When Google Glass went out to beta testers for the Glass explorer program, the hype had already started. Industry experts, gadget geeks and researchers raced to predict the uses of the headset, such as videos, photos, gaming and voice commands.
Much of the talk about Glass, however, centered on how consumers would use the device and what apps would enhance their lives. But where does Glass fit in the enterprise? How will IT departments handle another device to monitor? Are there major business opportunities with the device?
1. It's most useful for mobile workers. The hype over Google Glass, a wearable computer with a head-mounted display, has focused on consumer applications, but there are tantalising business applications, too.
"[Glass] enables hands-free communication with a camera for busy people on their feet that need to make things come together," says Angela McIntyre, research director at Gartner.
"For example, field service technicians in industries such as oil and gas, healthcare and manufacturing could use Glass to diagnose an equipment problem by sending a picture to an expert at headquarters or by watching an instructional video to fix the issue.
"Instead of paying experts and flying them all over the world, you have staff that connects with remote experts," says Brent Blum, manager of digital experiences at Accenture Technology Labs. Glass could also advance the use of maps for workers locating a package in a warehouse or making a delivery to a new location.
Other types of mobile workers may also find practical uses of Glass for instantaneous updates of information. Financial services institutions could give Glass to their traders at the stock exchange so they can receive real-time information on stock quotes.
"They need to have information as soon as they can get it to make the deals and trades," McIntyre says. Retail companies could give Glass to sales clerks in stores to look up product information for customers or to conduct transactions.
2. It's a new tool for geofencing. Retailers will like the idea of another device for sending mobile coupons. But "there are some basic building blocks that need to be in place first in terms of Wi-Fi infrastructure and data management," says Blum.
Down the line, stores could send coupons that coincide with their loyalty program as you enter the area around the store or shopping center in hopes of getting your business. Glass currently has Crystal Shopper, an app for scanning bar codes to look up prices and reviews, but eventually consumers may be able to see coupons before their eyes as they walk into a store.
3. There are privacy concerns. The camera in Google Glass could be used to surreptitiously take photos or record videos. McIntyre cautions that "people can take pictures of screens and use them in illegal ways." Data captured by Google Glass will need to be secured, like any other computing device.
"If you're providing a service through Glass, it could be a selling point that you offer better encryption," says Shane Walker, an associate director at research firm, IHS. Businesses will also have to be weary of facial recognition because although Google has banned the technology from Glass, hackers have found a loophole.
If companies are seriously considering bringing Glass into the corporate environment, they will have to vet the devices just like they did with smartphones and tablets. "Start thinking about policy now and how you will handle those requests," McIntyre says. "It's another kind of BYOD policy."
4. The price is high but will level out. The current price of Google Glass, about US$1,500, is about triple that of a smartphone. When Glass becomes commercially available in 2014, the price will have to come down to the level of a smartphone or tablet before companies will buy it.
"You'd have to understand what problem you're trying to solve that can't be solved by cheaper technologies," says Sam Chesterman, CIO of IPG Mediabrands and a member of the Glass Explorer program for beta-testers. Blum says for businesses, it will be about figuring out how much time and money will be saved by using Glass to determine the ROI.
5. There isn't an app for that. Glass comes standard with a few basic apps like search, messaging and video but doesn't have an app store yet. Still, many developers and businesses are creating their own apps, such as Fidelity Investments' Fidelity Market Monitor app to view stock quotes.
Chesterman agrees, saying companies should, "Pick a business problem you can solve with [Glass] and see if you have someone on your staff with Android development chops." McIntyre says to get out there before competitors do.
"Companies that want to be seen as leading edge are starting to work on apps for delivering content to consumers through Glass," McIntyre says. For now, Glass is well-suited for content creation across many industries such as media and marketing.
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