SXSW: Google plans to open 'Now' with new API

Google Now is an incredible tool, and yet still has so much unrealised potential. The location-aware service aims to offer the user relevant information as and when it is needed. Unfortunately this has been reserved to Google's own apps and some close partners, and left some developers itching to help bolster it into something truly awesome…

Luckily, it doesn't seem we have that much longer to wait. Aparna Chennapragada, Director of Product Management for Google Now, has said the web giant has a plan in place to offer an open API in the near-future for any third-party developer to build support into their applications.

Of course this leads to worries that Google could prioritise its own apps over those from third parties. Chennapragada said this won't be the case, and that individual user app usage patterns will help guide which data should be shown to offer the most useful solution when and where it is needed.

A big focus for the team's next major milestone is to take into account more of a user's individual preferences

Speaking at SXSW, Chennapragada expanded on how Google decides what information to include in the cards' minimalist designs which has since been adopted in other areas of Android. Google started off by just attempting to guess what would be useful at certain times and locations, but then moved onto surveying a panel of users which asked them at different points throughout the day what information they would find useful.

The discussion offered further behind-the-scenes insights into how the Google Now team works, and Chennapragada says that their own personal experiences also help to influence what to work on next. She examples a visit she had to Disneyland inspiring her to work on support for theme park ride queue times, but this is future functionality which is yet to roll-out.

A big focus for the team's next major milestone is to take into account more of a user's individual preferences such as how long before a flight people like to arrive at an airport in order to adjust the time they should leave accordingly. Google aims to implement this within the next six to twelve months so less of a "general" approach is taken to all users.

Do you plan to provide location-based data through Google Now? Let us know in the comments.

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