Tag Archives: #GoogleCloud

Toronto researchers build machine learning tool with Google Cloud to track COVID-19 genomic data

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit early in 2020, Vector Institute in Toronto had to close its labs and send its students and faculty to work at home. Dr. Bo Wang, Lead Artificial Intelligence Scientist at the University Health Network and Faculty Member at Vector, redirected his team to prioritize urgent COVID-19 research. Ph.D. student Hassaan Maan, who works in Dr. Wang's lab on machine learning for healthcare, wanted to help in the global efforts to combat the pandemic's impact, too. He had an idea: a web-based visualization tool to process public COVID-19 viral genome data.

With Dr. Samira Mubareka of the Sunnybrook Health Sciences Center and Dr. Andrew McArthur, associate professor in the department of biochemistry and biomedical sciences and director of the biomedical discovery & commercialization program at McMaster University, Maan developed the COVID-19 Genotyping Tool (CGT ). The application provides insights into transmission pathways, outbreak epicenters, and key viral mutations. It allows users to upload viral genome data from patients anywhere in the world and analyze it in real-time. “In doing so,” says Wang, “they can determine the context of local events with respect to the global picture, and help shape local health policy and alert the community to any key changes in viral evolution.”

Intuitive deployment within a week 
Maan started developing the app in the R-Shiny framework because he was already familiar with it. Still, he needed a place to deploy all the data, which would have to scale as the number of users and uploads grew — and genome sequences require massive data processing. His solution: Compute Engine on Google Cloud. “Google Cloud offers elastic deployment and is optimized for containers in Docker,” he says. “I had never developed a tool like this, but Google Cloud had intuitive guides and docs. I deployed the app within a week. ” Now the team is working on implementing larger batch uploads.

Maan sees two main benefits for researchers using CGT: “First, it helps track the evolution of the virus' mutations. Most mutations may be harmless or synonymous, but some variations in the genome could change how the disease is treated and transmitted. That kind of data surveillance is very important for predicting new outbreaks. Second, it's also important to track the virus' transmission backwards. By tracing a cluster of cases's origins, we know more about how it spreads. This tool lets us ask new questions in new ways. ”

Making COVID-19 data accessible through machine learning 
The Vector team made CGT publicly available on a website in June 2020, and the tool has averaged about 10,000 new genomes uploaded every week since. “With the total number of publicly posted SARS-CoV-2 genomes rapidly approaching 100,000, CGT is proving to be an invaluable resource for rapidly visualizing and tracking viral genomes worldwide,” says Dr. Terrance Snutch, professor at the Michael Smith Laboratories at the University of British Columbia and chair of the Canadian COVID-19 Genomics Network. “As the pandemic progresses into autumn and schools begin to reopen, the tool can be a critical component of genotyping efforts, carried out in smaller communities dealing with localized outbreaks

For Maan, the project has exciting implications for responding to the global pandemic: “The app allows researchers to sift through genetic information and find potential patterns of transmission on a broad scale. For example, getting travel histories from every COVID-19 patient has been uneven. CGT can help guide public health policy and inform travel restrictions. When genomic sequencing of the virus picks up, it will be even more useful. ”

Both Maan and McArthur received Google Cloud research credits through Dr. Wang's lab for this COVID-19 related project. If you're interested in accessing complementary credits to drive your own research, Google is funding projects all the way from modeling the COVID-19 outbreak to predicting sepsis and discovering new planets. Click here to learn more. 

Posted by the Google Cloud Team

Google Meet premium video meetings—free for everyone

Technology that connects us while we're apart helps keep us safe and productive. Over the past few months, we’ve seen the power of video meetings bring us together—whether we’re working with teammates, talking to healthcare professionals, sharing with loved ones, or learning from home.

Today, we’re making Google Meet, our premium video conferencing product, free for everyone, with availability rolling out over the coming weeks. We’ve invested years in making Meet a secure and reliable video conferencing solution that’s trusted by schools, governments and enterprises around the world, and in recent months we’ve accelerated the release of top-requested features to make it even more helpful. Starting in early May, anyone with an email address can sign up for Meet and enjoy many of the same features available to our business and education users, such as simple scheduling and screen sharing, real-time captions, and layouts that adapt to your preference, including an expanded tiled view.

