Bringing some of the best of Belgium to Street View

hroughout the world, our Google Street View special collects allow users anywhere, on their mobile devices or computers, to see the world’s great sites. We’ve now just added some of the best of Belgium to the collection. Stroll through the Mardasson Memorial commemorating World War II’s decisive Battle of the Bulge or take a peek at the saxophone-filled homage to Albert Sax over the Meuse River in Dinant.

The images were taken with the Street View Trekker backpack on which is mounted a panoramic camera, and Street View Trolley, a cart with a camera system. Both tools make it possible photograph places inaccessible to Street View cars.

The project includes a shout out to three special Belgian towns: Wavre, Grobbendonk and Auderghem, the winners of Google eTown Awards in 2013. We award this prize to municipalities that benefit the most from the economic potential of the Internet.

In Wavre, we’ve captured images of the City Hall.

In Auderghem, we take a look inside the Val Duchesse castle.

In Grobbendonk, we feature the ruins of the OLV Ten Toon priory.

Posted by Caroline Coesmans, Policy Manager, Brussels Continua a leggere

Promoting sportsmanship on the field – and on the net

In football, a red card means expulsion from the game. On the Internet, what would a red card resemble? This week, we launched a contest here in Belgium with the Mons Football Club youth clubs to help find out.

Why Belgium and why Mons? One of our two largest European data centers is located just outside the city. We’ve invested hundreds of millions in it and that means we are going to be involved in the local community for a long time to come. Belgium’s football reputation has been growing recently with an excellent showing at the recent Brazil World Cup – its top players are found sprinkled on many of the world’s top team – and the Mons youth academy is known as one of the country’s best.

Launching the contest in Belgium

The idea came from our strong partnership with the local Mundaneum institution and a partnership forged last year with one of the world’s biggest football clubs – Real Madrid. It held a contest called “First Prize for the Promotion of Internet Values.”

As in football, the Net bans violence towards others. When you play sports, you are obliged to help all who are injured or have a disability. On the Internet, too, you need to help others.

The Belgian contest will be open to 11-17 olds, the teenagers who are growing up on the net. From this month through April, the club’s teenage players will attend workshops and create projects – drawings, videos, or essays – that marry their passion for football, fair play and the Internet.

More than 120 young players from RAEC Mons attended the contest launch. Dressed in their team uniforms, most said they spent as much or more time surfing on the Net as on the playing field. They will now compete for prizes ranging from a Chromebook to a tablet. Winners will be announced on April 19 at the club’s final home match this season.

Posted by William Echikson, Head of Community Relations, Europe Continua a leggere

Expanding our data centres in Europe

The Internet is growing fast and so is demand for our services, from search to Gmail and YouTube. In order to keep up with this growth, we are announcing a new EUR600 million investment over the next four years to build a new data centre in Eemshaven, the Netherlands.

At a time of high unemployment throughout Europe, the project promises a welcome infusion of jobs. Construction will provide work for more than 1000 workers. We expect to start initial operations in the first half of 2016 and to be fully operational by the end of 2017. By then, the centre will create employment for more than 150 people in a range of full-time and contractor roles. The jobs do not require phds in computer science; they include IT technicians, electrical and mechanical engineers, catering, facilities and security staff.

The new Dutch data centre will benefit from the latest designs in cooling and electrical technology. It will be free-cooled – taking advantage of natural assets like cool air and grey water to keep our servers cool. Our data centers use 50% less energy than a typical datacenter – and our intention is to run this new facility on renewable energy.

This will be Google’s fourth hyper efficient facility in Europe. Importantly, demand for Internet services remains so strong that the new building does not mean a reduction in expansion elsewhere. Our expansion will continue in Dublin in Ireland, in Hamina in Finland, and in St. Ghislain in Belgium. Our existing rented datacenter facility in Eemshaven also will continue to operate.

