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A Snapshot of the Innovation at Google Montréal

Montréal is renowned for its diverse pool of talent and world-class education system. The city was recently selected as the best student city in the Americas, tied with Boston in quality of education. As a result, Montréal has a dynamic scientific community that includes the world’s largest concentration of academic researchers in artificial intelligence and is home to the largest concentration of high-tech jobs in Canada.

It is therefore no coincidence that Google has established strong roots in Montréal to celebrate and harness this local talent. Nearly 20 years ago, three Icelanders, Siggi, Jói and Tommi, kicked off Google’s presence in Montréal. For years, they worked out of a rented Regus workspace not much larger than a vestibule. As the team grew, so did its work space. Today, we’re excited to enter the next frontier of our growth in Québec as we inaugurate our brand new office, Viger. Click here for more info on the new Viger space.

Hundreds of team members at Google Montréal work on some of the most crucial services the company offers worldwide; here’s a snapshot of some of this important work:

User Protection: Under the supervision of Fabrice Jaubert, the Google Safe Browsing team in Montréal provides one of the most crucial services the company offers – it protects over 5 billion devices worldwide each year by showing warnings to users when they attempt to navigate to dangerous sites or download dangerous files. Another team in Montréal works on a product with which you likely interact regularly: reCAPTCHA. Every time you check the I’m not a robot checkbox online, or you are prompted to respond to an adaptive challenge such as an image puzzle, the system developed right here in Montréal enables web hosts to distinguish between human and automated access to websites.

Threat Analysis Group (TAG): This team has the challenging mission to understand and counter financially motivated and government-backed threats against Google and our users. Led by Pierre-Marc Bureau, TAG works around the clock on the safety and security of our users and platforms, tracking over 270 malicious groups and threats from more than 50 countries. These groups have many goals, including intelligence collection, stealing intellectual property, targeting dissidents, journalists and activists, conducting destructive cyber attacks, or spreading coordinated disinformation. For example, as the war in Ukraine continues, TAG Montréal is countering an increasing number of financially motivated threat actors — whose activities seem closely aligned with Russian government-backed attackers — shifting their focus on targeting Ukraine. Read more about it in this blog post from TAG’s Montréal team here.

Chrome: Several of the most innovative features Chrome has to offer are developed right here in Montréal and used every day by billions of people worldwide. Fun fact: our current CEO, Sundar Pichai, was a Chrome product manager early on in his career. These days, under the leadership of Robert Shield, the Montréal Chrome team is focused on pushing the boundaries of the web - with teams building enhancements in graphics, data analysis, speed and memory usage. There are teams developing new features for mobile form factors and building enterprise-grade security right into the browser. Our Chrome Enterprise division, for example, helps companies every day be more efficient and secure by configuring their browser to their needs with the extensions and applications they need, in a safe, secure and stable environment.

Artificial Intelligence: In November 2016, we announced the launch of the Google Brain team in Montréal, a deep learning and AI research group linked to Google’s Headquarters in Mountain View. Since then, Hugo Larochelle and his fellow researchers have been hard at work, participating in Brain's long tradition of disruptive innovation in technology and science. They have co-authored more than 100 peer-reviewed publications in journals, conferences and workshops, including an outstanding paper award at the most prestigious conference in the field. They’ve introduced ML technologies where there wasn’t already at Google, such as for autonomous balloon navigation and code repair. They’ve also contributed and collaborated around several open-sourced libraries (Dopamine, Tangent, JAXopt) and benchmarks (Meta-Dataset). In just five years, Brain Montréal has helped stimulate the AI ecosystem in Canada, and the thriving research team is now helping reverse “academic brain drain”.

Cloud: Montréal is home to one of two Google Cloud regions in Canada, which powers the businesses of some of Québec’s most beloved and up-and-coming brands, helping them in their digital transformation. As an example, the ongoing partnership between Google Cloud and Canadian National (CN), which helps modernize their rail application portfolio and improve overall customer experience, while supporting CN’s sustainability goals, as Google’s platform is the cleaning cloud in the industry. Google also invests in building local sales teams that understand the needs of our unique market. Led by Eric Gascon and Marc Boyer, the team is creating Québec-first solutions. A recent example is the virtual assistant developed with Desjardins, which is the first virtual assistant that understands québécois and can help customers replace a lost credit card, apply for an RRSP or reset their password.

In addition, the new Climate Insights offerings from Google Cloud help convert raw geospatial data into actionable and accessible insights, which can help local Québec governments improve and preserve communities for future generations. With these insights help governments better identify climate risks, predict changes, and make data-driven decisions to meet the challenge of climate change.