Tag Archives: Europe

Optimizing Airline Tail Assignments for Cleaner Skies

Airlines around the world are exploring several tactics to meet aggressive CO2 commitments set by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). This effort has been emphasized in Europe, where aviation accounts for 13.9% of the transportation industry’s carbon emissions. The largest push comes from the European Green Deal, which aims to decrease carbon emissions from transportation by 90% by 2051. The Lufthansa Group has gone even further, committing to a 50% reduction in emissions compared to 2019 by the year 2030 and to reach net-zero emissions by 2050.

One unexpected approach that airlines can use to lower carbon emissions is through optimizing their tail assignment, i.e., how to assign aircraft (identified by the aircraft registration painted on their tails) to legs in a way that minimizes the total operating cost, of which fuel is a major contributor. More fuel needed to operate the aircraft means higher operating costs and more carbon ejected into the atmosphere. For example, a typical long-haul flight (longer than ~4,100km or ~2,500mi) emits about a ton of CO2.

The amount of fuel needed to fly between origin and destination can vary widely — e.g., larger aircraft weigh more and therefore require more fuel, while modern and younger aircraft tend to be more fuel-efficient because they use newer technology. The mass of the fuel itself is also significant. Aircraft are less fuel-efficient early in their flights when their fuel tanks are full than later when the volume of fuel is reduced. Another important factor for the tail assignment is the number of passengers on board; as the number of bookings changes, a smaller or larger aircraft might be required. Other factors can affect fuel consumption, both negative (e.g., headwinds or the age of the engines) or positive (e.g., tailwinds, sharklets, skin).

During the past year, Google’s Operations Research team has been working with the Lufthansa Group to optimize their tail assignment to reduce carbon emissions and the cost of operating their flights. As part of this collaboration, we developed and launched a mathematical tail assignment solver that has been fully integrated to optimize the fleet schedule for SWISS International Air Lines (a Lufthansa Group subsidiary), which we estimate will result in significant reductions in carbon emissions. This solver is the first step of a multi-phase project that started at SWISS.

A Mathematical Model for Tail Assignment
We structure the task of tail assignment optimization as a network flow problem, which is essentially a directed graph characterized by a set of nodes and a set of arcs, with additional constraints related to the problem at hand. Nodes may have either a supply or a demand for a commodity, while arcs have a flow capacity and a cost per unit of flow. The goal is to determine flows for every arc that minimize the total flow cost of each commodity, while maintaining flow balance in the network.

We decided to use a flow network because it is the most common way of modeling this problem in literature, and the commodities, arcs, and nodes of the flow network have a simple one-to-one correspondence to tails, legs, and airports in the real-life problem. In this case, the arcs of the network correspond to each leg of the flight schedule, and each individual tail is a single instance of a commodity that “flows” along the network. Each leg and tail pair in the network has an associated assignment cost, and the model’s objective is to pick valid leg and tail pairs such that these assignment costs are minimized.

A simple example of the tail assignment problem. There are four legs in this schedule and four possible tails that one can assign to those legs. Each tail and leg pair has an associated operational cost. For example, for Leg 1, it costs $50 to assign Tail 1 to it but $100 to assign Tail 2. The optimal solution, with the minimum cost, is to assign Tail 4 to Legs 3 and 2 and Tail 1 to Legs 1 and 4.

Aside from the standard network flow constraints, the model takes into account additional airline-specific constraints so that the solution is tailored to Lufthansa Group airlines. For example, aircraft turnaround times — i.e., the amount of time an aircraft spends on the ground between two consecutive flights — are airline-specific and can vary for a number of reasons. Catering might be loaded at an airline's hub, reducing the turnaround time needed at outstations, or a route could have a higher volume of vacation travelers who often take longer to board and disembark than business travelers. Another constraint is that each aircraft must be on the ground for a nightly check at a specified airport’s maintenance hub to receive mandated maintenance work or cleaning. Furthermore, each airline has their own maintenance schedule, which can require aircraft to undergo routine maintenance checks every few nights, in part to help maintain the aircraft’s fuel efficiency.

Preliminary Results & Next Steps
After using our solver to optimize their fleet schedule in Europe, SWISS Airlines estimates an annual savings of over 3.5 million Swiss Francs and a 6500 ton reduction in CO2 emitted. We expect these savings will multiply when the model is rolled out to the rest of the airlines in the Lufthansa Group and again when traffic returns to pre-COVID levels. Future work will include ensuring this model is usable with larger sets of data, and adding crew and passenger assignment to the optimization system to improve the flight schedules for both passengers and flight crew.

