Google I/O 2015 Announcements and the Impacts on Health

At its 2015 Google I/O keynote last Thursday, Google focused mostly on optimizing Android. Key announcements include the upcoming Android M, Google’s latest OS for smartphones and tablets that will reorganize Android with power optimization, new services, and changes to how apps interact. Apart from phones, Google also wants to be on your wrist, in your house, and in your wallet. Android wear got updated with new apps and an always-on screen. Brillo is the Google OS for Internet of Things, and Android pay is getting closer to Apple pay by adding fingerprint authentication and support for 700,000 stores across the U.S. Additionally, Google made announcements on its recent virtual reality efforts, including partnership with GoPro to build a circular 16-camera rig.

What do these announcements mean for the healthcare industry and pharmaceutical companies, and brands in particular? What should pharma companies do to benefit from these advancements and provide better user experiences?

Google Now’s “Now on Tap”

One of the most exciting features in the release of Android M is the upgraded version of Google Now. It makes your smartphone even smarter through a program called “Now on Tap,” which is built to better understand context based on what you are looking at on your screen. For example, if you are listening to a song and want to know who the singer is, just activate voice search and ask, “Who is the lead singer?” You don’t even need to say the band’s name. Now on Tap understands the context.

Imagine looking for information about arthritis. Google Now can give you an option to access the ZocDoc app and book a doctor’s appointment, or give you an option to download a savings card from a pharma company’s app. When you get a doctor’s appointment reminder on your phone, Google Now can give you an option to book an Uber or map out the shortest driving route.

For app developers and brands alike, these new deep linking capabilities mean more potential for apps to be discovered outside of the app store. Before, brands and app developers had to think about both SEO and App Search Optimization (ASO), which has to do with keywords for discoverability, how an app is described, and even its reviews. But Now on Tap actually makes it easier for brands to successfully execute mobile and app experiences.

Now on Tap will also help apps get more usage. Studies have shown that most of the apps consumers download rarely get opened. However, Now on Tap, with its context-based search, could breathe new life into long forgotten apps by suggesting them to users based on search context. It can proactively make recommendations that are even more targeted because they are not just based on the user’s past behavior in the app.

Now on Tap provides very new way to think about driving engagement and finding an audience for apps because it’s a much more organic way to discover new functionalities. It also becomes the main differentiator from iOS. Apple’s Spotlight search needs to do some serious updates to compete with it.

Google Photos

With thousands of photos stored in your phone, it’s hard to find one when you need it. Google Photos is created to solve that problem. The app will help back up your photos with unlimited capacity free of charge, auto tag and sort them by location, time, and people.

Say you’ve been taking photos about your skin issues over the past few weeks. When you want to share them with your doctor in the exam room, those photos can be easily pulled together based on the auto tag.

Offline Features

Google has been trying to let users access Android in many parts of the world with limited connectivity. For example, it launched YouTube Offline in developing countries and offline support for Chrome in the past few months. With Offline Maps, some map features such as location search and directions can also be accessed offline on Android M.

If you are developing an app, now’s the time to integrate Google map because patients can still access recommended pharmacies and doctors when they lose connections on highways, in tunnels, or on the subway.

Android Wear

New updates include an “Always On” feature to display information in a low-power black-and-white mode. It’s especially useful when you are on Google map because it won’t turn into a black screen. New wrist gesture, such as flicking up and down to scroll, is added to help in case your hands are full. Like Apple Watch, it also added the ability to recognize drawings and turn them into emojis.

Project Brillo

Project Brillo is Google’s OS for the Internet of Things, and Google wants to control your smart home with it. Brillo is derived from Android to provide low power, wireless solution that can be easily scalable to all types of Android devices. Weave is its communication system. Brillo and Weave, taken together, form a stripped-down version of Android OS that will run on door locks, ovens, heating systems, and other devices that have a small memory footprint, and allow them to communicate and work together.

Tech giants are all stepping into the smart home field. Apple launched HomeKit last year, and Microsoft has said that it will launch Windows 10 IoT Core this summer. Imagine if the smart health devices, such as scales, sleep monitors, or blood pressure cuffs, were supported by Apple, Google, and Microsoft. It could open doors to extend healthcare providers’ reach into patients’ homes, collect new type of health information for better home monitoring, reduced re-admissions, and ultimately, lower costs.

Virtual Reality

During last year’s conference, Google announced that the Google Cardboard SDK would now support iOS. There is also a new “Expeditions” VR program that lets teachers control virtual field trip destinations from a tablet and allows students to explore new places from a Google Cardboard VR system.

Finally, Google announced “Jump,” a camera rig system that will allow anyone to record VR video. It also partnered with GoPro to sell a jump-ready camera rig this year. YouTube will support Jump videos.

Opportunities for healthcare in the patient education space are expanding. Patients can use VR to understand how a complex disease and drug works through unprecedented immersive storytelling. Pharma brands may start thinking about creating VR patient education videos and distributing them on YouTube or through doctor’s offices. Med schools can also use VR for a more engaging teaching experience.


If you have any other questions about mobile marketing, please contact Geoff McCleary at or Lucy Li at



  1. Google I/O 2015 office site:
  2. Google I/O 2015 Keynote Live Blog:
  3. The 12 most important announcements from Google I/0 2015:
  4. Google Now on Tap Makes App Search Optimization More Critical Than Ever:
  5. Google’s Project Brillo is an OS for the home – and a lot more:
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