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Editor's note: Today’s guest bloggers are Lawrence Olszak, Director of Technology Services and William Cheaks Jr., Deputy Commissioner of Infrastructure Management at the Chicago Department of Transportation. See how other forward-thinking organizations are investing in mapping technology and transforming their business: Maps are Going Google.

When Rahm Emanuel became mayor of Chicago in 2011, the city’s infrastructure was seriously aging. Under an ambitious program to reinvest in making Chicago a world-class city, we repaved city streets, replaced sewer and gas lines and installed new water pipes all across the city. There were a lot of projects happening and little to no coordination between the 26 different utilities and agencies doing the work.

To better manage the many overlapping projects—which often meant pavement and streets were dug up and restored twice—the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) launched the Project Coordination Office (PCO). The PCO, which is overseen by locally based Collins Engineers, Inc., needed a way to make it easy to share data stored in different siloed databases and display it on a map. The PCO contracted with Google for Work Premier Partner SADA Systems to develop dotMaps, an interactive web mapping service providing collaborative tools that allows people to manage, create and edit, as well as resolve overlapping projects—or conflicts—using geolocation, all in real-time. This application was built on many Google products: Google Maps Engine, the Maps API and Cloud Platform, which offer infrastructure for hosting applications and includes App Engine, a hosted service used for building web applications.
Lawrence Olszak, Director of Technology Services
Before dotMaps, workers spent a lot of time jumping around between different applications in order to validate the accuracy of the data provided. Now, the processes for overseeing projects are streamlined, permit and project data is accessible in one central location and it’s all viewable on a “live” interactive map. We’ve ported information on all the 30,000 current projects, including details like type of project, agency in charge, date of construction and other data, into the dotMaps so agencies can easily search for projects using that information and by address. For instance, users can attach construction contract plans directly into the map so a field inspector can view it on a mobile device while visiting a project site, without having to ask someone in the office to email it. Workers in the field—affectionately dubbed “asphalt helpers”—can search in the mapping application for information on projects, such as why there may be a hole in a sidewalk at any particular intersection. In the past they would have had to make several phone calls to try to find the employee who could answer that question.

Not only is all the data now in one place, we are able to improve our inter- and intra-agency communications. Employees used to share information about new projects and updates in weekly three-hour meetings where dozens of people would provide input. Today, people share that information in real-time directly in the dotMaps. They provide updates, ask questions and communicate via a pop up “chat” window that is displayed just by clicking on a project location marked on a map. Email notifications are sent out to people who need to see the updates.

The new PCO processes and dotMaps mapping solution helps officials to make more informed decisions about scheduling projects which has already saved the city $14.5 million YTD 2014, by eliminating duplicated work—saving resources and reducing the amount of time streets are closed. Citizen complaints about works projects to local officials also have been dramatically reduced. In the future, we plan to use Google satellite imagery, traffic and transit data to make the mapping even more useful. With the help of Google tools we’re on target to rebuild Chicago one construction project at a time.

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Editor's note: Today’s guest blogger is Ian Kalin, Director of Open Data at Socrata, a provider of cloud-based software that helps public sector organizations increase transparency, improve citizen service and make data-driven decisions. Ian is a former U.S. Navy Officer and White House Presidential Innovation Fellow who led open data projects for the U.S. Department of Energy. See how other forward-thinking organizations are investing in mapping technology and transforming their business: Maps are Going Google.

As a former government employee, I know firsthand that there is tons of valuable data locked away in databases and spreadsheets on government computers; data that may never see the light of day. Until recently there was no easy way for citizens to view, use and share that information. Now, technology is liberating data so organizations can use it in new ways.