If you are interested in experimenting with your own network flow models, check out OR-Tools, our open source software suite that can be used to build optimization solutions similar to the solver presented in this post. Refer to OR-Tools related documentation for more information.

Thanks to Jon Orwant for collaborating extensively on this blog post and for establishing the partnership with Lufthansa and SWISS, along with Alejandra Estanislao. Thanks to the Operations Research Team and to the folks at SWISS, this work could not be possible without their hard work and contributions.

Source: Google AI Blog

Ask a Techspert: How do you build a chatbot?

Chatbots have become a normal part of daily life, from that helpful customer service pop-up on a website to the voice-controlled system in your home. As a conversational AI engineer at Google, Lee Boonstra knows everything about chatbots. When the pandemic started, many of the conferences she spoke at were canceled, which gave Lee the time to put her knowledge into book form. She started writing while she was pregnant, and now, along with her daughter Rebel, she has this book: The Definitive Guide to Conversational AI With Dialogflow and Google Cloud

Lee, who lives and works in Amsterdam, is donating the proceeds of her royalties to Stichting Meer dan Gewenst, a nonprofit organization that helps people in the LGBTQ+ community who want to have children. The charity is close to her heart; as an LGBTQ+ parent herself, she wants others like her to have a chance at the joy she feels with her daughter. 

The book itself is for anyone interested in using chatbots, from developers to project managers and CEOs. Here she speaks to The Keyword about the art (and science) behind building a chatbot. 

What exactly is a chatbot?

A chatbot is a piece of software designed to simulate online conversations with people. Many people know chatbots as a chat window that appears when you open a website, but there are more forms — for instance, there are chatbots that answer questions via social media, and the voice of the Google Assistant is a chatbot. Chatbots have been around since the early computing days, but computers, they’ve only recently become more mainstream. That has everything to do with machine learning and natural language understanding. 

Old-school chatbots required you to formulate your sentences carefully. If you said things differently, the chatbot wouldn't know how to answer. If you made a spelling mistake, the bot would run amok! But there are many different ways to say something. A chatbot built with natural language understanding can understand a specific piece of text and then retrieve a specific answer to your question. It doesn't matter if you spell it wrong or say things differently. 

What benefits can the use of chatbots offer companies?
A chatbot works quickly, knows (almost) everything and is available 24/7. That basically makes it the ideal customer service representative. The customer no longer has to wait, the company saves money and the employees experience less stress. As a customer, you get a chatbot on the phone that listens to your question and can answer like a human thanks to speech technology. This way, most customers already receive the answers they need. If the chatbot doesn’t know the answer, it can transfer them to an employee. The customer will not be prompted for information again, as the agent will see that the chat history and system fields are already filled.

Companies are finding more and more ways to use chatbots. For example, since the advent of artificial intelligence, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines has been handling twice as many questions from customers via social media. And technical developer Doop built a Google Assistant Action in the Netherlands in collaboration with AVROTROS, specifically for the Eurovision Song Contest. Anyone who asks for information about the Eurovision Song Contest will hear a chatbot with the voice of presenter Cornald Maas talk about the show. 

How do you build a chatbot?
You can build a chatbot using the Dialogflow tool and other services on the Google Cloud platform. Dialogflow is a tool in your web browser that allows you to build chatbots by entering examples. For example, if you already have a FAQ section on your website, that's a good start. With Dialogflow you can edit the content of that Q&A and then train the chatbot to find answers to questions that customers often ask. Dialogflow learns from all the conversation examples so that it can provide answers.

But just like building a website, you probably need more resources, such as a place to host your chatbot and a database to store your data. You may also want to use additional machine learning models so that your chatbot can do things like detect the content of a PDF or the sentiment of a text. Google Cloud has more than 200 products available for this. It's just like playing with blocks: by stacking all these resources on top of each other, you build a product and you improve the experience, for yourself and for the customer.

Do you have any tips for getting started?
First things first: Start building the chatbot as soon as possible. Many people dread this, because they think it's hugely complex, but it’s better to just get going. You will need to keep track of the conversations and keep an eye on the statistics; what do customers ask and what do they expect? Building a chatbot is an ongoing project. The longer a chatbot lasts, the more data is collected and the smarter and faster it becomes. 

