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(Cross-posted on the Google for Education Blog.)

Editor’s Note: Today we hear from our Chief Education Evangelist, Jaime Casap, who spoke at First Lady Michelle Obama’s 2015 “Beating the Odds” Summit. The event welcomed more than 130 college-bound students from across the country and focused on sharing tools and strategies to help more students successfully transition to college and complete the next level of their education.

Last week I had the honor of sharing my story with over 130 college-bound students at First Lady Michelle Obama’s "Beating the Odds" Summit — part of her Reach Higher initiative. These students came from across the country and different backgrounds. They included urban, rural, foster, homeless, special needs and underrepresented youth, all of whom have overcome substantial barriers to make it to college.

In my daily job I get to work with a group of people focused on building technology and programs that can help support teachers, who help empower their students to be lifelong learners. I believe education has the power to rid poverty and change the destiny of a family in just one generation. Reach Higher has the same mission: to invest in our students and help them get the education they need to thrive.

This mission is also deeply personal for me. I was raised in Hell’s Kitchen, New York by a single mother who came to America from Argentina. On my first day of school, I didn’t speak English. I grew up fast and watched my elementary school friends turn into addicts and criminals. When I looked for a road out, I saw only dead ends, until I realized education was a road out. But it wasn’t easy: everything around me shrieked, “you won’t make it; you aren’t meant to succeed.”

I realize now that the negative voices are always there; you have to push them down. With the help of my teachers, I graduated from high school and committed to going to college. There were many times when I felt like I didn’t belong — at that time the college graduation rate for Latinos was around five percent — but I graduated with a double major, packed up my stuff and drove across the country to pursue a Master of Public Policy degree. The only way I did it was by convincing myself to prove the naysayers wrong.

Education didn’t just change my life, it changed my family, too. I now have three kids, and my eldest daughter graduated from college last month. I never had a conversation with her about college, she just assumed she was and should go to college. My 14-year-old wants to build a college curriculum for himself focused on game design. My kids don’t face the barriers I did; they see no obstacles in their way.

This is to say that I believe in what the First Lady is trying to accomplish with Reach Higher. Students must go beyond high school graduation — whether that’s a four-year college, community college or a technical/certification program. One reason this is essential is because today’s high-school-only graduates earn just 62 percent of what their college-graduate peers earn. We need to prepare all our students, especially our most vulnerable students, for their future and help them reach high.

Often we ask our students the wrong question: “What do you want to be when you grow up.” Instead, we should ask “What problem do you want to solve?” We should empower students to take ownership of their learning. As much as I want students to be college and career ready, I also want them to be curious lifelong learners ready to tackle the world’s problems.

For millions of students, “reaching higher” means beating the odds with a lot of hard work, a healthy disrespect for the impossible, and some luck. It means ignoring self-doubt and proving the haters wrong. It means being proud of the experiences that define you — they will be a competitive advantage some day. It means believing in education and believing in yourself, then sharing your story with the world.

See recorded coverage of the event.

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(Cross-posted on the Google Geo Developers Blog.)

Editor’s note: Today’s guest blogger is Brett Dowling, founder and President of Tixsee, an innovative Fan Experience Management Platform for the sports, entertainment and venue management industries. Read how Tixsee used Google Maps APIs to build a unique ticket-purchasing platform for the Dallas Mavericks.

When you go to a basketball game, you want to make sure you get great seats, secure an awesome view of the court and are able to find your way around the arena. That’s what we’re doing for fans of the Dallas Mavericks with our Tixsee platform, an immersive shopping experience that lets people see the view from their seats before purchasing.

From the Mavericks’ Web site, fans can take a tour of the arena, stroll the aisles to see the view of the court from any seat, then buy a ticket. They can also tour the Mavericks’ store and buy team gear. Visitors make their way around the arena using familiar Street View controls. We used the Google Maps Street View Service in the Google Maps JavaScript API to build this experience. We worked with Business Photos America, a Google Maps Business View Trusted Agency, to take more than 12,400 images of the arena. We used those images to create more than 1,000 high-definition panoramas that re-create the arena in 3D.
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The Mavericks’ ticketing platform is much more than just the site’s interactive interface. Just as important is the content management system (CMS) that lets the team do things like create special offers to drum up excitement and increase ticket sales. We use the Google Maps Embed API to embed the Street View imagery inside the CMS. The backend users can then orient the panoramas and preview campaigns before deploying to the live project. For a social media campaign, they hid a photograph of an autographed team ball in the virtual arena, and the first person to find the ball online was able to keep it. Traffic to the site spiked.
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We’ve got a lot more planned, especially for mobile, because we know people will be bringing their phones to the arena. We have plans to release apps for iOS and Android in the near future. We’ll be using the Google Maps Directions API so people can find their way to one of the eight parking lots near the arena, then navigate right to their seats. It’s all part of our ultimate goal: to build a platform for the Mavericks that intensifies the fan experience and reinforces the value of purchasing tickets to live events at the arena.

