As a certain Arthur C. Clarke once penned, any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.
I felt that way the first time I saw Google Now. When it originally launched, I just happened to have a flight booked the next day. With a simple swipe, the details of that trip came up front and center, along with reassurance that my plane was still on time. A few days later, Google Now started showing me the latest results of suggested matches, including my favorite sports teams. Magic.
Of course these days, thanks in part to Google, we expect this level of personalization. In fact, according to my most recent study, over 77 percent of “digital natives” expect a personalized website experience.
But solutions like Google Now, while great for individuals and consumer-level data, don’t work so well for those trying to do business — the entrepreneurs, salespeople, and executives that need their own documents and communications at their fingertips.
Attempting to solve this problem, Gluru is today offering a first look at its new app on Android and web browser, designed to be the “Google Now for your business content,” by surfacing exactly what you need, when you need it, in the context of your business activities.
Gluru’s founder and CEO, Tim Porter, was marketing director at Shazam before spending six years at Apple in the early days of iTunes Europe. His most recent tenure was at Google, where he was instrumental in launching Google Play in Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA). In January 2015, Gluru closed a $1.5M seed round, with investors Playfair Capital and GECAD Group leading the round and participation from angels, including former Shazam CTO Chee Wong. Porter showed me around the Gluru app both on the browser and in Android.
Upon launching, the app’s clean interface shows you the day ahead. It draws information from your calendar and other connected sources, such as planned meetings, calendar invites, and more. It understands and presents the contacts it thinks you’ll need to interact with that day, and shows you what meetings you have coming up.
When you select one of those events is when the magic happens. Not only was I presented with a list of the people in the meeting I brought up, but Gluru also showed me all the Google Drive content it thought pertinent to that event. Gluru currently presents files and information from Google Mail, Google Calendar, Google Drive, Dropbox, Box, OneDrive, and Evernote. If I select a person from the daily digest, for example, Gluru shows me all the files it thinks are important for that contact.
Importantly, the more you use it, the better the system learns, understands, and anticipates your needs. At its heart is a machine-learning engine that uses predictive analytics to better understand the user, what they need, and when they need it.
In addition to the daily digest, Gluru includes a button with a lightning bolt icon. It is, somewhat tongue-in-cheek I suspect, called the “Now Button.”
Pressing this tells you exactly what you’re supposed to be doing right now, and presents all the information that will help you in that current task. Gluru also offers a search capability that allows you to find people, documents, spreadsheets, meetings, companies, and more.
The other trick up its sleeve? When you make or take a phone call on the Android app, Gluru will show you the content relevant to that contact, making it easy to follow up with the right information straight after the call (or during, if you’re on a hands-free device).
I talked with Porter about the future of Gluru. In particular, we discussed plans to link it to CRM solutions, project management systems, and other third-party data sources.
“Although Gluru can benefit individual consumer users, our focus is on busy professionals, either as individuals or as a team,” Porter said. “We see Gluru as the future brain of data-heavy CRM or project managements systems, and more. Imagine the time saved if all of your information was automatically organized into Salesforce, and it recommended the files you need, before you know you need it, so you don’t have to retrieve it.”
As I am a long-time user, and now analyst, of solutions like Salesforce, the appeal of this is not lost on me.
“What if when a file is shared in Slack, all the files you need to work with automatically appear,” Porter said. “In a sense, this is a smart layer between your files, wherever they are. Solving the issue of knowledge management, and associated wasted time in a smart, elegant contextual way, is what truly excites us.”
But what happens if Google expands its Now solution to include document look-up functionality that surfaces the right content based on calendar entries?
“Google Now is outwardly focused on bringing you useful information and context from the Internet and is a generalist assistant for consumer users,” Porter said. “Gluru is purely focused on saving time for professionals and is dedicated to organizing information from your workflow and connecting that information to you or your teams’ important moments.”
But Porter believes the separation between Google Now and Gluru isn’t just about target markets.
“The AI and deep learning technology behind the recommendations that Gluru makes for calendar entries is something that is beyond any features available right now,” Porter said. “Gluru is not only about calendar recommendations — it predicts the most important people you will work with and the most important files you will need to work with them. Gluru then learns from you the more you use it. Gluru also automatically organizes your files based on your workflow, so you no longer have to spend time filing.”
The company is planning additional integrations with internal network systems for instant access to company files, workflow and CRM software, as well as with additional applications including iCloud, Microsoft Exchange, SharePoint, and more. Gluru is also planning an API for developers and enterprises to build its capabilities into new or existing applications, like Slack, HipChat or Salesforce.
Following a closed beta that included over 300 professional users, Gluru is available to the public today from Google Play and its website. An iOS version is planned. Gluru is free for individuals, and there are no limits on usage. The company does charge for teams, but pricing is on a per request basis and is dependent on the size of the team.