person wearing Google Glass while sitting at their desk

Google Glass Makes Inroads in the Workplace

9 minute read
Kaya Ismail avatar

When Alphabet — Google’s parent company — announces a new product, its success at times seems like a forgone conclusion. 

But when Google Glass debuted back in 2012, things didn’t go quite as planned for the world’s most valuable brand. The public release in 2013 was met with criticisms, questions of ethics and etiquette and a new moniker for some sporting the glasses — glasshole.

Following the highly visible debut was ... silence. 

Yet Google Glass as a product never actually went away — it just went to work.

Google Glass Is Alive and Kicking

In a Medium blog post on July 18, Project Lead for Glass Jay Kothari revealed that Glass Enterprise Edition (EE) has been the subject of a “two year limited program.”

“Based on the positive feedback we’ve received from [AGCO, DHL, Dignity Health, NSF International, Sutter Health, The Boeing Company]...we’re now making Glass Enterprise Edition available to more businesses through our network of partners,” he said.

So, while many assumed the worst for Google Glass, it was in fact working hard in the agricultural, medical and logistics industries.

What’s more, Google has launched a newer version of Google Glass, which boasts an 8 megapixel camera, a longer battery life, a better processor, an indicator for video recording and improved Wi-Fi speeds.

But most interestingly, the Glass EE module is now decoupled entirely from the frames, meaning it can work with all kinds of existing eyewear, from industrial safety glasses to a chemist’s goggles.

So we may start seeing brands manufacturing their very own Google-powered glasses.

Glass Enterprise Edition Use Cases

What's emerged in Kothari's post and in the weeks following are examples of how businesses are putting Glass EE to work:

GE Healthcare Emergency Medical Technicians en route to the emergency room use Glass to communicate with on-site doctors through real-time video and voice calls, providing up to the minute information regarding the condition of a patient allowing the in-house team to correctly prepare for the patient’s arrival.

DHL has used Glass in its warehouses, using it for a practice they call ‘Vision Picking.’ Basically, instead of a warehouse worker using hand scanners to document their order picking, Google Glass brings augmented reality into the equation to help order pickers log in just by looking at their identity card, figure out which trolley should contain which package, and remove the need for a hand scanner altogether.

On the other side of the spectrum, GuidiGo deploys Glass for more leisurely tasks. They create bespoke tours for museums, with Glass providing relevant information to visitors as they stroll through history-clad halls.

2 Companies Putting Glass to Work in the Enterprise

To probe into the usage of Google Glass in the enterprise space, CMSWire spoke to two Glass implementers, Ghent, Belgium-based Proceedix and Herzogenrath, Germany-based Picavi.

Proceedix: Use Cases for Glass Spread to Enterprise and Beyond

Proceedix is a Software-as-a-Service provider of a solution to manage enterprise procedures, work instructions and inspections via smart devices.

To get to grips with how Google Glass is changing the enterprise working environment, CMSWire spoke to Proceedix CEO Peter Verstraeten.

CMSWire: What was it about Google Glass that made you want to bring it to enterprise workplaces?

Peter Verstraeten, CEO Proceedix
Peter Verstraeten
Verstraeten: Proceedix’s founders realized that many desk-less operators are working in a supply chain and that mobile and wearable technology will be the key to connect these people (without desk and PC) to the rest of the smart factory when they are out in the field.

Smart eyewear like Google Glass has the advantage to put information directly into the field of view of the wearer hence providing mobile phone functions in a hands-free mode. Most of the questions we received from customers in 2013 and 2014 pertained to instruction workflow improvements via Google Glass, in order to support the operator while doing his job.

CMSWire: What key benefits does Google Glass bring to your enterprise customers?

Verstraeten: Glass in the workplace is a device to connect, inform, guide and capture the feedback of the worker at any place and time. These functions can be offered by a smartphone or a tablet, but the advantage of Glass is the fact that it keeps the worker's hands free.

This eliminates paper and non-value-added administration processes, reducing operating costs.

CMSWire: Have you faced any challenges with Google Glass Enterprise Edition?