In addition, don't build a chatbot just for one specific channel. What you don't want is to have to build a chatbot for another channel next year and replicate the work. In a large company, teams often want to build a chatbot, but different chat channels are important to different departments. As a company you want to be present on all of those channels, whether that’s the website, on social media, via telephone or on Whatsapp. Build an integrated bot so there’s no duplication of work and maintenance is much easier. 

How do chatbots make life easier for people?
Many of the frustrations that you experience with traditional customer services, such as limited opening hours for contact by phone, waiting times and incomprehensible menus, can be removed with chatbots. People do find it important to know whether they are interacting with a human being or a chatbot, but, interestingly, a chatbot is more likely to be forgiven for making a mistake than a human. People might also have a specific preference for human interaction or a chatbot when discussing more sensitive topics like medical or financial issues, either because they want to have personal, human contact or they would rather not discuss a topic with a human being because they don’t feel comfortable doing so. Chatbots are getting better and better at understanding and interacting, and can be very helpful for interactions about these topics as well. 

Italy’s capital of culture: Parma

The cultural scope of the beautiful Italian Peninsula never ceases to amaze people all over the world. But the possibility of getting to know the traditions and peculiarities of many Italian gems has been drastically reduced since the pandemic hit. Among such treasures is Parma, a delicate city set in the very heart of Italy. Beyond being the capital of iconic food such as Parmigiano and Prosciutto, Parma is a city of incredible cultural heritage that gained the prestigious title of “Italian Capital of Culture for the year 2020” but had to put a year-long calendar of events on hold due to the pandemic. 

Eighteen months later, the city is ready to celebrate its cultural heritage with the world on Google Arts & Culture. The collaboration between the Municipality of Parma and Google brought online the work of 33 institutional partners in the Parma area, including over 17,000 images from the archives of the municipal museums, 30 places digitized with Street View and much more. It’s a  project of true cultural valorization that highlights the magic behind this city.

Travel to Italy from home and check out some of Parma’s wonders. Explore the masterpieces, enjoy the sound of music and get a taste of that Italian cuisine:

  1. Deep into a towering dome: Step inside and see the details of a 27-meters-high dome like you’ve never seen before and learn about the artist Correggio’s devotion to the Benedectine congregation.

  2. Get your artists in place: Thanks to the Google Art Camera, the online experience faithfully reproduces over 200 masterpieces by international artists such as Picasso, Francis Bacon, Goya, Monet and Tiziano Vecellio but also by Italian artists including Ligabue, De Chirico, Boccioni, Filippo Lippi and Parmigianino.

  3. 300,000 bamboo plants: Did you know Parma holds the largest existing labyrinth in the world? Labirinto della Masone was created by the visionary mind of Franco Maria Ricci. It is composed of 300,000 bamboo plants and is considered a magical place, all waiting to be discovered!  

  4. Music to your ears: The land of renowned musicians Verdi and Toscanini, Parma is a favorite destination for opera lovers, who can now immerse themselves in a collection of 10,000 stage photographs, sketches and posters from the newly digitized Casa della Musica(literally “House of Music) archives. Several museums are now online, with the goal of bringing the history of sound reproduction to all ears. 

  5. No stereotypes when it comes to food: Known worldwide for Parmigiano Reggiano, the digital hub also features the Parmigiano Reggiano Museum to discover all about the history of one of the world’s most loved cheeses. 

  6. Did you say Pasta?: “Pasta” is synonymous with Italy so of course the online hub also includes the famous Pasta Museum to virtually transport you from the wheat fields to the traditional Italian household to make pasta. Check it out to truly understand the role that this type of food has played and continues to play in gastronomy, art, culture and in the lives of people around the world.

The journey into the beauty of Parma doesn't end here. Continue to discover the wonders of the Capital of Culture 2020 and 2021and let yourself be amazed by the art, music and culture of the city.  

Want to continue traveling to Italy from home? Look behind the curtain of one of the world’s greatest and oldest theaters, La Scala Theater in Milan or take a virtual tour of some of Italy’s most iconic sites through the “Wonders of Italy” experience. 