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India’s small businesses aren’t small when it comes to economic impact. They employ over 106 million people, make up almost a quarter of the workforce, and contribute close to half of the nation’s manufacturing output. As the country looks to drive growth, create jobs and increase exports as part of the Digital India initiative, we teamed up with Deloitte to see how cloud and mobile tools could help small businesses support these national goals, and the results are striking.

The new report, “Connected Small Business — Unlocking India’s digital potential” finds that businesses that use cloud and mobile tools are more profitable, more innovative, export more and have happier, more productive staff. Compared to offline businesses, those that use cloud and mobile tools grow 27% annually, are four times more innovative and are 65% more likely to be exporting.

They’re also job creators — 84% said they’re hiring. With employees at these digitally engaged businesses six times more satisfied with their work and nine times more collaborative, it’s clear that technology decisions are impacting more than the bottom line: they also create happier, more productive employees.

As someone who talks with businesses about how Google Apps for Work has helped their businesses grow, go global or connect and collaborate with their employees more easily, these findings put some numbers to the great stories I hear everyday.
Freshdesk employees collaborate on tablets at their Chennai office.


Take software startup Freshdesk for example. Founded in Chennai in 2010 with eight staff, they now employ over 450 people and have over 59 million end users — 90% of which come from outside of India. Google Apps has supercharged their team’s ability to meet this rapid growth. With Google Drive, employees work together on documents in real time from anywhere, on any device. While video conferencing with Google Hangouts helps the team stay in touch regardless of timezone or location.

Or take Bangalore delivery business SpoonJoy: founded in 2014, they now deliver around 3,000 healthy and delicious meals to hungry Bangaloreans everyday. Their team uses Google Apps and estimates that cloud and mobile tools enable them to open their business in a new area in a third of the time it would take without these tools.

It’s not just startups or technology businesses that are reaping these digital dividends. Logistics company Pickingo estimates that having real-time access to delivery information with cloud and mobile tools has increased its orders by around 15%. Manufacturing company EMCO attributes 30% of their business growth to the adoption of digital technology.

Companies that are able to collaborate across teams and even continents are the ones unlocking great ideas that are succeeding in India today. These businesses understand that being digitally engaged goes beyond having a website. They’re enabling their staff to work from anywhere on any device, and are making important business information accessible to them. With India focused on supercharging economic growth and employment, the winning formula could just be the greater adoption of cloud and mobile tools by the country's small businesses.

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(Cross-posted on the Google Drive Blog.)

With Google Drive, you can keep all your important files in one place, then open them with your choice of apps and devices. Building on this open approach, we recently made it possible to launch your favorite desktop applications directly from Google Drive. And today we’re taking it a step further by bringing Google Drive to Microsoft Office.

Using the new Google Drive plug-in, people using Office for Windows can now open their Word, Excel and PowerPoint documents stored in Drive, then save any changes back to Drive once they’re done.
If you’re working on a document, spreadsheet or presentation that’s on your computer, you can also save that file to Google Drive, directly from the Office apps. This is especially useful for sharing files with teams, or for accessing your files across devices.
With this plug-in, you can use the apps you’re already comfortable with, while benefitting from the security and convenience of Google Drive.

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Editor’s note: Today’s guest blogger is Chris Huff, Vice President of Mobile Development at The Weather Channel. Read how The Weather Channel uses Google Maps APIs to power their popular Android app. The Weather Channel is just one of many customers who shared their story as part of our cross-country road trip, Code the Road.

