Google Glass, the tech giant’s connected eye-worn computing device, has generated plenty of buzz and controversy in consumer markets, where people seem just as excited about its apps as they are concerned about its potential threat to privacy. Although many questions remain to be answered for consumer wearable technology in general, Google Glass is already making inroads to several enterprise markets, while inviting competitors looking to capitalize on the businesses that could put it to use. Here are 10 signs that Google Glass is already making an impact on the enterprise.
It’s already being used in healthcare
Hands-free access to information while multi-tasking makes Glass a perfect fit for healthcare, where the risk of contamination or clerical errors could spell disaster. That’s why the healthcare industry has already started to integrate Glass into its operations. Physicians in one Boston hospital are using the devices during routine checkups and examinations, while surgeons have put them to use for operations. Medical students at Stanford are using Glass to connect with instructors for feedback during operations, and a surgeon at Duke Medical Center in North Carolina is using it to record and archive his operations.
First venture financing went to medical Glass developer
In March, a startup called Augmedix that develops Glass applications targeted for use in hospitals and doctors’ offices received $3.2 million in venture funding. The Dow Jones called it “the first publicly announced round of venture financing for a developer working exclusively on Google Glass,” highlighting the potential for Glass in the healthcare field.
Manufacturing apps are in the works
Another market that places a premium on easy access to information for workers is manufacturing, and many developers have begun to accommodate Glass for them. Last July, Indiana Technology and Manufacturing Companies released a free Glass app called MTConnect, which Automation World called “a manufacturing industry standard for the organized retrieval of process informaiton from numerically controlled machine tools.” Even GE is working with Glass apps for manufacturing. In December, Barry Lynch, GE Intelligent Platform’s global marketing director for automation hardware, published a company blog post predicting that Glass “will become a common sight on the manufacturing shop floor of tomorrow.”
Glass is being adapted for the oil and gas industry
In May, Automation World reported on a Google Glass project at Wearadyne, a company working on wearable technology specified for use in the oil and gas industry. David Vaucher, a company co-founder and a petroleum engineer himself, told Automation World that the company envisions Glass applications that allow engineers to access templates and other information hands-free while in the field, then ultimately send the data back to the network.
Competitors are targeting enterprise markets
One company with a serious Glass competitor for the enterprise is Vuzix, whose connected eyewear system looks strikingly similar to Glass and actually runs an Android-based operating system. The Vuzix system has its own SDK for developing custom apps, and offers separate models for about $1,000, undercutting Glass’s price point by $500. Whether intentional or not, the approach to the market – capitalizing on Google Glass buzz with its own product – is already paying off. In the first quarter of this year, Vuzix reported an 8% year-over-year increase in gross sales, more than half of which stemmed from sales of its new eyewear.
Some see enterprise as a gateway to consumer market
Atheer Labs, a successfully crowdfunded Glass competitor that initially billed itself as a consumer device, has since taken aim on the enterprise as its gateway to consumers. In an interview with Business Insider, company co-founder and chief scientist Soulaiman Itani pointed to the enterprise-first route the PC and smartphone took before gradually moving into consumer markets. Itani told Business Insider that the company would rather design a product for specific use cases, be it for healthcare or factory workers, before trying to guess which features consumers will use.
Others are trying to usher Glass into the workplace
APX Labs, a company with experience developing smart glasses for the military, is crafting its Skylight software to make it easier for developers to create enterprise-focused apps for both Glass and Epson’s smart glasses. In July, the company announced that it had hired Eric Johnsen, a member of the Google X team, to serve as its vice president of development. At the time, Johnsen told Forbes that the active interest in smart glasses in the enterprise is what drew him to the company. Similarly to Atheer Labs, the company said Google’s efforts to make Glass a consumer device created new opportunities in the enterprise.
Citrix is developing enterprise Glass apps
In May, Citrix vice president of mobility Chris Fleck told PC Pro that the company has been working with Google on enterprise apps for the workplace. He clarified that the work is still in the prototype stage, but detailed the company’s interest in integrating its ShareFile and GoToAssist software products into Glass.
Business is an easier sell for smartglasses
In November, Gartner predicted that smartglasses could save the field service industry as much as $1 billion annually by 2017, even though Gartner only expects 10% of U.S. companies will adopt them in the next five years. It will likely be easier to convince a business to buy smartglasses by showing them real cost savings and better efficiency than it will be to convince consumers to buy a $1,500 Glass unit, especially while consumers wearing Glass are being kicked out of restaurants and attacked on the streets.
Google has launched a Glass at Work campaign
Earlier this year, Google teamed with several companies (some of which were mentioned in this list) for the Glass at Work initiative to help foster a large community of enterprise-focused developers for Glass. The program didn’t receive as much attention as much of the more controversial Glass news, but it’s an open invitation from Google to help adapt Glass for the enterprise.