Smartglasses Come Into View

By Samuel Greengard

Over the last decade, there’s been growing enterprise interest in wearable electronics, particularly smartglasses. These devices would allow workers—including field technicians, warehouse staff and medical professionals—to do their jobs hands free. Although a small number of organizations have adopted smart goggle and glass technology from vendors such as Lumus and Epson, the field has mostly been relegated to niche tasks and use in the military.

But, now, thanks in part to the introduction of Google Glass, it appears the field is poised for more widespread adoption. The technology is improving rapidly and prices are dropping. “Smartglasses with augmented reality and head-mounted cameras can increase the efficiency of technicians, engineers and other workers in field service, maintenance, health-care and manufacturing roles,” reports Angela McIntyre, research director at Gartner Inc.

Within the next three to five years, the technology will flourish, particularly among field service workers, Gartner reports. In fact, McIntyre estimates that smartglass technology could boost industry-wide profits by $1 billion annually by 2017. “The greatest savings in field service will come from diagnosing and fixing problems more quickly and without the need to bring additional experts to remote sites.” For example, a technician might access a database or video while in the field and repairing a piece of equipment. The glasses could display an online manual or superimpose images or animation of how to fix an item.

Smartglasses could also capture or stream video of work being performed in order to verify that an employee is meeting quality standards. The glasses could simplify inspections and provide evidence in the event of a customer inquiry or dispute. McIntyre sees particular value for insurance adjusters, real estate appraisers, construction inspectors and couriers delivering packages. She also sees benefits for health-care professionals, including doctors and nurses, who could view patient records and charts hands-free.

For now, businesses face a number of challenges, and widespread adoption revolves around several key issues: new and better apps, integration with existing IT systems, the development of security policies and integration into MDM, and lower prices. When professional grade smartglasses hit a $500 to $1,500 price point, adoption will likely take off, McIntire says. “They can be used in a variety of different ways. They move beyond the domain of larger enterprise and into the mainstream of business.”

In addition to Google, several manufacturers are likely to enter the marketplace over the next few years, Gartner notes. Currently, about 1% of businesses use smartglasses, which can cost thousands of dollars per device. However, in a decade, Gartner estimates that perhaps half the companies that would benefit from using smartglasses will test them with at least some of their employees.

Formulate a Strategy

McIntyre suggests that CIOs who could benefit from smartglasses begin formulating a strategy, including how to enact security measures and connect to APIs. “It’s important to develop some type of plan—including a BYOD policy—in order to ensure that the devices aren’t used in highly secure areas and in inappropriate ways,” she concludes. “Smartglasses offer significant benefits but also create new challenges and risks.”

About the Author

Samuel Greengard is a contributing writer for CIO Insight.

Samuel Greengard
Samuel Greengard
Samuel Greengard writes about business, technology and other topics. His book, The Internet of Things (MIT Press) was released in the spring of 2015.

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