Google Workspace: Exciting New Features and Improvements in AI, Security and Collaboration

Image: Miscellaneous Photography/Adobe Stock

Google announced several Google Workspace improvements in May 2022. Some of the most exciting improvements leverage artificial intelligence systems to summarize texts and improve web meetings.

Smart summaries can change how quickly people grasp central concepts in documents and conversations, while enhancements to video conferencing ensure people look their best and can share multimedia smoothly. And, in the long run, the continued expansion of client-side encryption capabilities may be the single most important structural change to give customers complete control over data security in the cloud.


SEE: Google Workspace cheat sheet: Complete guide for 2022 (TechRepublic)

Google Workspace: smart summaries of documents, discussions and meetings

If you’ve opened a Google Doc in Chrome, you may have noticed a small rectangular icon floating to the left of your text, also accessible via the Show Outline option under the View tab. Select this option to access a summary and preview of your Google Doc. To create the outline, the system uses your formatted titles and headings.

In some cases, the system automatically creates a document summary, which you can accept by pressing the tab key. In my experience, when the system automatically generates a summary, I find it reasonably accurate. But if needed, you can move your cursor over the summary and select the pencil icon to edit the document summary.

However, not all Google Docs receive an automatically generated summary. For example, two fictional texts – the first chapter of Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll and an English translation of a poem from Le Ton beau de Marot by Douglas R. Hofstadter – entered different Google Docs, which caused the system to leave the summary section blank. Although this is a good sign, because it means that the natural language processing system has threshold measures in place. When the system cannot provide a compelling summary, it leaves the section blank and available for users to add an appropriate summary.

Google intends to offer summaries in several places. In Gmail, you can access chat summaries to catch up on conversations you may have missed. In 2022, Google Dating will acquire the ability to automatically transcribe meetings, and then in 2023, to add a summary of the session. In each of these cases, a summary can help you capture the gist of a document, conversation, or meeting. However, since these are human communication channels, remember that a summary will never encompass all the subtlety and detail conveyed in a document, chat or meeting.

Google Meet: image and sharing improvements

Google’s AI systems help you present the best possible image when you’re on camera with Google Meet. Portrait restoration optimizes your image to compensate for a poor webcam, poor lighting, or poor network connection. And Portrait Light lets you control simulated studio lighting; adjust the angle and the system moves the simulated light source. Think of it as your own virtual lighting system, without the need for additional tripods, lights or power outlets.

SEE: How to improve collaboration with Companion Mode in Google Meet (TechRepublic)

Live Sharing will add collaborative media controls to Google Meet. This will allow participants to share audio and video streams that stay in sync, which is no easy task, especially when Meet sessions can take place across many devices and networks. Much like Meet participants currently collaborating with Docs, Sheets, and Slides, Live Sharing seeks to solve media sharing in Meet sessions.

All of these Google Meet enhancements rely on the computing power of Google Cloud. The processing necessary to add these enhancements occurs within Google’s systems rather than on your local device. So when you use Google Meet, the live streams of images, lighting, and sharing displayed will be as good as possible for each participant, regardless of each person’s equipment and network connection.

Secure collaboration in Google Workspace

People in organizations that rely on Google Workspace benefit from Google’s global security efforts. The company also provides helpful guides that Google Workspace admins can use to customize settings for organizations of different sizes.

The most significant architectural change that Google is adopting is the ability for customers to manage their own encryption security keys. With this change, a bank, for example, could use Google Workspace while storing and managing keys. Everything remains end-to-end encrypted, as always, but the difference now would be that the bank retains the keys needed to decrypt the data stored in Google’s systems. Historically, Google has kept these keys, which left open the possibility that a government could access the data. Client-side encryption Google Workspace transfers control and responsibility to the client, while allowing them to use cloud tools.

SEE: Data Encryption Policy (TechRepublic Premium)

Google Workspace Enterprise and Education Plus editions support client-side encryption. Currently, the feature works with Google Drive data, such as documents, spreadsheets, and presentations. Client-side encryption for Google Meet sessions is also under development and testing.

Deploying client-side encryption requires significant knowledge, configuration, and management, so it’s likely something only larger organizations or those with significant security concerns will pursue at this time. The architectural change needed to enable this, however, is significant and worth watching as it paves the way for potential large-scale deployment in the long term.

What is your experience using Google Workspace?

Which of these upgrades are you most interested in? Are Google Meet’s image, lighting and live sharing improvements something you’ll use? Will smart summaries be beneficial as you try to stay up to date in a deluge of documents, conversations, and meetings? Or have you followed the development of client-side encryption for Google Workspace closely? Let me know what you think of these changes by hitting me up on Twitter @awolber.

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