Since our investment in our first European datacenter back in 2007, we have been on the lookout for supportive communities with the necessary resources to support large data centers. The required ingredients are land, workforce, networking, a choice of power and other utilities including renewable energy supplies.

It’s much more efficient to build a few large facilities than many small ones. Eemshaven enjoys a direct cable connection to two major European Internet hubs, London and Amsterdam. In the Eemshaven, we’ve found a great community in a great location that meets the needs to become a backbone for the expanding Internet.

Posted by William Echikson, Head of Data Centre Community Relations, Europe
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Seeking advice on the Right to be Forgotten

Earlier this summer we announced the formation of an Advisory Council on the Right to be Forgotten. As the Council begins its work, it is seeking comment from experts on the issues raised by the CJEU ruling. Experts will be considered for selection to present to the Council in-person during public consultations held this fall, in the following cities:

  • September 9 in Madrid, Spain
  • September 10 in Rome, Italy
  • September 25 in Paris, France
  • September 30 in Warsaw, Poland
  • October 14 in Berlin, Germany
  • October 16 in London, UK
  • November 4 in Brussels, Belgium

The Council welcomes position papers, research, and surveys in addition to other comments. We accept submissions in any official EU language. Though the Council will review comments on a rolling basis throughout the fall, it may not be possible to invite authors who submit after August 11 to present evidence at the public consultations.

Stay tuned for details on the Council’s activity.

Posted by Betsy Masiello, Google Secretariat to the Council
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Commemorating World War I

A century ago, a Serb nationalist assassinated Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand, sparking World War I. Today, we are launching a new channel dedicated to commemorate the war’s centenary. It brings together World War I content, paintings, photographs, letters, documents, soldiers’ poems and more, from a range of Museum partners, ranging from the German Federal Archives to the Belgian Mundaneum to the Imperial War Museum.

A search for Franz Ferdinand brings up photos relating to the Archeduke’s assassination. They show the Franz and his wife Sophie arriving in Sarajevo. Outfitted in regal dress, treated with the pomp and circumstance of royalty, they stroll through the streets. A final image shows police arresting Serb assassin Gavrilo Princip.

Other exhibits explore the art around the conflict and personal impact of the conflict. Belgium’s Mundaneum has collected postcards sent from POW camps. The Imperial War Museum’s features Christopher Nevinson’s bleak landscapes. The British authorities censored some of the paintings for being too “negative.” At the same time, the museum also features John Nash’s patriotic paintings.

The German side of the war is well represented, with more than 200 new items in 13 new exhibits. Items include photographs, newspapers, letters, army documents, ration cards, and unusual items like the anti war poem written by a German soldier which lead to his detention. Exhibits range from German policy around the Sarajevo assassination to the rise of German airships to problems of nutrition due to the conflict.

The exhibits are designed for for a wide audience and full of exciting details for specialists. More content will be added over the coming months and years as commemorations around the Great War continue.

Posted by James Davis, Google Culture Institute, Paris
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Chromebooks come to five more European countries – in verse

Chromebooks are coming to nine more nations
to improve computing for all generations.

So we’d like to say our Hellos
to our new global Chromebook fellows:

Kia ora to our New Zealand mates,
where getting on-line will have shorter waits.

Kumusta to new friends in the Philippines,
a better way of computing is what this means.

Hallo to all the folks in Norway
Speed, simplicity and security are coming your way.

Hej Hej to the people in Denmark
Built-in virus protection will be your new computing benchmark.

To Mexico and Chile, Hola we say
Tons of apps and free automatic updates are starting today.

And in the coming weeks — very soon, you’ll see –
Chromebooks will be in Belgium, Spain and Italy.

Chromebooks are easy to share, manage and use,
With lots of shapes, colors and sizes to choose.

Stay safe with your data stored in the cloud,
A smart pick like Chromebook will make your mom proud.

When Chromebooks in these countries alight,
We hope our new global friends find some computing delight.