We know from experience that the combination of weather, mapping and community input can result in ideas that keep people safe and informed. Our Android app goes far beyond basic weather forecasting, which is why we chose Google Maps. We use Google Maps Android API, Google Maps JavaScript API and ImageOverlays to place geodata, such as weather alerts, hurricanes and storm tracks and weather tiles, such as radar maps and clouds, on top of Google Maps.

Radar maps are one of the app’s main features, and we work hard to get them right. We get radar imagery from multiple sources and produce raster images from them. Then we take hundreds of the images and animate them in a frame-based animation sequence. The Google Maps Android API gives us overlays to place the animation on top of maps, and also lets us add additional objects such as pins and polygons to visualize lightning strikes or a storm’s direction. You can see an example below.



The more local weather reporting is, the more accurate it is; a thunderstorm may skip one neighborhood but hit another. So to improve accuracy and to build a community around our app, we’ve worked to make it more social. People send us information about weather near them, and we use the Google Maps Android API to add a pin to the map for each user-created report. Anyone can tap a pin to see the detailed report. Here’s an example of social weather reporting.
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With more than 68 million downloads, the app has been a tremendous success. We get 2 billion requests for radar maps every year. There’s an old saying that everyone talks about the weather but no one does anything about it. We beg to disagree. With the Google Maps APIs we’re giving people detailed, useful live information about the weather, and we believe that’s doing quite a bit.

As part of the Code the Road series we hosted the 24-hour hackathon event, “Storm the Road: Hack for Safety with The Weather Channel and Google Maps”, on June 23. The event gave developers an opportunity to come together to create a new app or feature for mobile or web that helps keep the public safe and informed.

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Every day, thousands of companies switch off their on-premise servers and move to the cloud. And more than five million businesses around the world have taken that shift to the cloud by moving to Google Apps, including Woolworths, BBVA, Roche and PwC.

But one big question remains unanswered: what’s going to happen to all those dark, windowless little server rooms?

We teamed up with PDM International, an interior design consultancy, to propose a few ideas for how those rooms could be used today. This is what they envisioned.
Karaoke at lunch anyone?


The salad bar just got real.


Play ALL the games!




The servers are gone. It’s time to reclaim the office.

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(Cross-posted on the Official Gmail Blog.)

The Gmail team is always working hard to make sure that every message you care about arrives in your inbox, and all the spam you don’t want remains out of sight. In fact, less than 0.1% of email in the average Gmail inbox is spam, and the amount of wanted mail landing in the spam folder is even lower, at under 0.05%.

Even still, Gmail spam detection isn’t perfect. So today we’re sharing some of the new ways we are supporting the senders of wanted mail, and using the latest Google smarts to filter out spam.

Getting the mail you do want with Gmail Postmaster Tools

Gmail users get lots of important email from companies like banks and airlines—from monthly statements to ticket receipts—but sometimes these wanted messages are mistakenly classified as spam. When this happens, you might have to wade through your spam folder to find that one important email (yuck!). We can help senders to do better, so today we’re launching the Gmail Postmaster Tools.

The Gmail Postmaster Tools help qualified high-volume senders analyze their email, including data on delivery errors, spam reports, and reputation. This way they can diagnose any hiccups, study best practices, and help Gmail route their messages to the right place. For you, this means no more dumpster diving for that confirmation code ;-)

Google smarts for less spam

Since the beginning, machine learning has helped make the Gmail spam filter more awesome. When you click the “Report spam” and “Not spam” buttons, you’re not only improving your Gmail experience right then and there, you’re also training Gmail’s filters to identify spam vs. wanted mail in the future. Now, we are bringing the same intelligence developed for Google Search and Google Now to make the spam filter smarter in a number of ways.

  • For starters, the spam filter now uses an artificial neural network to detect and block the especially sneaky spam—the kind that could actually pass for wanted mail.
  • We also recognize that not all inboxes are alike. So while your neighbor may love weekly email newsletters, you may loathe them. With advances in machine learning, the spam filter can now reflect these individual preferences.
  • Finally, the spam filter is better than ever at rooting out email impersonation—that nasty source of most phishing scams. Thanks to new machine learning signals, Gmail can now figure out whether a message actually came from its sender, and keep bogus email at bay.

Ultimately, we aspire to a spam-free Gmail experience. So please keep those spam reports coming, and if you’re a company that sends email, then check out our new Postmaster Tools. Together we can get the wanted mail to the right place, and keep the spam where it belongs.