Have you ever wondered how Google Maps can tell how long it will take to reach your destination in real time? It turns out that over the better part of the last decade, Google has released a steadily increasing army of machines to report on traffic data around the world. No, these machines aren’t drones monitoring our highways. It turns out they don’t even have to pay for these machines to collect the data – we pay for them. That’s right, I’m talking about our smart phones.
Google aggregates location-based data collected from individual users of their Google Maps mobile application in order to better inform all Google Maps users of real-time traffic conditions.  Through the prevalence of Google’s Android operating system, and the fact that Google Maps came pre-installed on the early versions of the iPhone, Google was able to achieve critical mass with this data, and form a differentiating barrier between itself and other early maps competitors like MapQuest.
This critical mass that Google achieved created a virtuous cycle: the more users there are on Google Maps, the better the real-time traffic data becomes. The better-the real-time traffic data becomes, the more delightful the experience of the application. The more delightful the experience of the application, the more users there are on Google Maps, and so on. Additionally, as more users use Google Maps and Android in general, the amount of information Google has about its users increases. This allows Google to optimize its search product, from which the vast majority of Google’s profits are derived. In this way, Android and Google Maps act as loss leaders for Google’s search product. 
As shown by Google’s strategy with Android and Google Maps, it is clearly to Google’s advantage to keep people in their ecosystem, and to continue to push the boundaries of that ecosystem. One way that Google is pushing the boundaries of their ecosystem is through its foray into the Internet of Things. Two giant steps that Google has taken in the IoT world have been their $3.2 billion acquisition of Nest, and their recent release of Google Home, which is a competitor to Amazon’s popular Echo in-home product.  With Google Home, it is now that much easier for people to use Google’s search product – users won’t even need to be at a phone or computer to search for certain information. This only adds to the amount of data that Google collects about their users on a daily basis, which again it can use to tune its search algorithms.
One area where Google can demonstrate industry leadership is in the security of IoT. As internet connected devices become increasingly prevalent, so too do points of vulnerability, and these points of vulnerability are ripe for the hacking. Hackers worldwide salivate at the opportunity to make hacks as benign as turning your Nest thermostat to 80 degrees without your knowledge, or as malicious as taking control of your self-driving car remotely. An industry-wide effort is needed to appropriately secure these new internet-connected devices and remain one step ahead of hackers.
As evidenced by a hack just last month, where IoT devices were used to take down parts of the internet, there are plenty of unsecured devices out there.  The reason there are so many unsecured devices is because they generally require fewer steps to set up than secured devices. Google has released a platform called Brillo that allows users to program functionality into their IoT devices. Brillo is secure by design, and according to the platform’s website, secure by default – taking those extra steps out of the setup process.  Google can use the fact that their platform is both secure and simple to set up to their advantage, and push to become the go-to platform for IoT development. In doing this, more developers will come into the fold and develop within the Google ecosystem, continuing to expand its boundaries. (656 words)