That was my first reaction to the product. I had an opportunity to try on the glasses almost 6 months ago through my brother-in-law, who is an early adopter of any new technology. And while there had been a lot of hype surrounding the product, I was completely unimpressed by what I saw. First it was a bit uncomfortable to have something so intrusive sitting close to my eyes. Second, it seemed strange and unnatural to say “Ok, Glass” before issuing any command. So I dismissed the product and gave it no further thought.
That was until recently. A few weeks ago at a conference, I saw a video showcasing how Google Glass is being applied to education, where teachers can share what they see during a field trip with students who are unable to join the trip (either because of cost, travel restrictions or other reasons). It was pretty amazing to see the application, and I started to think about what this really meant. I realized that it is not so much about the form factor of Google Glass, but rather the possibilities that the technology (and other wearables, such as smart watches) enable around what you can do while you are on the move, and being connected through something allowing hands-free operation and access.
A Business Insider study predicts that 1 million wearable devices will ship by 2014, growing to 300 million by 2018. According to Juniper Research, “Smart wearables”, will have revenues rising to $1.9B by 2018. A slew of players are working on Smart watches – Samsung is highly advertising their Smart watch, Google is considered to be working on one as is Apple, and Pebble has shipped the most number of Smart watches to date. There are a multitude of fitness devices such as Nike+, Fitbit, Jawbone, etc that collect body signals and make those available to you via your smart phone. GigaOm researcher Jody Ranck wrote that wearables “could potentially be the form factor for future mobile phones beyond the platform as we currently see it.”
With the work I do in the enterprise space, I started to think about how these solutions might help an enterprise. For example, consider a service worker for a Utility company (although this could apply to service workers in any industry). Let’s say the worker is called in to fix one of the transformers that has gone down. Once they get to the location, they can use instructions available online through their “wearable”, while using with their hands to fix the equipment. If they find the online information insufficient, they can call an expert sitting in the main office, who can see everything the service worker is seeing through their wearable and then walk them step by step through how to fix the part that is broken. This can save the utility company (and end customers) many days of downtime, resulting in significant cost savings. Or another example might be a heart surgeon doing a complex surgery and how they can consult with other experts for real time advice on more complicated situations by allowing the other experts to see everything through a wearable device. Yet another example could be that of the Head of manufacturing, who gets alerted via his smart watch in case of an emergency situation, and then can take action through the device to solve the issue even if they don’t have their phone on them.
On a personal note, during a recent trip to Philadelphia, I saw some beautiful houses while driving, and wanted to share it with others back home. But of course I could not stop while driving. How cool if my glasses could automatically take pictures of the scenery, so that I can share it with others, while I stay safe through my hands-free operation – or can I get a traffic ticket for that ?
While there are a number of concerns about privacy and how people might misuse this capability, this is the case with any new technology. Eventually when the benefits outweigh the risks people will adopt. Another issue is accessibility to the technology – right now it is still difficult for most developers to get their hands on Google Glass, even if they are ready to pay. While it will take some time for these technologies to become mainstream, what I find most exciting is the opportunities this opens up for us to do things differently. Certainly this is the right time to start thinking about the innovative usage scenarios that will disrupt our “normal” way of operations.
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