Socrata publishes its geospatial datasets onto Google Maps Gallery to make it easier to discover and use public sector maps. Before using Maps Gallery, people would have to do separate online searches for different types of information, and hope that it was in a web-browser friendly format. Then they would have to visualize all the data points on a map. Now that we’ve added maps to Google Maps Gallery, users don’t need sophisticated technical skills to get to the data and make it actionable. They can more quickly find answers to their questions — such as, where should I open a restaurant? or which neighborhood should I move into? — then personalize the information to their needs, and make informed decisions.
Using the Socrata platform, the City of Chicago has published several helpful maps on Google Maps Gallery for its residents. This map shows locations of affordable housing developments with contact information for potential renters.
We’re seeing all sorts of exciting things happen with open data projects like these. Governments are becoming more transparent and providing better service to the public, enabling citizens to access and consume information in more useful and beneficial ways. Our partnership with Google Maps means that even more data will be opened up and easier to consume. Displayed on the web’s most popular mapping interface, we’re one step further in ensuring that valuable data is in the hands of the people who need it most.

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Posted by Dr. Naoyuki Kitamura, CEO, Japan’s Medical Network Systems Inc.

Cross-posted on the Google Cloud Platform blog

Japan faces a critical shortage of radiologists. Although major hospitals are well equipped to conduct scans, the scarcity of experts to read them and give patients their diagnoses means that people, especially those in rural areas, often have to wait a long time to discover their results. This can have tragic consequences for people with serious conditions.

To address this shortage and help people get accurate diagnoses faster, Medical Network Systems Inc. (MNES) in Hiroshima started running a remote diagnosis service in 2000. Rather than waiting for patients to come to hospitals, we bring the radiology equipment to them. This teleradiology service has helped combat the challenge of getting scanning technology to people in remote areas; however, we are still short on specialists that can read the scans, and we wanted to find ways to give access to patients in areas without specialists.

Last year, our team started using Google Cloud Platform to power our remote-diagnosis systems. Patients used to be given a hard copy of their scan to take to a doctor or specialist. Moving the process to the cloud speeds everything up. All of our buses are equipped with CT scanning machines, so our technicians upload images and scans right from the bus. Specialists can then log into the system from wherever they’re working and see the scans and diagnose the patient remotely.

Reading scans is a very specialized process. Radiologists must examine lots of images and scans in a very particular sequence, and it’s important that this process isn’t laggy or slow. One of the benefits of using Google’s services is that they can handle massive volumes of information. Google App Engine processes the images and data in the right sequence and enables us to cross reference patient inputs with existing radiographic and pathological information.

Instead of waiting for a few days or a week for a diagnosis, which was the usual turnaround for our teleradiology service, patients get their results within a few hours. And it’s not just our patients benefiting from remote diagnosis; enabling our radiologists to work from anywhere has meant that many of our female specialists are able to stay in the workforce — diagnosing scans while working from home and taking care of their kids. With so few radiologists in Japan, this flexibility helps us keep skilled technicians in the workforce.

We’re optimistic about the potential for cloud-based technology to enrich our understanding of pathological issues and believe it signals a new chapter for the healthcare industry by removing geographical barriers between patients and doctors.

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Editor's note:Today’s guest blogger is Milt Baker, CEO at Blue Water Satellite. BWS is the leading provider of algorithmically enhanced satellite images that identify the presence and concentrations of minerals, vegetation, chemical and biological constituents on land and in water. See how other forward-thinking organizations are investing in mapping technology and transforming their business: Maps are Going Google.

At Blue Water Satellite (BWS) we use satellite imagery to monitor the world's land and water resources. Our goal is to change the way these resources are managed by helping our customers get detailed, real-time data about the minerals, vegetation and chemical constituents on land or in water, anywhere in the world. We’re doing it better and faster now that we we’re using Google Earth Engine and Maps Engine to automate the image-serving process.

Our customers need accurate, digital information about the resources in a particular area. For instance, power plants use our imagery to measure water effluent temperature and ensure they’re complying with cooling regulations. Previously, an engineer would have to travel to take manual samples and send them back to the lab for testing. This provided information about a finite area, but didn’t show what was happening in the entire region over time. Our imaging technology makes it possible to get that data without having to get in a boat or car, take samples, then wait for the results.

