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 tantalizing 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.
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