Six AI-driven updates in Google’s G Suite

The search giant is applying its cutting-edge data processing and AI skills to G Suite. Is it time to ditch Office yet?
3 December 2018

G-Suite is packing some new, shiny updates. Source: Shutterstock

If you’re a user of Google’s cloud-based collaboration and productivity products, G Suite, you’ve probably noticed a number of small tweaks emerging here and there.

Dripped out over the course of the six months, and aimed at saving you time in carrying out team-based tasks, the search giant has introduced a number of updates which, it claims, are driven by a modicum of artificial intelligence (AI).

While some of these are available to general users already, others are only available in the G Suite Early Adopter Program (EAP), or beta— for Business and Enterprise-level subscriptions, which come at varying costs on a per user, per month basis.

We’ve listed these key updates below.

# 1 | Cloud Search

You knew you saw it, but was it in a Doc, a Sheet, in Hangouts, or Gmail? Using the Cloud Search app, users can search the entire G-Suite and its various properties, including Google Drive, for the particular file they’re after.

This function is now also available to search for third-party data, such as MySQL and Oracle databases, as well as Windows and SharePoint intranet files, and it’s not just exact phrase-matches you need, either. Cloud Search also responds to conversational queries using natural language processing (NLP), allowing users to navigate vast banks of data with phrases such as ‘my next meeting’ or ‘Docs edited by Anna’.     

# 2 | Docs grammar check

Available in EAP and, to be fair, a staple of most Word Processors, Google has finally introduced real-time grammar checker to its collaborative Docs program.

Utilizing the same machine learning technology used in Translate, according to Google, Business and Enterprise users can switch grammar check on or off in the ‘Tools’ drop-down; anything that Google considers a possible error will be highlighted, presenting users with the option to either accept a recommended correction or ignore it.

Long overdue or not, the addition adds to attraction to G-Suite as an Office alternative. But for Basic-level users that can’t wait for a wider rollout, online grammar-check platform Grammarly is currently beta testing integration with Docs, offering a pretty capable alternative.

# 3 | Smart Compose

Available right now for free Gmail account holders, Smart Compose auto-completes typed sentences in email based on insights gleaned on an individual’s writing style.

Presumably working by scraping the contents of the ‘Sent’ folder, the Smart Compose feature will suggest in grey text the rest of a sentence being typed; the user can accept the suggestion by hitting tab, or just continue typing if they’d prefer to use their own wording.

Gmail’s Smart Compose tool in action. Source: Google

While Smart Compose may not hit home in every email, where it’s handy is in autocompleting commonly-typed phrases such as your business address, date or phone number. On the other hand, if you find it nothing more than a distraction, you can easily turn the feature off in general settings.

# 4 | Google Hangouts

Much like Smart Reply, which Google says enjoys uptake among 12 percent of users, a similar feature is now available for users of its direct messaging platform Google Hangouts.

Based on the content of messages received, the feature will offer users three possible replies, such as ‘Yes please’, ‘No thanks’, and usually something a bit less formal, like ‘Great!’. After selection, these will enter your text box where they can be sent as is, or be briefly edited.

Rolling out to basic versions of G-Suite this year, the update could come as welcome relief to those bogged down in today’s endless plethora of comms channels and could be received particularly well on mobile, where it’s a lot more tempting to tap a suggestion than type a full reply.

# 5 | Google Voice

Another one exclusive to EAP, Google Voice— available on the consumer-side only up until now— has now been introduced for enterprise, providing staff members a unique phone number for calling, texting and voicemail that can be reached from any smartphone or computer.

Employees can pick their phone numbers or administrators can assign them. The real benefit for enterprise is that Voice blocks spam calls by default and transcribes voicemails.

# 6 | Investigation tool

Available to G Suite’s Enterprise users, Google’s investigation tool forms part of the G Suite security center, and provides administrators with visibility over potential weak spots in one dashboard.

That includes things like users’ password strengths and malware checks for individual accounts. But, more importantly, it lets admins take direct action against threats, such as deleting organization-wide phishing emails or detecting private or sensitive information being shared outside of the company.

The upshot…

TechHQ has already discussed why a Chromebook could be the next consideration for your team’s hardware needs. With G Suite now offering a range of upgraded, AI-driven productivity perks, as well as some serious security tools, trading out your Office subscription for some of Google’s weightier subscription services might just be next on the list.