efforts. And others can also donate to Kerala flood relief on Tez.


Technology is a key tool in crises, but it’s also critical for supporting India’s ongoing national momentum. In this spirit, we made announcements at this year’s Google for India event, towards three goals: making the internet work for more Indians, making our products more relevant to Indians, and taking the best of India to the rest of the world.


Making the internet work for more Indians

The first internet users in India consumed English-language content on their PCs, and later, their high-end smartphones. Today, however, there is a generation of internet users with completely different needs—where their first and only internet experience is via a touchscreen and not a keyboard. We have a responsibility to make sure that our products work well for every one of these users.


The first step is to provide more high-quality internet access. Google Station is partnering Andhra Pradesh State FiberNet Limited to cover over 12,000 villages, towns and cities in the state of Andhra Pradesh, potentially reaching 10 million people. This will provide high-quality internet access to areas that have never been connected before, from hospitals to villages.


The second is to help improve the smartphone experience in India. Our Indian hardware partners on Android such as Micromax, Lava, Nokia and Transsion are creating Android (Go edition) phones at prices within reach of more Indians. Early next month Samsung will continue that momentum with the launch of its first ever Android (Go edition) device, the J2 Core.


Many of India’s new internet users favor listening and speaking over reading text. That’s why we’re launching a new feature in Google Go that lets you listen to webpages. Powered by natural language processing and speech synthesis AI, this technology can read billions of webpages smoothly in a natural sounding voice. It supports 28 languages, including Hindi, Bengali, Malayalam, Marathi and Tamil—even on 2G connections.


Making our products more relevant to Indians

The majority of internet users in India today are Indian language users, and this number is expected to reach 500 million in the next two years. Smartphones are not useful unless they work in people’s primary language and provide access to great content in their native tongues.


To that goal, we are working with Indian language publishers to bring more relevant content online. Right now, the amount of online content in Indian languages is only 1 percent of what's available in English. So we’ve started a project called Navlekhā, a word derived from Sanskrit meaning “a new way to write.” This project comprises a tool that uses AI to render any PDF containing Indian language content into editable text, making it easy for print publishers to create mobile-friendly web content. It also provides Indian language publishers with free web hosting with AdSense support, so they can immediately start monetizing their content. Publishers will also receive training and support, and a branded .page domain for the first three years. Navlekhā has already started onboarding publishers from Delhi, and we aim to welcome many more from other regions in September. Sign up for the program at g.co/navlekha.


We’re also expanding the number of languages supported in our existing apps and services. The Search feed will now display your favourite news from both English and Hindi sources, using AI that learns which types of stories you like best. On the Google Assistant, we’re adding Marathi (with seven more Indian languages coming soon) and even more Indian apps—like Where Is My Train, Airtel, and Hello English—making them available through the convenience of voice control.


We’re creating more locally relevant experiences for Indians as well. Google Maps Go now brings turn-by-turn navigation functionality, while incorporating a brand new home screen with handy shortcuts. Google Maps will now also deliver better guidance to public transport riders, informing them of upcoming stops and sending alerts when it’s time to get off. And thanks to our new partnership with RedBus—India's largest inter-city bus ticketing service—more than 20,000 inter-city bus routes in 1,500 cities will be added to Google Maps.


Taking the best of India to the rest of the world

Since launching our India-first payments app Tez last September, over 22 million people and businesses have used Tez to make over 750 million transactions that are collectively worth over $30 billion annually. We believe that many of the innovations and features we have pioneered with Tez will work in other countries. To take Tez beyond India, we will be unifying all of Google’s payment offerings globally. As a first step, Tez will now be called Google Pay.


Other than the name, the app is staying the same with all the great features and functions you enjoy. Sending a gift with a Happy Birthday spark, or paying a merchant directly from your bank account with no fees is as quick and easy as ever. In the coming weeks, we’ll be making Google Pay even more useful by increasing the number of places you can use it in, expanding services for merchants, and working with banks to provide instant loans to Google Pay users.


These are just a few things we’re working on to make sure that Indians have a great experience online, no matter what phone they’re on or what language they speak. We thank all the Indians who watch and upload videos on YouTube, navigate on Google Maps, use Google Pay, and Search for the information they need. By working hard to make your experience better, we’re also building better products for the world.


Announcing the 10 startups that will take the stage at Demo Day Asia

After our open call for startups to apply and pitch to top global investors at Demo Day Asia—taking place this September in Shanghai—we received hundreds of submissions. They came from founders from every corner of Asia-Pacific, across industries as diverse as agriculture, entertainment, and healthcare.


While difficult to narrow down this impressive field, after painstaking deliberation, the results are finally in. Out of 305 qualifying applications, the 10 finalists that will take the final stage at Demo Day Asia are... (drum-roll!):


  • DycodeX from Indonesia develops Internet of Things solutions for livestock farming

  • FreightExchange from Australia is an online platform for freight carriers to sell their unused space to shippers.

