Tag Archives: London

Let’s fill London with startups…

London has become one of the world’s great digital capitals. The Internet accounts for eight percent of the U.K. economy and has become, in these days of tough public finances, a welcome engine of economic growth.

We believe there is even more potential for entrepreneurs to energize the Internet economy in the U.K., and to help spur growth, today we’re opening Campus London , a seven story facility in the east London neighborhood known as Tech City. Google began as a startup in a garage. We want to empower the next generation of entrepreneurs to be successful by building and supporting a vibrant startup community. Our goal with Campus is to catalyze the startup ecosystem and build Britain’s single largest community of startups under one roof.

The U.K.’s Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Rt. Hon. George Osborne MP, launched Campus at this morning’s official opening. The Chancellor toured the building, meeting some of the entrepreneurs currently making their home in Campus and learning more about their innovations, ranging from fashion trendsetting websites to personalized London leisure guides. He then flipped the switch on a commemorative graffiti plaque.

Campus is a collaboration between Google and partners Central Working, Tech Hub, Seedcamp and Springboard. It will provide startups with workspace in an energizing environment and will also host daily events for and with the community. We will run a regular speaker series, alongside lectures and programing, as well as provide mentorship and training from local Google teams.

Visitors will have access to a cafe and co-working space, complete with high speed wifi. We welcome members of the startup community: entrepreneurs, investors, developers, designers, lawyers, accountants, etc. and hope that this informal, highly concentrated space will lead to chance meetings and interactions that will generate the ideas and partnerships that will drive new, innovative businesses.

The buzz around Campus from within the startup community has meant that today, on day one, Campus is already at 90% capacity, with more than 100 people on site and an additional 4,500 who have signed up online to visit.

We are looking forward to getting to know the community. East London is emerging as a world-leading entrepreneurial hub, and we’re excited to be a part of it. Take a photo tour of Campus here, and if you’d like to learn more, visit us at www.campuslondon.com.

Let’s fill this town with startups!

(Cross-posted from the European Public Policy blog)

Remembering Colossus, the world’s first programmable electronic computer

It’s no secret we have a special fondness for Bletchley Park. The pioneering work carried out there didn’t just crack codes—it laid the foundations for the computer age.

Today, we’d like to pay homage to a lesser-known contributor—Tommy Flowers. Bletchley Park’s breakthroughs were the product of theoretical mathematical brilliance combined with dazzling feats of engineering—none more so than Flowers’ creation of Colossus, the world’s first programmable, electronic computer.

Photo of Dr. Thomas “Tommy” Flowers. Reproduced with kind permission of the Flowers family

By 1942 the hardest task facing Bletchley Park’s wartime codebreakers was deciphering messages encrypted by Lorenz, used by Germany for their most top-secret communications. Initially Lorenz messages were broken by hand, using ingenious but time-consuming techniques. To speed things up, it was decided to build a machine to automate parts of the decoding process. This part-mechanical, part-electronic device was called Heath Robinson, but although it helped, it was unreliable and still too slow.

Tommy Flowers was an expert in the use of relays and thermionic valves for switching, thanks to his research developing telephone systems. Initially, he was summoned to Bletchley Park to help improve Heath Robinson, but his concerns with its design were so great he came up with an entirely new solution—an electronic machine, later christened Colossus.

When Flowers proposed the idea for Colossus in February 1943, Bletchley Park management feared that, with around 1,600 thermionic valves, it would be unreliable. Drawing on his pre-war research, Flowers was eventually able to persuade them otherwise, with proof that valves were reliable provided the machine they were used in was never turned off. Despite this, however, Bletchley Park’s experts were still skeptical that a new machine could be ready quickly enough and declined to pursue it further.

Fortunately Flowers was undeterred, and convinced the U.K.’s Post Office research centre at Dollis Hill in London to approve the project instead. Working around the clock, and partially funding it out of his own pocket, Flowers and his team completed a prototype Colossus in just 10 months.