This and so much more, on Google Arts & Culture and on the Google Arts & Culture app foriOS and Android

Rediscover your city through a new Lens this summer

With warmer weather upon us and many places reopening in the U.K., it’s the perfect time to go out and reconnect with your surroundings. Whether it’s soaking up that panoramic view of a city skyline that you’ve really missed, or wondering what that interesting tree species was that you pass every day on your park walk, many of us feel ready to reconnect with our cities in new ways.

British cities are especially ripe for rediscovery. As the country emerges from a long lockdown and people start to reintegrate with their cities this summer, we’re launching a campaign called Behind the Lens with Google Pixel, which aims to help people rediscover their cities using Google Lens on Pixel. We’ll do that through a series of events over the coming weeks, alongside some very special guests in London, Bristol and Liverpool.

Vibrant orange and purple flower shown on a Google Pixel 5 using Google Lens, which has identified the flower as a bird of paradise. The result shows information about the plant: “Strelitzia reginae, commonly called a crane flower or bird of paradise, is a genus of perennial plants, native to South Africa…”

Vibrant orange and purple flower shown on a Google Pixel 5 using Google Lens, which has identified the flower as a Bird of Paradise.

Behind the Lens with Google Pixel encourages people to search what they see using the magic of Lens, and rediscover some forgotten pockets of their city using its updated features. Identifying the species of that bird you keep seeing in the communal gardens of London has never been easier, while discovering new, secret ingredients at a farmer’s market in Liverpool can also be done in a snap. Or, perhaps you’ve always wanted to know more about that forgotten landmark from a viewpoint in Bristol. Lens can give you on-the-spot information about a subject with a single long tap on the Pixel camera viewfinder, which is handy since we often have our cameras open and ready to capture the moment. 

With restrictions being lifted in the U.K. this summer, Search trends reveal that there is an opportunity to rediscover our cities through the interests we have acquired over lockdown. From March 23, 2020 through April 21, 2021, Google searches incrementally increased for new skills and classes: Hiking trails near me (+200%), Online gardening courses (+300%) and Online cooking classes (+800%). 

This suggests not only that some of the hobbies the nation nurtured during lockdown are still very much of interest, but also now people can rediscover these within the backdrop of their city, alongside their communities and friends. 

Within Google Lens, the Places filter is selected and the view is showing a clock tower against a bright, cloudy sky. Lens identifies the clock tower as Big Ben and gives results, including a star rating, two alternative views of the tower and an option to search Google.

Within Google Lens, the Places filter is selected and the view is showing a clock tower against a bright, cloudy sky.

A new tool for rediscovery

Google Lens is now used over three billion times per month by people around the world, and with many ready to explore this summer and rediscover their cities, we’re officially launching the new Places filter in Lens. Now available globally, the Places filter makes it easy to identify buildings and landmarks using your phone camera, combining 3D models from Google Earth and Lens’ powerful image recognition technology to create an in-depth, real-time AR experience, similar to Live View on Google Maps.

The Google Lens app Places filter is open on a black Google Pixel 5, showing a view that scans the River Thames and settles on a large bridge with two towers. Upon identification of the structure as Tower Bridge, Lens results show the star rating, alternative images of Tower Bridge to scroll through, and the option to search Google for more information.

The Google Lens app Places filter is open on a Google Pixel 5, showing a view that scans the River Thames and settles on a large bridge with two towers.

Just open the Google app on your phone and tap the camera icon in the search bar to open Lens. Then, switch to the Places filter and point your camera at notable places around you.

We hope Lens makes rediscovering and learning about your city even more enjoyable.

Changes to the Android Choice Screen in Europe

Android provides people with more choice than any other mobile platform. People can freely choose which apps they use, download and set as default — and research shows that Europeans understand how to easily switch search engines should they wish. Android also enables thousands of developers and manufacturers to build successful businesses.

We have been in constructive discussions with the European Commission for many years about how to promote even more choice on Android devices, while ensuring that we can continue to invest in, and provide, the Android platform for free for the long term. 

We complied with a 2018 ruling that required us to distribute Search separately from Google Play. In consultation with the Commission, we then went even further by introducing a promotional opportunity for search apps and browsers and, subsequently, a choice screen requiring Android users to choose a default search provider. In both instances, we balanced introducing additional choice for device manufacturers and users with changes to our commercial terms. 

Following further feedback from the Commission, we are now making some final changes to the Choice Screen including making participation free for eligible search providers. We will also be increasing the number of search providers shown on the screen. These changes will come into effect from September this year on Android devices.

