Google Glass: Consumer Device in Enterprise World

Markiyan Matsekh on
Product Manager, Mobility & Wearables ELEKS
You’ve heard of Google Glass, you have the basic idea of what it does, but you’re not sure how it touches you. Right? Then we have something to talk about.
In this article I’m going to shed some light on what it is(and what it’s not), how it fits into the enterprise(and how it doesn’t), and finally – how can you benefit from it and what will stop you from doing it. You’ll also find lots of examples down the road. So, let’s start!

Englishman in New York Google Glass in Enterprise
What it is
Well actually it is anything but glasses – it’s just a computer with camera, attached to your head:) But let’s go step by step.

First of all, we have Android on board, i.e. a POSIX-compatible operating system, which means we could do almost anything we’ve done on mobile phones or desktop computers. The issue is that, as of now, the only official way to build apps for Glass is limited to showing pictures and text. But, unofficially Google lets us use all the features, and as the community is demanding, it seems like a matter of time when it will be official.

Second, we have a smart screen. Why is it smart? Because it’s there when you need it, and gone when you don’t. At least they say so:). The screen turns on notifications, which you are subscribed to, and manually, by nodding your head lightly. And actually it’s not a screen, it’s projection into . When I tried Glass it took me 5-10 minutes to get used to this.
Then, we have a voice control! That means that we don’t actually need to press any buttons and can keep our hands free. That’s a huge feature. Of course, there’s still a touch pad to cover cases when you want to remain silent. And speaking of sound…they’ve been experimenting with it. Let’s just say that Google Glass can produce sound.
Next, we have a camera, comfortably sitting on your head and seeing everything you see. Most of glass explorers say it’s a killer feature, actually the one that makes glass worth buying. Sharing video while doing your job, gives us a whole new set of opportunities.
And last is the connectivity module. We have Wi-Fi to be self-sufficient, but mostly Glass pairs with mobile phone via Bluetooth and gives us 3G or LTE network together with GPS tracking.
I didn’t mention some minor Glass’ parts, but you can have a look here for more details.

What it’s not
There have been a lot of myths going through the Internet about Google Glass, and I’d like to bust some of them. So, what Google Glass doesn’t do?

First of all it doesn’t do augmented reality. You don’t see the world through the Glass, you see Glass’ screen on top right corner of your view field. So it just doesn’t fit.
Second, you can’t use the camera “secretly”. Google has foreseen this threat and made a design decision to avoid such cases. So, to take a picture we’ll have to say “OK Glass, take a picture” or lift our hand towards our head and press the touch pad. Same goes for video, but while recording, the screen is on, so will notice you filming them.
Similar situation with face recognition. Google has cut out all standard libraries for face recognition, and also doesn’t allow such applications into their official “store”. It is technically possible to implement it but is probably illegal. Yet.
And again the screen. I’ve heard lots of complains that a constant screen in one’s view field will drive people crazy. As I said, the screen is off most of the time and turns on when you need it. Period

Enterprise
Now we’re getting to an interesting part. How can we apply it to the enterprise. I’ll start from the examples.

Healthcare
Recently Philips together with Accenture have published results of their experiment with Google Glass, which was focused on healthcare. Functionality varied from integrating with Medical Records System, helping managing patients, showing vital signs during the operation and much more.

Warehousing
Another giant, SAP, together with Vuzix have produced their own glasses, specialized for this type of workers. As their demo shows, warehouses workers use optimized path finding, identifying needed palette, scanning barcodes, fixing technical issues by connecting to remote technician and streaming their video.

 


Maintenance/Tech support
Speaking of tech support, the whole procedure could be simplified, by providing busy technicians with this smart assistant. They could contact their peers and share their screen, look up repair history or take a quick look into the instruction guide while working, and all hands-free!
What’s even more important, is that engineers, who use handheld devices at work are actually distracted by them. Moving this device to the default view field would make it more safe.

When is it worth it?
So, following these examples, how do we know when it’s actually worth considering investments into wearables?
Let’s take a look at typical enterprise mobility model. We have field workers, and we equip them with mobile devices, mobile applications and access to corporate network. In return we strongly increase their productivity and improve the business process. Now, there’s this type of workers, whose job requires intensive hand usage. If we equip them with wearable, i.e. hands-free devices, we would not just optimize their work flow, we would also increase their safety. So the key driver to adopting Google Glass-like devices in enterprise is the presence of hands-intensive workers, which would benefit from assistance.

But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Why limit ourselves with B2E apps? It’s actually more probable that wearables will come into the enterprise from customer side, as it’s a consumer device. A very bright example is banking.

Banking
Most of us already know how important mobile banking is for the customers, and Google Glass could take it to another level. My favorite Google Glass ad is from one of the leading Ukrainian banks PrivatBank, where they show how Glass can simplify our lives. It includes buying things by just taking a look at them, loading car with fuel without even leaving it, finding the ATMs and withdrawing money without the card, and much much more. 