Posted by David Shapiro, Director of Chromebook Marketing and Occasional Versifier

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Improving our data centre energy performance

At Google we’re obsessed with building energy efficient data centers. Our facilities use 50% less energy than most other data centers, and we’re pushing ourselves to become even more efficient.

As part of this effort, our main European data centres, in St. Ghislain, Belgium, Hamina, Finland, and Dublin, Ireland recently were added to our ISO 50001 certification. Much like the environmental and workforce safety management certifications, ISO 50001 ensures we have a strong energy policy, build a robust auditing program, continually monitor, assess, and respond to our energy efficiency results.

Google Data Centere in Finland

Last year, we became the first company in North America to obtain a multi-site ISO 50001 certification for that system, covering our corporate data center operations and six U.S. data centers.

Another green priority for us is energy. Over the past year, we have signed two major contracts to buy all the electricity generated by Swedish wind farms for 10 years. By entering into long-term agreements with wind farm developers over the past few years, we’ve been able to increase the amount of renewable energy we consume while helping enable the construction of new facilities. Once completed, the wind farms will provide Google’s Hamina, Finland, data center with additional renewable energy as the facility expands in coming years.

Overall, we’re focused on reducing our energy use while serving the explosive growth of the Internet. Most data centers use just as much non-computing or “overhead” energy (like cooling and power conversion) as they do to power their servers. At Google we’ve reduced this overhead to only 12%. That way, most of the energy we use powers the machines directly serving Google searches and products. We will continually push toward doing more with less—serving more users while consuming less energy.

Posted by Joe Kava, Vice President, Data Centres Operations
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Partnering in Belgium to create a capital of culture

The Belgian city of Mons becomes a European capital of culture next year, ushering in 12 months of festivities. One of Google’s two major European data centers is located just down the road from the city, making us a major local investor and employer. It is only natural that we want to help put some sparkle into the city’s ambitious capital of culture plans.

At today’s press conference launch of the Mons 2015 program, we launched something special and sparkling – new Indoor Street View images. Street View cars and trikes captured new imagery of some of Mons’s most famous buildings – both their exteriors – and for the first time, their interiors. These include the splendid Grand Place, including the inside of the the City Hall, the Collégiale Sainte Waudru, and the BAM art museum.

Mons is an architectural treasure. The canonesses of the Sainte Waudru religious community began their first church in 1450 and the Brabant Gothic style church remains of the most beautiful buildings in Mons. Inside, the exceptional Treasure of Sainte Waudru houses a precious collection of gold and remarkable 16th-century alabaster statues from the artist and Mons resident Jacques du Broeucq.

View Larger Map

View Larger Map

The historic city centre is dominated by the Grand Place and its remarkable City Hall. Commissioned by Charles the Bold, Duke of Burgundy, famed architect Matthijs de Layens designed the imposing edifice.

View Larger Map

View Larger Map

Throughout the coming year and a half, we’ll continue to support the Mons 2015 adventure, in particular by working with our longtime partners, the Mundaneum archive. More than a century ago, two visionary Belgians envisioned the World Wide Web’s architecture of hyperlinks and indexation of information, not on computers, but on paper cards. Their creation was called the Mundaneum.

The Mundaneum plans an exciting “Mapping Knowledge” exhibition. Together, we are bringing high-level speakers to the city to explore Internet issues. Our own chief Internet evangelist and “father of the Internet” Vint Cerf recently visited and presented his vision of the future to a packed audience at the city’s 600 seat Manege Theater. Mons’ time on the big stage of European culture promises many more exciting events.

Posted by William Echikson, Head of Community Relations, Europe
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Honoring Irish casualties from World War I

During World War I, about 50,000 Irish soldiers died fighting in the British army. Until now, these records were located only in a book released in 1923 and published in a mere 100 copies. Google has worked with the Irish genealogical history and heritage company Eneclann and the In Flanders Fields Museum in Ypres, Belgium to build a new Irish memorial website, bringing a list of Irish war dead available online and making it searchable with this simple tool.

