Is Google Glass really ready for the enterprise?

Is Google Glass really ready for the enterprise?

Google Glass Enterprise Edition is now available to businesses, but does it really work as a collaboration and productivity tool?

DHL employees use Glass to move inventory around the warehouse faster

DHL employees use Glass to move inventory around the warehouse faster

After working for two years on an enterprise version of its smart glasses -- Glass Enterprise Edition -- Google says its head-mounted display is now "fully available" for business use.

There's still no way to buy the device online, and the question remains whether businesses can benefit from using Glass as a collaboration and workflow tool.

Glass Project Lead Jay Kothari wrote in a blog post July 18 that Google Glass Enterprise Edition had evolved from a two-year limited program to being available now to more businesses through a network of development partners, such as EyeSucceed or Proceedix.

Google's development partners create applications for specific industries, such as manufacturing, aerospace and healthcare.

Google is pitching Glass as a tool that can ease workflows by helping employees remain engaged and focused on tasks by removing distractions. Saying "OK Glass," for example, can activate an application.

Heather Erickson, an engine assembler for agricultural machine maker AGCO, uses Google Glass on an assembly line.
Heather Erickson, an engine assembler for agricultural machine maker AGCO, uses Google Glass on an assembly line.

Google partner Proceedix offers a software-as-a-service-based platform to manage enterprise procedures, work instructions and inspections; with its software, operators can execute work instructions and inspection work flows through smart eyewear like Glass.

Beginning in 2014, TEXT Duke Energy began piloting the use of piloted smart glasses from more than a half dozen companies, including VuzixGolden-I by Kopin and Atheer Air, and Recon Jet. The company had hoped to test Google Glass, but they'd recently discontinued offering them directly.

Even so, Duke sees several convincing use cases for smart glasses.

"Over the next three to five years, we're adding them to our enterprise solutions," said Aleksandar Vukojevic, the technology development manager for the Emerging Technologies Office at Duke Energy in Charlotte, N.C.

Vukojevic said smart glasses can enable employees working in the field to access training or instructional videos to help with equipment repairs or upgrades.

The glasses also allow remote management, where managers capture what a line or transformer worker sees and then annotates images and video with instructions, sending them back out to workers in the field, "so they know exactly what you're talking about.

"I can tell you there's a pretty big use case for remote assistance or live video or audio where you can have one person in the field and one person in the back office directing them," Vukojevic said.

Duke also tried out the smart glasses in its warehouses for stock inventory; as a worker looks at an item code, it's automatically recorded against an existing database.

Vukojevic, however, cautioned that there's still a long way to go before smart glasses will fit seamlessly in the energy industry.

For example, smart glasses aren't necessarily designed with security in mind, so -- as with any mobile device -- locking down the data that's accessed is crucial. The sensors in the smart glasses are also not as accurate as point products, Vukojevic said.

So a field worker using them to locate a breaker or other device might be off by 10 or 15 feet using Google's GPS instead of a military-grade solution more common to the energy industry; that technology can locate equipment to within one centimetre.

Also, smart glasses don't necessarily allow safety glasses to be worn over them, and while Duke tested them against small, sample Excel spreadsheets, integrating them with their internal databases would be a far more difficult task.

Google Glass
Google Glass

"Full-scale use would require the glasses to be connected to our internal network. Smart glasses are like smartphones and without the [integration] to internal content and the right applications, they're not useful," Vukojevic said.

Then there's the issue of industry standards. For example, the energy industry uses the 61850 standard for electrical substation automation systems to be able to communicate with each other.

Any new mobile device, including smart glasses, would have to comply with common information models used in specific electronic systems.

Google said its Glass can also allow quality assurance checklists on assembly lines, and can enable physicians to bring up patient data and radiological images while staying engaged on a task.

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