We have always believed in offering people and businesses choice and competing on the merits of our services. And we know that people choose Google because it’s helpful; not because there are no alternatives. That’s why we will continue to invest in Google Search and Android to make them the most helpful products available, and we appreciate the open dialogue with the European Commission on these areas. 

For further details, visit https://www.android.com/choicescreen/.

Everyone needs a holiday – but when and where?

Every day, millions of people around the world turn to Google to search for travel related information. These searches help connect businesses and customers — but they also help us understand people’s enthusiasm when it comes to their travel and holiday plans.

The message we’re seeing is clear: people are eager to travel, so long as they can do so safely.

Trending questions people ask about travel in January vs. May 2021

Trending questions people ask about travel in January vs. May 2021

For the travel industry — an industry that is made up of millions of small and medium businesses that supports many millions of jobs — this will of course be welcome news. But it comes with unique challenges.

Getting online to be in line - for bookings, customers and reviews

Over the past year, we’ve all spent a lot of time online — more time than ever before. So the travel industry, like many others, will need to get online in order to be in line for bookings, customers and reviews.

Anew report by the Connected Commerce Council, funded by Google, shows that digital tools created a "safety net" for small and medium travel businesses in Europe during the pandemic:  86% increased digital tool use during the pandemic and over half of these businesses said they are planning to increase their use of digital tools post-pandemic.

We’re proud to have built tools to help. Since last year, Google has been collaborating with individual businesses, tourism ministries and experts all over the world to build the digital skills needed for a more digital post-pandemic travel sector.

Our partnership with the UN World Tourism Organisation has built acceleration programs in Sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East and Southern Europe — helping participants from across the travel industry to understand trends and plan ahead at a very unpredictable time.

We recently announced our plans to take this regional partnership global — helping tourism officials and destination marketers all over the world make strategic decisions for better tourism planning.

We’re also working with the industry at a local level. In France, our partnership with Atout France, the French tourism agency, has helped create a platform for industry professionals to monitor travel trends. In Spain, our Travel Analytics Center — available to Google’s commercial partners in the travel sector — helped Spanish airline Vueling to get a clear picture of the changing demand for flights during the pandemic, adapting their digital market strategy to reach customers who were likely to buy airline tickets. Using the tool, they managed to increase their flight sales and build a 31% return on their advertising investment.

Pull-quote from Caroline Leboucher on Google Hotel and Destination Insights tool

Finally, our work with Ministries of Tourism, Tourism Boards and cultural institutions has helped to promote travel to cultural destinations, including a virtual exploration of Lagos' Afrobeats and Alte music scene and seven places not to miss when visiting the city.

Google Arts & Culture: Eko for Show: Explore Lagos

Google Arts & Culture - Eko for Show: Explore Lagos

Predicting the future of travel

While tourist destinations and travelers are beginning to regain confidence after months of standstill from the pandemic, there’s no one-size-fits-all way to predict what future demand will look like.

Traditionally, tourist destinations would use historical data — but no former seasons can accurately predict when and where people will want to travel now, and what the ‘new normal’ that businesses will be operating in will look like.

That’s why we launched Travel Insights with Google, a website that features real time local data insights, helping the travel industry to understand demand and make better-informed decisions.

The website has two powerful tools. The first — the Destination Insights tool — helps governments and travel organisations better understand the destinations people are searching for, whether abroad or within their own countries. For example, we might see that German or Austrian travelers are most interested in visiting Croatia, and particularly places like Zagreb or larger coastal destinations. This insight helps businesses, destination marketers and Governments to map the return of travel — and make clear, informed choices about where to communicate with potential future visitors.

Our second tool, Hotel Insights with Google helps hotels of all sizes to understand where demand for their property may be coming from, so that they can better target and attract new guests. It also provides valuable tips on creating a strong digital presence — helping travel businesses to get online and attract bookings, customers and reviews.

Both tools are available globally for free in English with local versions in Europe in Spain, Greece, France, Italy and Croatia — with more languages to come very soon.

Search trends show that as vaccines roll out, travel interest appears to be on the rebound. People want to travel as they feel more confident to book a trip. Since mid-May, search interest has grown over 50% for flights across Europe with Spain, Italy and France topping the list of desirable destinations.

Top 10 trending vacation destinations in Europe

Top 10 trending vacation destinations in Europe

Search trends also show us that outdoor trips are still in style. In the summer of 2020, searches for outdoor recreation reached a 10-year high point, and this trend continues, with theme parks and RV rentals proving particularly popular.

