There are two bets to make on how companies will benefit from wearable heads-up displays like Google Glass: as an employee tool that can deliver and collect information from workers in the field who are performing tasks like repairs or customer service, or as a consumer technology that can deliver up-to-the-minute ambient information, without requiring users to glance down at a smartphone screen. With the current price of Glass at $1,500 for “explorers” (a/k/a software developers and early adopters), applications focused on increasing worker productivity will likely surface first. But some corporate innovation groups are also experimenting with Glass apps geared to consumers. While there are brand and PR wins to be scored by the first-movers, it’s still early to make a compelling return-on-investment case for either approach.
Here’s what five large companies are doing with Glass.
Fidelity Investments has developed an app for Glass that provides users with better access to “financial market data and stock quotes in a timely manner that leads to better investment outcomes for our users,” says Sean Belka, Director of Fidelity’s Center for Applied Technology. Currently, “hundreds of users ” are using the app, many of whom aren’t current Fidelity customers, he says. The app is free, though it requires users to have their own Glass device.
Belka has observed that some users learn their way around Glass’ speech-and-touch-driven interface “practically immediately,” while others ” take longer to figure it out.” He says development costs for the app were relatively low, since Fidelity received some software development assistance from Google. Designing the app involved “brainstorming and co-developing the app with users in a collaborative design process.” Fidelity is also exploring possible “enterprise uses of Google Glass” to “provide ambient information to our employees in data roles,” Belka says.
He notes that the company is at an early stage of “exploring the use of [other] wearable technology and virtual reality systems, including Pebble Watch, Oculus Rift, and Android Wear.” As such, its Google Glass app is part of a larger effort to experiment with wearable technology.
GE Aviation has been testing the use of a Glass app for jet engine inspections. It allows technicians to speak commands that get the system to identify particular engine parts, run diagnostic tests, and communicate with colleagues. The device helps free up those technicians from needing to search for information on their laptops while they’re doing inspections.
Schlumberger has provided its oilfield workers with a special Glass app developed by Wearable Intelligence to help those workers better manage their information workflow and to-do lists in grimy and dangerous environments. In addition, performance metrics for those workers can be relayed to management.
Virgin Atlantic recently conducted a six-week trial of Glass with its Upper Class Wing customers at London’s Heathrow airport. The test was designed as an express check-in service for those customers. At the airport, the airline’s concierge staff gathered more customer information and provided greater guidance to those passengers regarding their itineraries and other issues, such as weather changes. The company declared the trial a “great success,” but hasn’t yet disclosed when it might introduce Glass in its customer service operations elsewhere. More info on Virgin Atlantic’s blog.
General Motors has tested Glass with about 100 employees at its Orion Assembly plant, Warren Technology Center, and other information technology sites in Michigan since late last year. GM has experimented with the photo and video features of Glass. For example, workers can use it to snap pictures of possible problem parts and relay them to engineers for their assessment. The company is considering using Google Glass at other facilities. More info from Mlive.
Google has recently begun inviting software development firms that develop Glass apps for enterprise to participate in its Glass at Work certification program. In April, Marketingland published a list of 60 companies that have been developing and launching Glass apps.