Racks of networking equipment connect servers inside a Google data center
In a new research exercise known as the Daily Information Needs Study, Google wants to improve its mobile search services by automatically delivering information you wouldn’t think to search for online.
For example, contextual information provided by mobile devices — via GPS chips and other sensors — can provide clues about a person and his situation, allowing Google to guess what that person wants.
Google is already taking the first steps in this direction. Google Now offers unsolicited directions, weather forecasts, flight updates, and other information when it thinks you need them.
Google may be heading toward a new kind of search, one that is very different from the service it started with, says Jonas Michel, a researcher working on similar ideas at the University of Texas at Austin. “In the future you might want to search very new information from the physical environment,” Michel says. “Your information needs are very localized to that place and event and moment.”
Finding the data needed to answer future queries will involve more than just crawling the Web. Google Now already combines location data with real-time feeds, for example, from U.S. public transit authorities, allowing a user to walk up to a bus stop and pull out his phone to find arrival times already provided.