It’s important that everyone who uses Meet has a secure and reliable experience from the start, so beginning next week, we’ll be gradually expanding its availability to more and more people over the following weeks. This means you might not be able to create meetings at meet.google.com right away, but you can sign up to be notified when it’s available.

Meet operates on a secure foundation, keeping users safe, data secure, and information private—including between patients and caregivers.

Video meetings built on a secure foundation
Meet is designed, built and operated to be secure at scale. Since January, we’ve seen Meet’s peak daily usage grow by 30x. As of this month, Meet is hosting 3 billion minutes of video meetings and adding roughly 3 million new users every day. And as of last week, Meet’s daily meeting participants surpassed 100 million. With this growth comes great responsibility. Privacy and security are paramount, no matter if it’s a doctor sharing confidential health information with a patient, a financial advisor hosting a client meeting, or people virtually connecting with each other for graduations, holidays and happy hours.

Our approach to security is simple: make products safe by default. We designed Meet to operate on a secure foundation, providing the protections needed to keep our users safe, their data secure, and their information private. Here are just a few of our default-on safety measures:

  • We provide a strong set of host controls such as the ability to admit or deny entry to a meeting, and mute or remove participants, if needed.
  • We do not allow anonymous users (i.e., without a Google Account) to join meetings created by individual accounts.
  • Meet meeting codes are complex by default and therefore resilient to brute-force “guessing.”
  • Meet video meetings are encrypted in transit, and all recordings stored in Google Drive are encrypted in transit and at rest.
  • We don’t require plugins to use Meet on the web. It works entirely in Chrome and other modern browsers, so it’s less vulnerable to security threats.
  • On mobile, we have dedicated Google Meet apps in the Apple App Store and Google Play Store.
  • Meet users can enroll their account in Google’s Advanced Protection Program—our strongest protections available against phishing and account hijacking.
  • Google Cloud undergoes regular rigorous security and privacy audits for all its services. Our global compliance certifications can help support regulatory requirements such as GDPR and HIPAA, as well as COPPA and FERPA for education.
  • Your Meet data is not used for advertising, and we don't sell your data to third parties.

We operate a highly secure and resilient private network that encircles the globe and connects our data centers to each other—ensuring that your data stays safe. Trust is built on transparency and we publish the locations of all our data centers. You can learn more about how Meet keeps your video meetings safe in this post.

Free Google Meet accounts for individuals
You can use Meet to schedule, join or start secure video meetings with anyone—for a virtual yoga class, weekly book club, neighborhood meeting, or happy hour with friends. Until now, Meet has only been available as part of G Suite, our collaboration and productivity solution for businesses, organizations and schools. Going forward, Meet will be available to anyone for free on the web at meet.google.com and via mobile apps for iOS or Android. And if you use Google Calendar, you’ll be able to easily start or join from there, too.

Use your existing Google Account to start a secure meeting in Google Meet

If you have an existing Google Account (for example, if you’re a @gmail.com user), sign in at meet.google.com to get started. If you don’t have a free Google Account, it only takes a minute to create one using your work or personal email address of choice (we require this step as a security measure, and you’ll only need to do this once).

Meetings are limited to 60 minutes for the free product, though we won’t enforce this time limit until after Sept. 30. Creating a trusted meeting space is important, and being mindful when sharing meeting links in public forums can help create a safe experience for all attendees. For more tips on how to use Meet securely and effectively, visit our Help Center.

Google Meet for groups and teams
Groups within an organization can also use Meet to create video meetings that help coworkers connect one-on-one, collaborate as a team, and more. For organizations that aren’t already G Suite customers, today we’re announcing G Suite Essentials. G Suite Essentials is perfect for teams that need access to Meet’s more advanced features, such as dial-in phone numbers, larger meetings, and meeting recording. G Suite Essentials also includes Google Drive for easy and secure access to all of a team’s content, and Docs, Sheets and Slides for content creation and real-time collaboration.

Through Sept. 30, we’re providing G Suite Essentials and all of these advanced features free of charge. If you’re interested in G Suite Essentials, complete this form to get in touch with our sales team.

