Maps, LBS bolster Google Enterprise's Asia roadmap

Geospatial and location-based services will be a key feature for the Web giant's enterprise arm in Asia going forward, as it hopes to help companies get better insights into their stored data.
Written by Jamie Yap, Contributor

Google Enterprise wants to grow its business in Asia-Pacific by focusing on its Maps and location-based services (LBS) technologies, given that many companies here are not yet making full use of their stored data with location details.

Doug Farber, Asia-Pacific and Japan managing director at Google Enterprise, told ZDNet in a phone interview that besides its Web-based Google Apps suite, Postini, Google Compute Engine and Google App Engine, the Internet company is now expanding to include its mapping and location technologies in its enterprise push.

"Our enterprise business is expanding beyond apps to our cloud platform services and our geospatial technology, where we bring our familiar, intuitive mapping technology to businesses with products like Google Maps Engine and Google Maps Coordinate," Farber said.

Geospatial and LBS are particularly relevant today given that there is a "massive amount of data sitting in the corporate repository" and the information has a location component included. Companies can then tap the data for different uses such as asset tracking, he added.

Basic geographical information becomes an enterprise game-changer when aligned with business processes and needs.

One example of this is IT services company Ramco on Friday announcing it had collaborated with Google Enterprise to integrate Maps to its Ramco ERP on Cloud product. With this integration, customers will be able to get a real-time view of their business any time, and anywhere, it said in its statement. 

Traffic navigation is another use case, Farber said citing Google's partnership with South Korean carmakers Hyundai and Kia Motors earlier this month as an example. The search giant will provide its Google Maps and Places tech to be integrated into the telematics systems of selected cars sold by these auto manufacturers in the United States.

Google also inked a deal with Japanese games company Nintendo last December to bring Google Maps to the latter's Wii U console platform. Users can see and pan around its Street View imagery with the Wii U GamePad device. Nintendo, on Thursday, said the service release will be delayed from January to mid-February.

Cloud remains key growth pillar
Besides LBS and geospatial products, Farber said cloud services will continue to be a key part of Google Enterprise's business strategy going forward.

"In 2013, we're going to see an increased use of geospatial data and big data set crunching [via the cloud] for more strategic decision-making in Singapore and across Asia-Pacific," he said.

The executive added interest in cloud computing continues to grow in Asia, as more organizations no longer want to invest in on-premise infrastructure or worry about managing their IT systems. They are increasingly turning to Web-based tools instead.

Indian online travel agency RedBus, for example, unified several of its bus schedules into a single booking system with BigQuery, a Web service that enables companies to analyze data sets using Google's infrastructure, he said.

"The notion of 'going Google' is gaining lots of traction, as companies use our technology to bring innovation for their customers and employees," Farber said, adding adoption of Google Enterprise tools has seen "astounding" growth in Asia.

While declining to provide actual customer adoption figures, saying the company does not break down the details across different markets, the executive pointed out the growth can be seen through deals such as the one signed with South Korean steelmaker Posco to implement Google Apps for its 23,000 employees.

He added Google's cloud-based collaborations tools are "taking off" in Asia-Pacific's education sector. Singapore's Ministry of Education, Rangsit University in Thailand, the Department of Education in the Philippines, and the Ministry of Education in Malang, Indonesia are some key customers for the Enterprise business, he pointed out. 

Emerging markets in the region have shown "aggressive" adoption, but the company has "a lot of high hopes" its Enterprise business will grow in countries already boasting world-class IT infrastructure such as Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan and Japan, he said.

Singapore remains key hub
Farber also took time to clarify that Singapore remains a key hub for Google Enterprise, saying it is a market where "we drive a lot of activity" in. His comment follows an earlier report citing an unnamed source saying the company is downplaying its business in the city-state.

"This article was misinformed and published before talking with us. We have always had a local public relations (PR) presence [in Singapore] and will continue to have one. One of the great things about Google is that our business tools like Google Apps allow us to work from almost any location and oversee the Asia-Pacific business. So we have our leadership and our staff for many departments spread across multiple offices such as Tokyo, Singapore, and Sydney," he said.

For the record, ZDNet had approached Google to clarify key points of the earlier report, but the company declined to comment.

Besides MOE, other notable Singapore-based customers include Fraser & Neave, Park Hotel Group, food and beverage company Food Junction, and local real estate company HSR International Realtors.

Patrick Liew, CEO of HSR, testified of Google Enterprise's value, saying: "From the get-go we've always felt supported by the Google team, and [are] very happy with Google Enterprise products."

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