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Google's former 'Glass at Work' chief talks smartglasses in the enterprise

Al Sacco | July 9, 2014
In April, Google launched "Glass at Work," a program that certifies Glass-related products and services from third-party vendors for use in enterprise environments. The company last month announced its first five official "Glass at Work" partners and took some significant steps toward legitimizing its Glass smartglasses in the enterprise.

CIO: In leaving Google to join APX, are you distancing yourself from Glass?

EJ: I'm doubling down [on Glass], really. I'm jumping out into trenches, in the field, with customers and with APX. Another way to characterize it is, I'm climbing up the stack to a higher level of distraction, on top of the Glass stack, to solve deeper and more specific problems for customers. I'm going to be dependent on my relationship with the Glass team, so I've got to be confident in Glass at Work.

CIO: At first, most people thought of Glass as a consumer tool. But today, some of the most interesting, and potentially valuable, uses are enterprise related. Do you think that, over time, smartglasses will evolve into an enterprise-specific tool? Will consumers still use them? Or a little bit of both? 

EJ: It's going to be fascinating to watch. I think smartglasses will be used by both consumers and enterprises. They'll just evolve at different speeds, like any technology does. Before Apple, the standard way that new technology evolved was through the enterprise. I think Apple and Google changed that. People refer to the consumerization of IT.

My background is in the enterprise, that's what I know, so that's what I can really speak to. It's hard to contrast with the consumer side. I think the consumer side will play out over time, with definite ways that consumers can use smartglasses. Personally, I love wearing Glass when I play golf and when I run and when I cycle.

The things that are crystal clear to me are the use cases for enterprises in manufacturing, and oil and gas, healthcare and field service. There's a drumbeat of the same use cases coming up over and over and over. These companies have real business metrics and ROI that they feel like they can justify spending significant money to solve these problems in the enterprise.

CIO: We write about wearable tech on often, but it's still difficult to find companies using wearables every day. When will smartglasses become commonplace in the enterprise? Is it going to take a long time for businesses to embrace wearables on a large scale? 

EJ: That's the big question. A big part of my role [at APX] is going to be to drive ubiquity of smartglasses in the enterprise. We think we're going to see huge uptake over the next two to three years, to the point where we'll start seeing the majority of Fortune 500 enterprises using smartglasses in some part of their businesses.

I feel like this is going to happen really, really fast. From where I sat over the last year [at Google], I talked with hundreds of customers. Especially in those verticals I mentioned earlier, these guys have been trying to solve wearable-related and smartglasses problems for decades. The missing piece was the hardware. Now that we have it, they're all ready to run pilots and proofs of concept. It's like they had the battle plans sitting there, waiting. They had the legacy systems, they had the use cases, and the business problems ready. Now they have the hardware.


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