Google Meet for businesses and organizations
Whether it’s hospitals supporting patients via telehealth, banks working with loan applicants, retailers assisting customers remotely, or manufacturers interacting safely with warehouse technicians, businesses across every industry are using Meet to stay connected. If you’re one of the 6 million companies and organizations that use G Suite to power remote productivity, you already have access to Meet. Admins simply need to enable Meet by following instructions outlined on our Help Center. In the spirit of being helpful during this time, we’re providing three ways for new and current enterprise customers to access Meet through Sept. 30:

  • Free access to Meet’s advanced features for all G Suite customers, such as the ability to live stream for up to 100,000 viewers within your domain.
  • Free additional Meet licenses for existing G Suite customers without any amendments to their current contract.
  • Free G Suite Essentials for enterprise customers. Enterprises can get in touch with our sales team to learn more.

Google Meet includes live captions powered by Google’s speech recognition technology

Google Meet in schools and higher-ed institutions
Many schools and colleges today use Meet to power secure virtual classes, PTA meetings, parent-teacher conferences, tutoring, and even school socials. Meet is included in G Suite for Education, which serves more than 120 million students and teachers globally. If your school already uses G Suite for Education, your administrator can enable Meet at no additional cost. If your school doesn’t use G Suite for Education, you can sign up here. To access resources for distance learning, visit Teach from Home.

Our hope is that by making Meet and G Suite more readily available for all, it will be easier to securely stay connected and productive—now and in the future.

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Google Cloud announces new Toronto region to support growing customer base in Canada

For more than a decade, we’ve been investing in Canada to become a go-to cloud partner for organizations across the country, from Vancouver to my hometown of St. John’s and every city in between. Whether they’re in financial services, media and entertainment, retail, or another industry, a rapidly growing number of Canada-based organizations are choosing Google Cloud to help them build applications better and faster, store data, and ultimately deliver awesome experiences to their own users.

To support our expanding customer base in Canada, we’re excited to announce a new Google Cloud Platform region coming to Toronto. We’re working constantly to bring you new cloud products and capabilities in Canada, and our goal is to allow you to access those services quickly and easily — wherever you might be in the country. That’s why we decided to build this new region in Toronto, complementing our existing one in Montréal, which marked Google Cloud’s official arrival in Canada when we opened it in 2018.

Like Montréal, the new region will have three zones, allowing organizations of all sizes and industries to distribute apps and storage to protect against service disruptions. It will also launch with our core portfolio of Google Cloud Platform products, including Compute Engine, App Engine, Google Kubernetes Engine, Bigtable, Spanner, and BigQuery.

And the benefits don’t stop there. The Toronto region will provide distributed, secure infrastructure to help you meet disaster recovery and compliance requirements—something our customers have been asking for, especially financial institutions, public sector organizations, e-commerce providers, and other businesses operating in highly regulated industries.

While we’re thrilled about this news, don’t take it from us. We asked some of our customers with Canadian roots for their take on the upcoming cloud region. Here’s what they had to say:

  • David Furlong, SVP Artificial Intelligence, Venture Capital and Blockchain, at Banque Nationale: “Paired with their existing Montréal region, Google Cloud’s Toronto region will benefit the Canadian financial industry, enabling highly regulated organizations to perform disaster recovery while meeting data residency requirements.”
  • Ken Pickering, CTO at Hopper, the popular travel booking app: “Having already collaborated closely with the Google Cloud team in Montréal, where we’re headquartered, we look forward to their Toronto expansion. Google Cloud services are allowing us to bring a lower-latency travel planning and booking service to our customers. The second Canada region will allow us to extend that experience to more people around the world.”
  • Andrew McCormack, CIO at Payments Canada, a national payment clearing and settlement system that uses Google Cloud solutions like Apigee to digitize and manage its hybrid cloud environment: “System performance and security are critical for us an organization that clears and settles hundreds of billions of dollars every day. Google’s new Toronto cloud region will help us continue to modernize our infrastructure, strengthen our resilience, and create a digital platform for innovation.”

Today, Google Cloud customers around the world are currently served by 22 cloud regions and 67 zones. When we complete it in 2021, Toronto—along with three additional cloud regions we announced today on the other side of the world, Delhi, Doha, and Melbourne — will be part of our worldwide network of secure and reliable infrastructure.

For the latest and greatest updates on service availability, visit Google Cloud locations. Just getting started with Google Cloud? You can contact our sales team or find a local partner.

Posted by Jim Lambe, Managing Director, Google Cloud Canada