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Does Google listen in when you use Google Voice?

The dotcoms of this world generate massive amounts of web server logs. Users upload files. Make comments. Vote on items. All this data is unstructured data. Google has just pushed the bar higher with their Google instant that is able to change almost instantly* their search results based on real-time data changes. Percolator is the real-time indexing that makes it all possible. Really impressive to see indexes change almost real-time for a company that moves daily 20 peta bytes of data [= almost 30.000.000 CDs].

So if Google is able to index all our web data, what about our voice and video data? Google Voice brought voice transcription to the general public. Voice transcription is based on machine learning. Every time a voicemail is incorrectly transcribed, users are able to “teach” Google how to do it right. This will make Google’s voice transcription quickly the best trained in the world. From there it is only a small step to also connect it to all Google Voice calls. Next step is to index what you say. Real-time indexing is key to interpret this vast amount of new content! So not only when you send a Gmail message talking about a trip you are planning to Paris, will you get advertisement from travel agents, but also when you talk to your friends about the trip.

Can Google go any further? Yes of course. Don’t forget Google Talk and Android. Two more sources to get voice data from. Google Talk can be used now. Android probably only if you use Google Talk or Google Voice on your mobile given the excessive data charges you would get if you would send “normal circuit” calls to Google.

Where are today’s limits of image recognition? Especially in videos? Taking a video with an Android phone and uploading it to Youtube could also mean that GPS data of where the video was taken could be included. Google Goggles ‘ technology could then find out what it is you were doing.  Probably not possible today but let´s wait some months…

What this means is that Google will very likely be able to subsidize more customer services if you are willing to trade-in some extra privacy. “Free” calls and even video calls for Android will definitely set it apart from iPhones, Nokias, etc. Google would need to subsidize wholesale interconnects to other providers, which are not that bad compared to end-user prices. But could marketing dollars also subsidize a monthly data plan? If yes then Google could become an MVNO and offer free phone and data services. This would be a killer feature to subscribe to Google Voice on the mobile. Killer in both senses, but not the positive sense for operators…

Where does this leave operators? Again a piece of their voice and SMS pie will disappear. But also a large piece of monthly subscription fees. Today there is very few operators can do to defend themselves if they don’t change their own rules. Every operator that thinks their assets are sacred, RFQ’s will bring innovation and scalability is about writing a large check to Oracle, will likely suffer.  Those that are willing to experiment with disruptive innovations and are open to discuss the previously unthinkable, still have a window of opportunity…


* There are delays between the time a page is updated and the new results being visible due to crawler and indexing delays so real-time indexing does not mean real-time search results.

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