Learning

This is an area where glass explorers have already done a lot. I’ll give 2 bright examples
1. A doctor making a knee operation while video-streaming his actions to the students.
2. A physicist having a lesson with his class, while cycling around Hadron Collider

There’s also a nice article focused on Google Glass’ role in education.

Sports

This is an area where we at ELEKS decided to experiment, as one of the most fruitful sources for integrating wearables into the process and thus expanding interaction scenarios. We’ve shown how race sports can be changed by equipping participants with live map and leader board, or how group sports can be changed by equipping players with live radar and possibility to see what teammates’ see and much more. You can see the interactive video at glass.eleks.com.

Advertising

And what about e-commerce? Retail? Advertising? Public services? At this point wearables come into a perfect combination with contextual awareness. Imagine coming into the airport and automatically receiving notification about your registration desk number, departure gate and flight status. I recommend watching the presentation on NoUI concept and wearables for a bigger picture.


When is it worth it?#2
So Glass can be a very good way to reach your audience. And think of it – these people have consciously put a computer on their head and encouraged you to interact with them in such way. So its probably not a mainstream part of your audience.

Challenges
But let’s step away from the perfect world and face the reality. There is couple of major issues with implementing wearables in the enterprise.

Battery
Seriously, Google glass can take 40 minutes watching youtube, 4 hours standard mode(I didn’t expect more from Android:)). There is a great struggle between producing more powerful batteries and wearing them on your head. So good luck here.

Security
We are still in the process of handling current security issues, and bringing this new type of device would cause tones of new concerns. Yes, Google Glass has a good theft protection, but authentication needs to be improved. Also, I imagine, coming to a secure workplace with a camera on your head may be an issue.

User Experience
As I said, screen is smaller, and obviously the interaction is different, so we again need to adapt application logic to it. There are special UX guidelines for building apps for Glass. So we can’t, or at least shouldn’t simply port mobile apps to Glass, just like we shouldn’t port desktop websites to mobile phones. They need to be reconsidered and rebuilt with new usage context in mind.

Priority
I believe most of you have more important problems to solve right now, like BYOD, mobile strategy, teaching your enterprise engineers mobile development, learning about your employees’ workflows and habits, choosing between cross-platform tools or struggling to find a reliable third-party vendor to do this for you… I do not think that focusing main efforts on Glass implementation while having that much on your shoulders is the right thing to do. 

Mass Adoption

Currently there is 10 000 Google Glass items on planet. Comparing to several billions mobile devices. For now, Google Glass is kind of a futuristic device, something cool, unexplored and compelling. But people haven’t got used to it like they did with mobile phones. So adopting it now will take time, efforts and probably training.


And let me guess what you’re thinking about right now – “last time we saw mass adoption in mobility, we ended up with BYOD!”. So I feel a need to at least touch BYOW

 
Bring Your Own Wearable?
 
Obviously Google Glass is not the only “Glass”. There is a whole set of other wearable devices: GlassUp, Telepathy, ReconJet, Meta SpaceGlasses and many others. So one could wonder whether BYOD will repeat again.
It’s not clear whether wearables have same future. As technology grows, we see a certain resistance from people to accept them as they become too smart. For example – are you OK with what Google Now does? I sometimes feel uncomfortable, lots of my friends turend it off. Let’s take a look at the numbers. In a recent survey 18% said they’d buy the device. 20% of people agreed that Glass should be banned. More than a half had privacy concerns.  And 69% demanded greater regulation of people wearing the devices in public places. So it remains a great question, whether this new kind of interaction will go massive.

But we have to admit it – Google Glass is the first and probably the only wearable device with potential for mass adoption. Google made a really good marketing job here, which I personally admire.

For more information you can also read this article by Forbes on BYOD and Glass.

What can I do now?
First of all, we have a lot of more important problems and brighter opportunities with mobile devices right now. And I don’t recommend focusing on Google Glass before having more or less stable mobile strategy.
But if you do, you have a whole new set of opportunities! Now, whenever you detect hands intensive job, you know that you can improve it by introducing wearables.
Also, if you’re looking for new ways to reach your customers, Google Glass may just be it – the most effective way to please your most modern target audience.
And although Google Glass is not in public sale yet, you can choose other wearables, or you start building apps for it today, without the device itself.

So, let me finish by saying this – implementing mobility into known business processes and changing them is inspiring. But introducing things like Google Glass, applying them  to the areas where they actually bring value, and being among the first people who’ve done it – that’s just awesome! So let’s do it, and let’s do it together!

p.s. I’ve been lucky to get involved in introducing Glass into one of the complex business processes. So in near future you’ll see a big success or failure story.

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Comments

  • Markiyan Matsekh, thank you for your extensive and interesting article of Google Glass, especially the links you created helped me to learn more specific information.
    If you consider yourself perfectionist I would recommend you to correct one typographic error. I’m sure you can easily find it in the chapter “Bring Your Own Wearable?”