Google’s G Suite finalizes Connected Sheets and introduces AI-driven data cleanup tools

Last April during its Cloud Next conference, Google unveiled Connected Sheets, a type of Google Sheets spreadsheet that works with the full data set from BigQuery, up to 10 billion rows. After just over a year in preview and beta, Connected Sheets is generally available as of today. And in the coming months, it will be joined by new capabilities — Smart Fill and Smart Cleanup — that leverage AI to learn patterns between columns to autocomplete data and surface suggestions in Sheets’ side panel.

Connected Sheets, along with Smart Fill and Smart Cleanup, are intended to make it easier for G Suite customers to take informed actions and produce better results. According to Gartner, 87% of organizations have low business intelligence and analytics maturity, meaning they’re largely relying on spreadsheet-based management systems while lacking data guidance and support.

“At Google Cloud, we believe everyone — not just those who specialize in writing complex queries — should be able to harness the power of data,” G Suite product manager Ryan Weber wrote in a blog post. “We continue to build Google AI natively into Sheets, so it’s easy for everyone — not just specialized analysts — to quickly make data-backed decisions.”

Connected Sheets enables users to analyze petabytes of data in Sheets without having to use programming languages like structured query language (SQL). Analyses in Connected Sheets can be performed with tools like formulas, pivot tables, and charts, and can be visualized as dashboards and shared with anyone within an organization.

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Smart Fill tackles a different problem. Given a column of full names, for example, it automatically detects the pattern, generates the corresponding formula, and autocompletes the rest of the column. Weber compares it to Smart Compose, a Gmail tool that taps AI to autofill emails with fewer mistakes. Smart Fill relies on common patterns of data mappings (e.g., combining one column with another to derive an output column) and analyzes data within a user’s spreadsheet to evaluate whether formulas, data from the user’s G Suite people directory, or knowledge available through Google’s Knowledge Graph will assist in data entry.

Smart Cleanup meanwhile surfaces algorithmic suggestions in Sheets tailored to imported data. Specifically, it helps identify and fix duplicate rows and number-formatting issues, showing column stats that provide a snapshot of data, including the distribution of values and the most frequent value in a column. Smart Cleanup similarly evaluates whether common data cleanup actions (like removing duplicates post-import) are relevant for a given sheet, and it surfaces the most appropriate suggestions to aid a user in swiftly cleaning up data prior to analysis.

A Google spokesperson told VentureBeat that AI models developed in Google’s TensorFlow framework are deployed when appropriate to make Smart Fill and Smart Cleanup suggestions more relevant and helpful. “As these features become available, users can expect Smart Fill to continue becoming more intelligent in learning patterns to autocomplete data,” the spokesperson said, “and Smart Cleanup to make data cleanup faster and more accurate for a broader and more diverse set of data cleanup operations and data sources in Sheets.”

“Before making critical decisions, it’s important to ensure your data is consistent and error-free,” Weber wrote. “[These features] make data entry quicker and less error-prone.”

Connected Sheets is available starting today for G Suite Enterprise, G Suite Enterprise for Education, and G Suite Enterprise Essentials customers. Smart Fill and Smart Cleanup will arrive on G Suite later this year.

The new Sheets capabilities come as Google looks to inject G Suite with more AI-powered functionality. Recently, the company added a feature that lets users ask natural language questions about data in spreadsheets, like “Which person has the top score?” and “What’s the sum of price by salesperson?” Google Meet earlier this year gained adaptive noise cancellation.

Two years ago, Google rolled out Quick Access, a machine learning-powered tool that suggests files relevant to documents users are editing, to Sheets, Docs, and Slides. And more recently, Google brought assistive features like grammar suggestions and spelling autocorrect to Google Docs in Spanish (previously, they were only available in English).

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