Use of smart glasses in enterprise? It depends on what you’re looking for

The proverb “every Jack has his Jill” applies for smart glasses in enterprise too. Yet some Jacks seem to be more popular than others. There are definitely valid and economically justified use cases in enterprise for each segment of the smart eyewear market. The Oscar for the best selling pair of glasses in enterprise is likely to go to a device with a broad operational capability: providing hands-free information and instructions. The category of smart rear view mirror glasses is in pole position because it allows for discrete information snacking while keeping the eyes on reality.


Smart Eyewear Taxonomy

In a first article “Smart Glasses? It’s all about perspective.” we proposed a taxonomy to segment the emerging market of smart eyewear. In this sequel we will contemplate somewhat deeper on the opportunities for smart eyewear in an enterprise context. Before opening the debate, we recommend you to quickly glance back at the taxonomy table profiling the five segments of the smart eyewear market.

Smart eyewear classification

To structure the discussion on the opportunities of smart glasses in the enterprise world, we searched for a guiding framework based on a neutral observation. The graph below reflects such generic truth.
On the vertical axis we position the focus and field of view of the wearer on the surrounding reality. We call it vigilance by the natural view of the wearer’s eyes. On the horizontal axis of the graph we position the level of enrichment of that natural view by a device on the wearer’s nose. We call this the feed of the wearer’s mind by the pair of glasses. Obviously the horizontal and vertical axises reflect opposite forces or call it conflicting interests in seizing the wearer’s attention.

Use of smart eyewear in enterprise

At one end of the spectrum we encounter the Glass-Cam. In order to prevail a hundred percent focus of the wearer on the action he’s executing, no display or information feedback whatsoever is generated by the glasses. At the other end the spectrum we find the immersive eyewear goggles. This non-transparent diving mask fully shuts off the wearers eyes from the surrounding reality in order to fully plunge him in a virtual world. As a consequence the natural view is zero and the mind is entirely mastered by the device.

Opportunity assessment for enterprise

As the guiding framework has been established and explained, we are ready to initiate the discussion on the opportunities of smart glasses in enterprise.

The Glass-Cam allows to capture the wearer’s perspective on the action and stream it to colleagues without any danger of disturbing the actor on stage. Though it does not provide any added value to the wearer himself, the streaming of what his eyes are seeing can be valuable for education and training of colleagues. Think of a surgeon performing the action and hundreds of students at distant locations witnessing the intervention from a virtual front row.

As they discretely allow for some “information snacking”, smart rear view glasses are perfectly suited to provide hands-free support during instruction and procedure execution. There is a broad range of use cases that fall into this category of mobilizing business processes in a hands-free mode. Think of quality control, logistics, operations, field services to name a few.

A smart monocular and binocular augments the wearer’s field of view with an overlay of digital information. This allows to guide the wearer in a particular place and time. Whether it is the exact positioning of an implant or the replacement of a spare in a large installation, both the surgeon and the engineer might require temporary support of these glasses. But mind that in order to avoid a work accident, both will only wear the devices for a very short moment.

Virtual reality glasses have more potential than immersing consumers in a game. We’re all familiar with the expensive flight simulators used to train pilots in handling complex and exceptional situations. Immersive eyewear offers a disruptive low cost simulation technology to train operators in a virtual enterprise. Though the hardware of the goggles themselves might be disruptively cheap, the scenarios of each peculiar training situation still need to be programmed and graphically animated. The cost of the latter might limit the use cases to a few high risk situations that are hard to mimic in the real world.

Virtual reality glasses have more potential than immersing consumers in a game. We’re all familiar with the expensive flight simulators used to train pilots in handling complex and exceptional situations. Immersive eyewear offers a disruptive low cost simulation technology to train operators in a virtual enterprise. Though the hardware of the goggles themselves might be disruptively cheap, the scenarios of each peculiar training situation still need to be programmed and graphically animated. The cost of the latter might limit the use cases to a few high risk situations that are hard to mimic in the real world.


Business opportunities for smart eyewear in industry

As with many other situations in life and business, Pareto seems to be embedded in the above graph to. Hands-free information snacking might require only 20% of the complexity and power of the smart eyewear, yet cover 80% of the economically justified use cases in business. This assumption is at least confirmed by the observed success of Google’s glass@work program. Whether it will be the future version of Google Glass that will conquer the enterprise space depends on the agenda of Google. Only time will tell. But if I had to put my money on a horse called smart eyewear on an enterprise racetrack, I would definitely sniff in the category of rear view mirrors.

I would like to conclude this second article with one more take away thought that puts all things in perspective. The smart rear view mirror might well be the nominee for best selling smart eyewear device in the category of enterprise. Yet that Oscar in the enterprise category completely pales in comparison with the volume of his big brother in the category of consumer devices. The winner of the Oscar for best selling consumer smart glasses will have to hold totally different trumps though.