Today, Ireland’s Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Eamon Gilmore T.D., launched the new website with Northern Ireland First Minister Peter Robinson and deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness at our Dublin headquarters.  “While the digitisation and online access to this record will be a rich resource for genealogy, most significant is its value in facilitating the simple and important act of remembering the individuals, Irish men and women, who lost their lives in the First World War,” Tánaiste Gilmore said.

Head of Google Ireland John Herlihy shows deputy First Minister McGuiness, center, and Tánaiste Gilmore, right, the new World War I archive search

The two Northern Irish leaders spoke movingly about the project. “My presence is a clear indication of the maturity in confronting history on this island. For many years, this as something that people were not prepared to talk about, to face up to, to acknowledge,” said deputy First Minister McGuinness.  First Minister Peter Robinson agreed, saying: “As we enter an important decade of commemorations in both our countries, it is my hope that what has been established here today will keep alive the history and the stories of those who did not return from war.”

Northern Ireland First Minister Peter Robinson speaks

Work on the archive dates back to July 2012 when the Irish ambassador to Belgium, Éamonn Mac Aodha approached Google and In Flanders Fields Museum. During the research, the museum discovered that the records for Irish casualties of the First World War were neither fully correct nor complete. More records simply list France as place of death. Many probably instead died in Flanders – in all some 11,060 out of the 49,000 have now been identified as being killed or commemorated or buried in Belgium.

More than 100 guests attended today’s launch. These included family members who had researched relatives who died in World War One; members of the diplomatic corps; political representatives and historians and academics, and members of commemorative organisations. Our idea is to engage the public and increase knowledge about these casualties. If you find an ancestor or locate a long-lost relative in the list send, documents, pictures, letters or any other relevant information, email [email protected] The information will be verified and added to the website.

The new Irish World War I records search tool

This event marks the opening of the ceremonies for the 100th year of the outbreak of World War I. We’re proud to play a part in this project as a sign of our commitment to Ireland, our European headquarters, and to using technology to fill in holes left by history.

Posted by William Echikson, External Relations, Europe, Middle East and Africa
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Joining Belgium and Finland around data centres

At first glance, it’s hard to think of two cultures more different than Belgium’s southern French speaking Wallonia and Finland’s southeastern lake region. Finland is rural, Nordic, and Lutheran, a place of big spaces, big forests, and big lakes. Belgium is urban, Latin and Roman Catholic, a place of crowded industrial landscapes, carefully cultivated fields and man-made canals.

Sunset at our data centre in Belgium

And yet, both are homes to Google data centres, and when our Finnish partners recently visited Belgium for two days of workshops, they found many things in common. Both regions built their economies on big traditional industries that are fast disappearing – paper and pulp in Finland, coal and steel in Belgium. Both have big neighbors – Russia and France. And both have a willpower to work with us to help jump, as our partners put it, “from the Industrial Heartland to the Internet age.”

It was a fruitful two day visit. The dozen-person Finnish team, lead by the regional development agency Cursor and Aalto University, told about their success in spawning video games startups and boosting online local tourism. The Belgian team, led by the local Mundaneum Museum spoke about plans to use the net for its upcoming 2015 celebration of the regional capital and hometown Mons as a European capital of culture.

We also compared common challenges – improving the two regions’ level of English and other skills needed to attract international business. Both regions aim to create web incubators and web startups, projects we are aim to support.

Over the past year, we have disbursed more than EUR1 million of grants to local organizations around the data centers. These fund a wide range of activities, from a Popmaton at Mons’ Andy Warhol exhibit to measuring water health in southeastern Finland’s rivers to supporting a computer science contest at the University of Mons, including exhibitions and talks on Internet issues and opportunities in both countries. It was gratifying to see our partners getting to know each other personally and pledging to work together to common goals. We have dug deep roots in these two different but similar regions and plan to continue planting deep roots in computer science, environment and empowering cultural institution.

Posted by William Echikson, Head of Community Relations, Brussels
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