Our commitment to the travel industry

There’s no denying that operating a business in a post-pandemic world can be a little uncertain. But at Google, we want to do our bit — delivering the insights and tools that the industry needs to give customers the travel experience they deserve.

We’ll be working even more closely with the industry as borders begin to open up, domestic travel increases, and international travel restarts.

No matter how quickly or slowly that recovery takes place, we’re committed to supporting travel and tourism - and the many people and businesses that depend on it.

Some changes to our ad technology

The tools used by digital publishers and advertisers —  often called ad tech — help websites and apps make money and fund high-quality content. Ad tech also helps our advertising partners big and small reach customers and grow their businesses. Our ad tech tools are built to work with our partners and competitors alike — it's why we share access to advertising data to support publisher monetization and why we provide access to more than 700 rival advertiser platforms and 80 publisher platforms across our products.

Over the past two years, we have been working with the French Competition Authority (FCA) to answer their questions about our advertising technology, and more specifically about Google Ad Manager, our publisher platform. 

While we believe we offer valuable services and compete on the merits, we are committed to working proactively with regulators everywhere to make improvements to our products. That’s why, as part of an overall resolution of the FCA’s investigation, we have agreed on a set of commitments to make it easier for publishers to make use of data and use our tools with other ad technologies. We will be testing and developing these changes over the coming months before rolling them out more broadly, including some globally. 

Increased access to data 

Today, when buyers use Google Ad Manager to participate in Google’s ad exchange, they receive equal access to data from our auctions to help them efficiently buy ad space from publishers.

As there are a lot of ad exchanges to choose from, publishers sometimes also use a technology called Header Bidding to run an auction among multiple ad exchanges. Because these Header Bidding auctions take place outside of our platform, it is usually not technically possible for Google to identify the participants, and therefore we cannot share data with those buyers. 

With these commitments, we will work to create a solution that ensures that all buyers that a publisher works with, including those who participate in Header Bidding, can receive equal access to data related to outcomes from the Ad Manager auction. In particular, we will be providing information around the “minimum bid to win” from previous auctions. 

Increased flexibility 

Publishers using Ad Manager have always had the ability to sell ads via many different advertising platforms and the ability to negotiate terms with other publisher platforms to implement business strategies targeted to specific buyers. This flexibility allows publishers and advertisers to mix and match technology partners to meet their different needs.

We will further increase the flexibility of Google Ad Manager to meet the evolving needs of our partners, including allowing them to set custom pricing rules for ads that are in sensitive categories and implementing product changes that improve interoperability between Ad Manager and third-party ad servers. Also, we are reaffirming that we will not limit Ad Manager publishers from negotiating specific terms or pricing directly with other sell-side platforms (SSPs). And we will continue to provide Ad Manager publishers with controls to include or exclude certain buyers at their discretion.

Affirming our commitment to transparency

We have worked for years to bring increased transparency to programmatic advertising, including taking steps to simplify our platforms. This includes combining our publisher ad server and ad exchange to become Google Ad Manager and shifting to a unified first price auction in Ad Manager to help reduce complexity and create a fair and transparent market for everyone.

As part of these commitments, we are reaffirming our promise not to use data from other SSPs to optimize bids in our exchange in a way that other SSPs can’t reproduce. We are also reaffirming our promise not to share any bid from any Ad Manager auction participants with any other auction participant prior to completion of the auction. Additionally, we’ll give publishers at least three months' notice for major changes requiring significant implementation effort that publishers must adopt, unless those are related to security or privacy protections, or are required by law. 

We are always working on improving our ad tech products to help publishers fund their content and businesses and help advertisers efficiently reach customers. We recognise the role that ad tech plays in supporting access to content and information and we’re committed to working collaboratively with regulators and investing in new products and technologies that give publishers more choice and better results when using our platforms. 

Funding Europe’s future with the Black Founders Fund

To cement our commitment to racial equity in Europe, last Octoberwe announced the Google for Startups Black Founders Fund, a $2 million initiative to provide cash awards up to $100,000 to Black-led startups in Europe. These are non-dilutive awards, meaning companies won’t have to exchange equity for the funding, and are paired with up to $120,000 in Ads grants and up to $100,000 in Cloud credits per startup. The founders will be introduced to each other and a wider community of experts for leadership, growth, technical support and access to Google for Startups’ body of knowledge, mentors and best practices.   