  • GITAI from Japan specializes in building robots that can help humans conduct scientific experiments in space.

  • Marham from Pakistan is a healthcare platform that helps people search, book appointments, and consult with doctors online.

  • Miotech from China is a fintech startup developing artificial intelligence-based software for financial services firms.

  • OneStockHome from Thailand offers an e-commerce platform for construction materials.

  • Origami Labs from Hong Kong makes smart rings that allow people to hear and send text messages without taking out their phones.

  • SigTuple from India creates AI-based solutions to automate healthcare screening.

  • SkyMagic from Singapore produces drone swarming technology for live entertainment and traffic management systems.

  • Swingvy from Korea provides human resources solutions for businesses.

We’re proud that several of these companies belong to organisations that are a part of the Google for Entrepreneurs partner network, a community of over 35 member spaces globally and programs supporting startups. They include startups from Kibar in Indonesia, Fishburners in Australia, Hubba in Thailand, Found in Singapore and People Squared in China.


Congratulations to these outstanding startups and their founders! They will pitch to a distinguished panel of leaders from Google for Entrepreneurs, Sequoia Capital China, and Venturra Capital on September 20th in Shanghai. The startups that impress could come home with funding from investors and up to $100,000 in Google Cloud Platform credits. Most importantly, we hope these incredible startups blaze a path forward for other founders and continue to improve the lives of others with their innovative products. Good luck in Shanghai!

On your mark, get set, go! Stay up to speed with the 2018 Asian Games

After 56 years, the Asian Games are coming back to Indonesia. This Saturday, thousands of athletes from 45 nations in Asia will go for gold in Jakarta and Palembang, the two cities hosting the games this year. Here are some ways you can get in on the action.


Track your country’s victories with Search

When you search for Asian Games on Google Search, you’ll find up-to-date information at the top of Search results. Sprint through the medal tally rankings and recent results to see if your country is in the lead. You can also watch videos of highlights and catch up on top news related to the Asian Games.

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Up your Games on Google Maps and Google Earth

If you’re lucky enough to catch the action live in Indonesia, Atung, one of the friendly Asian Games mascots, will show you the best route on Maps when you search for directions. Wondering where your seat in the stadium is? You can sail through the gantries and find it quickly with indoor maps of event venues. And even if you aren’t in Indonesia for the games, you can explore its amazing archipelago, and get inspiration on where to go on Voyager in Google Earth to make the most of your trip.

Can I Play, too? Yes you can.

Head to the Google Play Store and check out selected Asian Games content and deals from Google Play.

asiangames-play

Judo-n’t want to miss out on the 18th Asian Games, and with a few helpful tools from Google you will stay close to the action.

Source: Search


Empowering India’s female entrepreneurs

Editor’s note: This post comes from Rashmi Dhanwani, (pictured) founder of the Art X Company. She’s a member of 91springboard, India’s largest coworking space and startup community with over 8,000 members across 9 cities.

As the founder of the Art X Company, a startup dedicated to promoting greater public access to the arts, I know first-hand the challenges that women entrepreneurs face in trying to get their ideas off the ground. This make a supportive environment all the more crucial for female founders.

I found my supportive environment in 91springboard, India’s largest coworking community—a space where entrepreneurs from diverse backgrounds are encouraged to live out their dreams. Each day at 91springboard, I’m awed by the brilliant ideas produced by our vibrant community of self-made founders. I'm particularly proud of my fellow female founders who are using 91springboard to realize their visions.

91springboard provides a conducive environment for our startups to brainstorm, collaborate and share our stories, creating a community of peers that women entrepreneurs can rely on in a startup world that is not always designed to help us succeed. Since joining 91springboard, I have been able to grow my Art X team and start new initiatives like Art Walks in Bombay. I couldn’t be more grateful for the opportunities I’ve found in this space.

91springboard-lounge

The New Delhi 91springboard space now is home to a Google Lounge, where entrepreneurs can focus on their work and brainstorm their latest innovations with others in the community.


Therefore, it’s incredibly special that 91springboard will be partnering with Google for Entrepreneurs to empower the next generation of female founders in India. With this partnership, 91springboard and Google for Entrepreneurs will provide monthly trainings, seminars and events to support female founders, especially in Tier II cities.

As a member of the Google for Entrepreneurs partner network, 91springboard community members will now have access to work from 35 member spaces globally, and have the opportunity to participate in programs Google runs for startups, such as Demo Day Asia in Shanghai this coming September and Google for Entrepreneurs Exchange.

91springboard is home to some incredible female-led startups, such as Nua Woman, the sanitary pad company that creates and delivers customized packages for each customer, Little Black Book, a one-stop online platform for food, lifestyle and events in India, and Buttercups, one of the first crowdfunded lingerie brands in the e-commerce space in India. Our hope is that with this partnership the number of female led startups in India will continue to grow!