Photo of the rebuilt Colossus which you can visit at The National Museum of Computing in the U.K. 
 Reproduced with kind permission of The National Museum of Computing.

The first Colossus came into operation at Bletchley Park in January 1944. It exceeded all expectations and was able to derive many of the Lorenz settings for each message within a few hours, compared to weeks previously. This was followed in June 1944 by a 2,400-valve Mark 2 version which was even more powerful, and which provided vital information to aid the D-Day landings. By the end of the war there were 10 Colossus computers at Bletchley Park working 24/7.

Once war was over, all mention of Colossus was forbidden by the Official Secrets Act. Eight of the machines were dismantled, while the remaining two were sent to London where they purportedly were used for intelligence purposes until 1960. It wasn’t until the 1970’s that Colossus could begin to claim its rightful crown at the forefront of computing history.

Tommy Flowers passed away in 1998, but we were privileged recently to catch up with some on his team who helped build and maintain Colossus.

This week heralds the opening of a new gallery dedicated to Colossus at the U.K.’s National Museum of Computing, based at Bletchley Park. The rebuilt Colossus is on show, and over the coming weeks it will be joined by interactive exhibits and displays. Bletchley Park is less than an hour from Central London, and makes a fitting pilgrimage for anyone interested in computing.

(Cross-posted on the European Public Policy Blog)

Data Journalism Awards now accepting submissions

Last November, we announced our support for a new Data Journalism competition, organized by the Global Editors Network. The competition is now open to submissions and today we hosted an event at our offices in London to share details on how to compete and win a total of six prizes worth EUR 45,000. The European Journalism Centre is running the contest and Google is sponsoring.

Journalism is going through an exciting—if sometimes wrenching—transition from off to online. Google is keen to help. We see exciting possibilities of leveraging data to produce award-winning journalism. “Data journalism is a new, exciting part of the media industry, with at present only a small number of practitioners,” said Peter Barron, Google’s Director of External Relations. “We hope to see the number grow.”

In data journalism, reporters leverage numerical data and databases to gather, organize and produce news. Bertrand Pecquerie, the Global Editor Network’s CEO, believes the use of data will, in particular, revolutionize investigative reporting. “We are convinced that there is a bright future for journalism,” he said at the London event. “This is not just about developing new hardware like tablets. It is above all about producing exciting new content.”

The European Journalism Centre, a non-profit based in Maastricht, has been running data training workshops for several years. It is producing the Data Journalism Awards website and administering the prize. “This new initiative should help convince editors around the world that data journalism is not a crazy idea, but a viable part of the industry,” says Wilfried Ruetten, Director of the center.

Projects should be submitted to http://www.datajournalismawards.org. The deadline is April 10, 2012. Entries should have been published or aired between April 11, 2011 and April 10, 2012. Media companies, non-profit organisations, freelancers and individuals are eligible.

Submissions are welcomed in three categories: data-driven investigative journalism, data-driven applications and data visualisation and storytelling. National and international projects will be judged separately from local and regional ones. “We wanted to encourage not only the New York Times’s of the world to participate, but media outlets of all sizes,” says Pecquerie. “Journalism students are also invited to enter, provided their work has been published.”

An all-star jury has been assembled of journalists from prestigious international media companies including the New York Times, the Guardian and Les Echos. Paul Steiger, the former editor-in-chief of the Wall Street Journal and founder of the Pulitzer Prize-winning ProPublica, will serve as president.

Winners will be announced at the Global News Network’s World Summit in Paris on May 31, 2011.

(Cross-posted from the European Public Policy Blog)

DatenDialog – Big Tent goes to Berlin

In May, we held our first Big Tent conference near London, where we debated some of the hot issues relating to the Internet and society with policy-makers, academics and NGOs. The term “big tent” not only described the marquee venue but also our aim to include diverse points of view.

After the U.K. success, we decided to export the concept. Yesterday we welcomed more than 200 guests in Berlin, Germany to the second Big Tent event, entitled DatenDialog.