We often hear that lack of diversity in tech is a pipeline problem. This program shows that isn’t the case. We received almost 800 applications for the fund from 18 countries in Europe and the quality we saw was truly exceptional — from tech prodigies, to former executives of the most successful companies in the world, to serial entrepreneurs. 

Our team interviewed almost 100 founders for the fund to understand their businesses, their ambitions and their lived experience as leaders, whether they are serial or first time founders. Did they need to work three jobs at a time? How much perseverance did it take to get that degree? Did they have a friend or a cousin to call up to get easy funding? We looked at what opportunities each founder has been given (or not given) and what they did with them. The answers we heard made clear the caliber of these founders.

Today, we’re announcing the30 startups from the U.K., France, Belgium, Germany, Austria and the Netherlands who have been selected to receive awards from the Black Founders Fund. Their inspiring, fast-growing startups address global challenges like access to healthcare, financial inclusion, energy and education, in the most competitive industries, from hardware design and advertising to data and risk management. And it’s not only racial diversity that they represent: 40% of startups we selected are led by women.

Lasting change only happens when you engage everyone —  the corporations, the VCs, the angel investors, the founders themselves — and invite them to support each other. With less than 0.5% of venture capital (VC) funding going to Black-led startups, and only 38 Black founders receiving venture capital funding in the last 10 years, the Black Founders Fund in Europe is a third region, after the U.S. and Brazil, where Google for Startups is helping to level the playing field by backing Black founders who are disproportionately locked out of access to capital.  

We are so impressed by the founders’ experiences — the depth of their industry knowledge coupled with their valuable lived experiences of being Black leaders. This makes them uniquely positioned to build successful startups and create important solutions for our community. Backing Black founders not only means creating individual success stories, but also supporting job creation and wealth generation for decades to come. 

Meet a few of the founders:

Research: What really happened to newspaper revenue

Having worked in news publishing for more than two decades, I’ve seen firsthand the impact the internet has had on the way we create and consume news. As people spend more time online, journalists and newspaper publishers are increasingly turning to technology to find new ways to reach readers. From subscriptions to data analytics to new formats, the news industry is transforming itself. 

While digital reader revenues are growing at a promising rate, there is no doubt that the publishers’ business model has been challenged over the past several decades. Some critics have argued that if Google and Facebook didn’t exist, much of the revenue from print newspapers would have stayed with news publishers – that these tech platforms directly disrupted the newspaper business model.

New research released today looks at the facts which disprove that theory. The analysis from economists at Accenture, commissioned by Google, looks at the revenues of newspapers in Western Europe over nearly two decades to reveal exactly what broke the old business model for newspapers. The data is clear: Almost half of the overall decline of newspaper revenue has come not from Search or social advertising, but from the loss of newspaper classifieds to specialist online players. 

The countries included for analysis in this report are Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the U.K., chosen based on the availability of robust data. Here’s what the report found:

Consumers are increasingly paying for digital news. 

Four out of five of us now access news online. As a result, many publishers are using the latest technologies, including artificial intelligence, to reach readers and grow subscriptions. While many readers are not in the habit of paying for access to news, between 2013 and 2018, digital circulation volumes increased by 307% to reach 31.5 million paying subscribers in the Western Europe region, more than offsetting the decline in paid print subscriptions. Since 2018, the pace of publishers launching digital subscription models has accelerated further, which is a promising sign. 

However, the growth in online revenue has not been enough to offset the loss from newspaper print advertising. As people move online, regular display advertising in newspapers became less popular, with revenue in this segment decreasing from €13.8 billion to €8 billion between 2003 and 2019. 

What happened to newspaper revenues?

The majority of advertising in newspapers was made of classifieds like selling cars and homes, or listing jobs, and births and deaths notices. These advertisements, or “classifieds,” contributed €9.9 billion – almost a quarter – of newspaper revenues, and newspapers collected 93% of all classified advertising in 2003.

However, by 2019, only 32% of that revenue was going to newspapers, generating just €2.8 billion, with the drop accounting for 44% of newspapers’ total revenue decline over the period. 

Loss of classifieds
Loss of classifieds

This shift was driven by the emergence of a large number of digital only sites like Scout24 and Rightmove for real estate; Totaljobs for Jobs and Mobile.de, Automobile.it, Bilbasen and Motors.co.uk for cars. Many of these were formerly owned by newspaper publishers or media groups.