The richness of our satellite imagery provides valuable information to our customers, but poses a challenge when it comes to delivering data at scale. After being quoted hundreds of thousands of dollars for a single software product that would automatically process and serve our images, we asked one of our engineers to investigate Google Earth Engine. Using Earth Engine, within three days we had figured out how to integrate the functionality we previously got from multiple products in a unified, high-speed, cloud-based solution. Soon we were processing and delivering our imagery using Earth Engine, without buying expensive hardware and software licenses, or training people to use the software.
Using Google Earth and Maps Engine, BWS can deliver processed images to customers seamlessly formatted for any browser-enabled device — desktop, smartphone, tablet — anywhere in the world. In addition to being familiar and easy-to-use, Google Maps imagery is rich in detail and comprehensive. Google has archived historical shots going back to 1984, which means our customers can see how resources have changed over time and note degradation trends. Google also provides ancillary data, so we can see the names of buildings and other physical objects that are in and around the water and land sites.

With nano-satellites, drones and hyperspectral cameras on the horizon, we’re excited for the future of mapping. Google Earth and Maps Engine are very much a part of that vision too, giving us and our customers the processing power we need to improve the way we use data and solve resource issues on earth.

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Editor's note:Today’s post comes from guest blogger Sanjeev Kumar, Group CIO and Group President – Business Excellence of Adhunik Group, a conglomerate in India with businesses in mining, steel and power. Read Adhunik Group’s full story here.

The name of our business is both a moniker and a reflection of our philosophy: just as 'adhunik' means 'cutting-edge' in Hindi, the Adhunik Group is always looking for new ways to innovate, both in creating better products and services and in making our operations more efficient. Our focus on staying ahead is the key to our success. We are one of the fastest-growing conglomerates in India, overseeing more than 15 mines, three steel plants, 1 merchant power generation unit and 14 offices around the world.

Time is money for the Adhunik Group. Our businesses operate round-the-clock, so project delays, mechanical or IT based, can cost us almost US$1 million a day in penalties and costs. We’re always looking for reliable technology solutions that can improve our business operations.

We adopted cloud computing in 2010, but continued to look for more cost-effective, innovative alternatives as we grew. If we had better visibility into our operations, we could accelerate project delivery and make decisions faster. What we needed was a reliable, intuitive platform in line with our culture of productivity. We found our solution in Google Apps for Work, and moved over with help from our partner, MediaAgility.

We felt the benefits immediately. Our employees feel better connected across the organisation with Google Apps for Work, and are able to respond faster to each other. They’re now more energised and showing much higher morale. The numbers speak for themselves: Google Apps for Work is 70 percent cheaper than our previous solution and yet delivers up to a 15 percent increase in productivity. We also see further cost savings because of its reliability and effectiveness. There’s no need for frequent servicing, IT support or customisation.

The technology has completely transformed the way we work. Teams spread across different business units and locations use Google Sites as an internal project management portal to help them work together, track progress and share ideas. The added visibility provided by Google Sites means that everyone can look for ways to improve project effectiveness and optimise timelines. Today, project timelines are more predictable, so we don’t have to deal with penalties from project delays. Instead of sharing files over email, we now store them in Google Drive, where team members can work on them together at the same time.

Customer relationships have significantly improved too with the help of Google Hangouts. We connected cameras that were already installed at our manufacturing sites around the world to Google Hangouts to show customers how we work in real-time. Our customers love it. They can now see the progress of their orders and be assured that their items will arrive on time. This unique capability helps us stand out in a crowded market.

Google Apps for Work has raised our efficiency levels. With Google Apps for Work driving innovation in the company, Adhunik Group can now truly live up to our name.

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Editor's note: Today’s post comes from guest blogger Meheriar Patel, Chief Information Officer of USV Limited, a healthcare company from India. See what other organisations that have gone Google have to say, and find USV Limited’s full story here.

At USV Limited (USV), we’ve been in the business of pharmaceuticals for more than half a century. Today, more than 4,000 employees work in six offices and four plants in India, manufacturing and marketing our products to 75 countries around the world. We believe that the key for us to succeed in the highly competitive healthcare industry is to constantly innovate on internal collaboration, operational processes and research capabilities. Technology is key to delivering faster market response.

