Google, your buddy this Ramadhan


Waiting until time to break the fast this Ramadhan can be fun as Google has come up with its My Ramadhan Companion app.

Google apps offers its help to remind you what time to break the fast, find the nearest halal restaurant or mosque, as well as providing baking or cooking ideas.

The services are available through its brand new My Ramadhan Companion, or the Indonesian version Sahabat Ramadhanku.

Google users in Indonesia have the privilege of being the first to try this feature, which will later be introduced gradually in other countries with significant Muslim populations.

“Based on Google trends, we know that in this season people are searching very often for things like recipes, for entertainment at night, for restaurants nearby,” said Google product engineer Joseph Kurachi Luk during the recent Ramadhan Companion launch in Jakarta.

“The Ramadhan campaign is part of trying to be helpful and useful.”

Users can access the Ramadhan features simply by clicking the Google app on their gadgets. Instantly, Google will bring up the line-up of Ramadhan-related information and entertainment content.

The feature is available in six languages, including Indonesian, English and Arabic.

Ramadhan is the Islamic holy month where Muslims have the chance for reflection and self-betterment through fasting, prayers and doing good deeds.

In practice, there is a worldly side of Ramadhan too. It is a time for a vast number of Indonesians to buy new clothes, break the fast at nice restaurants and make cookies to be savored by the whole family at Idul Fitri celebrations.

Thanks to its search trends, Google got the idea.

“During Ramadhan 2014, many people typed these queries in the search box ‘tol dalkot macet ga’ [are Jakarta toll roads congested?], ‘restoran dekat sini’ [nearby restaurants] and ‘menu sahur sehat’ [healthy menu for predawn meals],” head of marketing at Google Indonesia Veronica Utami said.

Ramadhan songs, breaking-fast prayers, fruit ice and cookie recipes and the breaking-fast time also made the top-search lists.

Based on the trends, Google divided the Ramadhan feature into three major categories: planning, food and entertainment.

The planning category provides a countdown to Idul Fitri, the exact time of dawn and dusk and Google Map windows that show you restaurants and mosques located steps away from your current location.

Entertaining YouTube videos and recommended apps that have been curated by Google are available in the entertainment category.

Do you desperately want to kill time until breaking the fast? There are YouTube videos of popular comedy TV show The Comment hosted by Darto and Danang.

Or you can listen to tunes from music videos of pop band Lyla or a one-of-the-kind girl band Noura who blend pop tunes with subtle Islamic lyrics.

Other YouTube links that can be found are video tutorials from Cheryl Raissa on wearing stylish hijab scarves – that may interest female users but their male counterparts will likely skip. Google does not personalize the data based on gender — so the beauty tutorial may pop up regardless of the user’s gender.

Young and rising chef Yudha Bustara will guide you in making some local delicacies, like nasi uduk (coconut milk rice), and also practical food, like making your own chicken nuggets, in Ramadhan Companion’s food page.

“We are striving to provide what users need. Some of the feature’s contents are created by local talent,” Veronica says.

Among the local partners are motorcycle taxi app Go-jek and and Kokiku TV cooking channels.

My Ramadhan Companion is provided in the platform of Google Now — that displays cards with information derived from the user’s Gmail account.

The Ramadhan feature is also part of Google’s endeavor to introduce Google Now cards to the Indonesian public.

By granting it the permission to see your Gmail, search history and location, Google Now will be able to remind you of your flight schedule, check-out time from hotel, local traffic and weather, and give you updates on your stock prices, among other things.

Ramadhan cards did not require that much personal information, Luk noted.

“As a sneak hint, in the next couple of weeks, we will be launching something new that does not use personal data but is able to show this type of card as well,” said Luk, who is involved in the development of Google Now.

Additionally, Google Now has just introduced a new card showing the list of trending searches.

“We are introducing this first to Indonesia. We’re slowly vamping it up, so not everybody is getting it right now but as we continue this experiment pretty much everyone in the country will get it,” Luk said.

“People in Asia seem to love this kind of thing. I think people in the West are a little bit more interested in having information that is really personalized to them,” he added. “So we’re trying this first in Indonesia and we’re building this in Asia.”


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