Rise of online "pure play" websites

What about online advertising? 

That’s not all that has changed, of course. Over the same period we’ve seen the transformative development of search and social media platforms. In turn, the value of online advertising has grown significantly from €2.2 billion in 2003 to €50.5 billion in 2019, along with growth in all advertising sectors. 

But this did not come at the expense of newspaper revenues. In fact, the research shows that Internet advertising as a whole has grown predominantly from new opportunities. Online advertising represents an entirely new way for advertisers to connect with their customers. Among other things, it created a scalable and cost-effective opportunity for small and medium- sized businesses to reach consumers in a way they couldn’t afford to before, and of course for newspapers to place ads alongside their content online.

What does this mean for newspapers? 

Today we spend more time than ever before consuming news, and there are many innovative new publishers that would have struggled to get a foothold in the days of the printing press. There are green shoots of growth amid traditional newspapers, too. GEDI in Italy implemented a data strategy to improve reader engagement, increase subscriptions and drive revenue from advertisers, and Dagens Nyheter in Sweden uses three different paywall strategies to convert readers to paid subscribers, reducing the number of people who cancelled their subscription from 15% to 8% in just two years. 

Google is significantly contributing to that growth. Over the past 20 years, Google has collaborated closely with the news industry and is one of the world’s biggest financial supporters of journalism, providing billions of dollars to support the creation of quality journalism in the digital age. 

Delve into the research and find out more on Accenture’s website

How The FA used tech to get the ball rolling

For millions of football fans across the U.K. and around the world, the return of live matches in the English Premier League was a long-awaited milestone in the recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Enter Project Restart: the nickname given to the Premier League’s attempts to resume the season while ensuring the safety of players and fans. But with self-distancing as one of the key preventive measures against COVID-19, how could the safety of players be ensured when they’re interacting on the pitch? We at The Football Association (FA) were proud to have partnered with the Premier League to help in this aspect of the project.

A critical area addresses the challenge of ensuring players can interact at peak levels while observing the self-distancing norms still recommended by health authorities. To do this, we created a new analysis of thousands of hours of match play, and used machine learning technology to tell us about contact risk during a 90-minute football match.

We looked at all 380 games from the 2018/19 Premier League season, and the 288 pre-lockdown games from the 2019/20 Premier League season. Incredibly, this showed us over 40 billion interactions between players, captured in 100 million video frames which collectively made up 10 terabytes of data. Even the longtime players, coaches, and fans among us were staggered by how much goes on, even in one game.

Our system tracked players on the field at a rate of four-one hundreths of every second, ensuring we could analyse every interaction for concern about possible exposure. We employed the Exponential Model, developed by Danish public health academics, which at the time was considered the most accurate modelling of virus transmission during a football match. 

The model focuses on the 1.5 metre radius around each player, paying strict attention to the two second rate of decay, or half life, that COVID particles typically have in infecting a person in certain environmental conditions. Staying on the safe side, we employed a simplified model, which considered a player that is within two metres of an infected player during the half-life of the virus to be 100% exposed. 

As you may have guessed, all of this work involved gathering and analysing a tremendous amount of data from multiple sources, on some of the most advanced computing available. Working with Google Cloud, we used Google BigQuery to store the data and run a built-in machine learning model based on the simplified Model. BigQuery looked at an average of 145,000 rows of data per game analysed, examining every frame of tracking data for distance between all pairs of players on the pitch throughout an entire match. This fast and powerful toolset was critical to our success. 

What we concluded was good news: During a 90-minute football match, players spent on average a total of 90 seconds within a two-metre proximity of each other. Include goalkeepers into the calculation, and the average time decreases to 70 seconds. 

In other words: the risk factor of exposure to players was considered low, and we therefore determined that it was safe to keep the ball rolling. To be sure, players continue to be tested for symptoms of COVID infection before games, but this interaction data provides us with a critical level of reassurance.

It's great news, but it also reminds us that vigilant awareness and rigorous analytic insight help ensure not just a successful return to play, but a broader sense of confidence about the future of Premier League Football. We're building on a proud heritage of innovation, camaraderie and looking out for each other — the true heart of sport. 

The end result - we were able to keep the ball rolling

The end result - we were able to keep the ball rolling