A few years ago, we realised our client-server email system, which we had developed in-house, was inefficient. Our IT team spent too much time trying to overcome storage and bandwidth limitations and hardware breakdowns. Productivity was hit hard as employees lost emails. It was definitely time for us to look for a better way to foster internal collaboration and support growing employee demand for mobile email access.

Google Apps for Work stood out as the ideal solution to achieve our productivity goals. We rolled it out swiftly in all areas of the business, from manufacturing to office operations. Employees found Google Apps for Work very easy to use, while Google's 99.9% uptime guarantees us peace of mind.

Employees appreciate the flexibility they have when it comes to accessing and sharing emails and documents from anywhere, whether they’re on their laptops, tablets and smartphones. We can access business-critical information more quickly too. With our previous in-house system, sales reports used to take us at least 10 days to complete. Now, by sharing sales information in Google Drive, our employees update and analyse sales performance in real-time, and respond to customer demands faster.

We found Google Sites and Hangouts to be great employee-connectors, and morale boosters too. We use templates in Sites to develop internal websites with just a few clicks. Employees can upgrade their skills when they choose with the educational resources shared on Sites. Google Hangouts saves us travel time and costs by connecting everyone in multiple cities and locations. With the “screenshare” feature, we edit documents in Drive and make critical decisions on-the-spot.

Our IT Department also experiences greater benefit from the highly secure system. Google’s Apps Script helps us automate the logging of all IT actions, a requirement for any company operating in a regulated environment. Our IT team now focuses on enhancing the customer experience instead of low-value tasks like spam control and updating security software.

At USV, we believe that successful healthcare companies must continue improving themselves. We are looking for new ways to move forward, with further process automation to connecting with channels and customers directly. And we believe that Google for Work helps us secure long-term benefits for our employees and customers.

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Editor's note: Our guest blogger this week is A V Dharmakrishnan, CEO of The Ramco Cements Limited. Read more about RCL Wind Farms’ full story here.


RCL Wind Farms was established in 1993 to help supply power to our group’s cement manufacturing operations. Previously, power costs took up as much as 40% of our expenses. Generating our own captive power gave us significant savings on cost of operations.

Today we have built a capacity of approximately 160 MW of electric power from over 200 wind farms. Some of this is used to power our manufacturing facilities and the rest is sold to the state (Tamil Nadu Electricity Board).

From the start, we wanted everything to be automated. And in the 1980s, we were one of the first companies to have an ERP system. The ERP served us well, generating more than 1,200 reports to support planning and decision-making. However, we wanted to take a step further. We thought about integrating the ERP system with a mapping solution that could immediately show us how individual wind turbines are performing. We envisioned a visually rich dashboard where we could quickly pinpoint areas that need immediate attention.

We found what we needed in Google Maps API for Work. We plotted the location of our 229 wind turbines and integrated this with performance data information from the ERP system. The result is a single screen that tells us all the key turbine performance indicators at-a-glance.

For example, similar turbines located within the same area should be able to produce roughly the same amount of electricity at any one time. On the Google Maps API for Work dashboard, the performance of each wind turbine is marked using a colour coding system. Wind turbines of similar make, in close proximity, should show the same colour coding on the dashboard. One look at the colour bullets will tell us if a wind turbine is not performing at its expected level. This important insight lets us address issues that are impacting turbine efficiency and output levels quickly.

The new solution has also realised benefits in other ways. Using Google Maps API for Work, field maintenance crew can now plan the most effective routes to reach faulty wind turbines. In meetings with vendors, we use the data generated from the solution to drill down our discussions to maintenance and efficiency improvements. Overall, Google Maps API for Work has increased our use of wind farms for power generation by 10%.

Google Maps API for Work helps us turn complex data into simple information that we can use to achieve greater cost savings and efficiency. In fact, with Google Maps API for Work, expanding the use of green power in our business just makes perfect business sense.