This dialogue about data tackled the issue of online privacy from a variety of angles. It was appropriate to hold it in Germany, which is a pacesetter both in its concern about privacy and its ideas for safeguarding personal data. During the one-day event, we debated questions such as: what does responsible collaboration between the tech industry and the data protection authorities look like? Do we need new regulation to manage the Internet and the large amount of data produced in the online world? Who is responsible for educating users and how does the tech industry make sure it builds privacy controls into its products?

Speakers included the German State Secretary for the Interior Cornelia Rogall-Grothe and the Federal Data Protection Commissioner Peter Schaar, alongside international authors and bloggers Cory Doctorow and Jeff Jarvis who appeared via live video chat from the U.S.

The debate was always lively, sometimes polarised—Cory likened amalgamated data to nuclear waste while Jeff appealed to governments not to regulate for the worst case—but all seemed to agree that it was a worthwhile and timely exercise to explore these important issues.

You can watch the highlights soon on our Big Tent YouTube channel, and stay tuned for more Big Tents on a range of topics around the world in the coming months.

(Cross-posted from the European Public Policy Blog)

Google Photography Prize: Looking for the photography stars of the future

Google+ is only a few months old, but the photography community is already thriving on it. Take a look at the profiles of Scott Jarvie, Thomas Hawk, Colby Brown or Claire Grigaut to see just a few of the inspiring photographers on Google+. More than 3.4 billion photos have been uploaded to the platform in the first 100 days.

We’re really excited about this, and think great art deserves great exposure. So we’re teaming up with Saatchi Gallery, London for the Google Photography Prize, a chance for students around the world to showcase their photos on Google+ and have their work exhibited at a major art institution.

The contest is open to university students around the world (some exceptions apply, see google.com/photographyprize for more details). From far-away places to up-close faces, there are 10 different categories to spark your imagination. And there are some great prizes to be won: 10 finalists chosen by a jury of renowned photographers will show their work at Saatchi Gallery, London for two months in 2012 alongside Out of Focus, a major photography exhibition, and win a trip to London to attend the exhibition opening event with a friend. One winner will go on a once-in-a-lifetime trip to an amazing destination with a professional photography coach.

It’s easy to enter: After you pick a category, upload your photos to Google+ and share them with the world as a public post, then visit the submission form on google.com/photographyprize by January 31, 2012 to enter.

Saatchi Gallery, London will share updates on their Google+ page for the contest, so add it to your circles if you want to see the great work that’s being submitted.

We can’t wait to see your photos!

Rain or shine, see the weather in Google Maps

(Cross-posted on the LatLong blog)

Whether you’re organizing a trip overseas or a picnic at a local park, knowing the weather forecast is a crucial part of the planning process. Today, we’re adding a weather layer on Google Maps that displays current temps and conditions around the globe, and will hopefully make travel and activity planning easier.

To add the weather layer, hover over the widget in the upper right corner of Google Maps and select the weather layer from the list of options. When zoomed out, you’ll see a map with current weather conditions from weather.com for various locations, with icons to denote sun, clouds, rain and so on. You can also see cloud coverage, thanks to our partners at the U.S. Naval Research Lab. And, if you look closely, you can also tell if it’s day or night around the world by sun and moon icons.

Enabling the weather layer also gives you an instant weather report for friends and family living around the world. For example, it looks like my family in London isn’t experiencing the best summer weather right now:

Weather near London, UK

Clicking on the weather icon for a particular city will open an info window with detailed data like current humidity and wind conditions, as well as a forecast for the next four days. Below is the upcoming forecast for my location in wintertime Sydney, which seems to have the similar weather as London!

Weather near Sydney, Australia in satellite view

Changing the units of wind speed (Mph/KMph/Mps) and temperature (F/C), and enabling or disabling the clouds (when you’re zoomed out), can also be done from the left-hand panel.

Weather left hand panel

Get started now and check out the weather layer here.