Verstraeten: The current Glass as any other smart eyewear is still an emerging technology. We believe that Glass is the best so far in the category "informed or assisted reality." But future versions of any smart eyewear producer will need to enhance wearer comfort (balanced weight, adjusting to a broad spectrum of human head characteristics: eye position, ear, nose). Improving design and comfort while improving the functioning (longer battery life, robust, stronger processor ...) is a challenge for all.

CMSWire: Do you think Google Glass is anywhere near ready for broader use cases, or is it only really worth it for enterprise environments?

Verstraeten: There is definitely a use case for assisted reality glasses like Glass in enterprise and beyond. In a warehouse for example, workers need their hands free to pick goods, pack and ship them, and I believe there are plenty of [other] use cases for Glass.

Whether the consumer will adopt this technology and welcome it as an alternative for a smartphone, depends on the design. A pair of glasses is very personal and therefore also fashion sensitive. Consumers will be much more preoccupied with fashion than function. Enterprise is the opposite.

Learning Opportunities

Picavi: Glass Will Take Longer to Arrive for B2C

Founded in 2013, Picavi specializes in implementing Google Glass into warehouses environments, and claims to be the first company in the world to have developed order picking with smart glasses.

CMSWire posed some questions to Johanna Bellenberg, Picavi’s director of marketing and communications, to better understand its insights into Google Glass in the workplace.

CMSWire: Google Glass is having success in the enterprise working environment, what do you put that down to?

Bellenberg: The word wearable is a very important one for us. Workers in a warehouse have to wear smart glasses for eight to 10 hours per day, and Glass Enterprise Edition is one of the best products in terms of wearability. It weighs in at only 1.5 oz which is slightly more than “normal” prescription lenses. Additionally it suits every face and is very well balanced. So it perfect for high motion activities.

Johanna Bellenberg, Picavi
Johanna Bellenberg
[Another benefit of smart eyewear] is being guided visually. Of all the information we take in during the day we process 80 percent via our eyes. Glass uses that natural mechanism to boost productivity.

Further benefits can be seen from our own customer data. We currently have over 36 customers using Google Glass 24/7, shift by shift. Throughout these ongoing implementations, we have seen productivity increase between five and 40 percent.

We also see reductions in training time for new staff and seasonal staff. Our customers report that Glass training can take as little as 20 minutes.

CMSWire: How far outside of logistics do you see Google Glass reaching?

Bellenberg: I do believe remote control, service checks and factory assembly lines [are all good enterprise use cases].

There are different studies that foresee the great potential of smart glasses. For example a Forrester study (fee charged) from 2016 states that 2018 there will be 2.6 Million workers be working with smart glasses — and that’s in the US alone. Another study from Germany by Bitkom states that in the next 10 years 75 percent of the all smart glasses will support workers in logistics.

As for outside the enterprise space — stepping away from B2B and going into B2C — it will take a little longer to arrive. Every time we talk about smart glasses in combination with privacy it is a totally different vibe. In a warehouse it is no issue because everybody works with it and everybody knows what it is capable of or what is restricted of doing. But if you imagine for example you are shopping and the person at the cash register is wearing Glass you get a strange feeling because you don’t really know what he or she is doing or seeing.

Plus there is a camera and no one wants pictures taken they do not know about. So if we talk about the B2C sector, it will still take a lot more educational work.

CMSWire: Which industries have been the most receptive to the idea of Google Glass in the workplace? Are there any industries that currently don't have Google Glass use cases?

Bellenberg: Glass Enterprise Edition basically works in every place where workers receive instructions to work by, assuming that there is competence in how to develop the right software for each environment.

Logistics is of course one very big sector, [and as previously mentioned] Glass works well in remote control or other industries where you have to assemble parts or do checks (like the automotive industry).

However, we also have to separate between Virtual, Augmented and Assisted Reality. Glass is very good fit for Assisted Reality, but as for real Augmented Reality, we do not see a wearable smart glass that will be accepted at this moment in time.

For Warehouses, Not Our Houses

As both Verstraeten and Bellenberg noted, the requirements for success at a consumer level versus at an enterprise level are clearly different. 

For now, we can expect to see brands adopting Glass to simplify their workflows and enhance productivity — as companies like DHL have seen. 

As for the masses using Glass to send email and check Twitter? Let's return to that question down the line.