The Future of Google Glass

By Stephanie Blanchard, Digital Editor — October 06, 2013

When innovation appears, it’s usually followed by novel and interesting ideas, versus something that adds real measurable value. Yes, there is something fun for early adopters to play with. The harder part is figuring out the potential and what will stick in a business setting.

Philips Healthcare is on the road to seeing what sticks. Collaborating with Accenture, the healthcare company has created a proof of concept video, showing how patient data can be delivered via Google Glass. Vital signs can be viewed on the head-mounted display, potentially providing physicians with hands-free access to critical clinical information.

A New Way of Seeing
The company’s Digital Accelerator Lab, which was created earlier this year, certainly has one big announcement for such a young group.

After building an Android app, the lab worked with Accenture to transfer it to the Google Glass platform. Initially, the project was actually just going to be a mock up. Engineers from the Digital Accelerator Lab said, nope, we can make it work.

“I have to admit, it also gave us an opportunity to show off,” said Tony Jones, CMO of Philips Healthcare, (in jest) in an interview with Mobile Enterprise.

Transferring to the new platform required tricky engineering, but was still completed within two weeks, he noted. It actually took longer to plan for the demonstration video than to get the app running.

This collaborates what some analysts predict for Google Glass and similar innovations. Tim Shepherd, Senior Analyst, Canalys, for one, sees wearable technology in general as an app accelerator. “In place of large code bases and years of development, we now have the possibility of turning out multi-platform apps in weeks, or even days,” he said in a statement.

How? Google’s platform takes advantage of what has already been done. Just as systems and larger applications now live on tablets and smartphones, Google Glass is similar: a new form factor and user interface that will transform the industry, any industry.

Yes, developers must rethink certain components and acknowledge limitations such as screen size and where that screen actually is – in front of someone’s eye. But the transition will happen, just as the migration from desktops to mobile devices occurred.

In essence, the smaller real estate requires a new approach. Heart waves, beat to beat moments, can be displayed on a tablet, for example. Put that same data on Google Glass, and it’s just too small to have any meaning, as the fine level of detail will likely be lost. However, color coding alerts in place of indiscernible blips can quickly get someone’s attention.

The Path Forward
Philips Healthcare’s video demonstration will now open a dialogue to take it from a demo to commercial reality.

The timeline is not set in stone. But because of its position, Mobile Enterprise believes the company will most certainly be able to do this, and drive wide-spread adoption. Philips Healthcare is one of three major divisions for Philips, a multi-national conglomerate. With a fairly sizeable footprint (50% global market share just for patient monitoring alone), it pretty much works with everyone in the medical industry.

However, the business is not looking to bring a novelty into a hospital, but value. In addition to being able to view critical patient monitoring data, here are a few other areas of potential use:

  • Calling up images and other patient data by clinicians from anywhere in the hospital
  • Accessing a pre-surgery safety checklist
  • Giving clinicians the ability to view the patient in the recovery room after surgery
  • Conducting live, first-person point-of-view videoconferences with other surgeons or medical personnel
  • Recording surgeries from a first-person point-of-view for training purposes.
Back to the Enterprise
When Philips Healthcare eventually brings Google Glass functionality to the healthcare sector, other verticals are likely to follow suit, or perhaps concurently. What will the reaction be from end-users?

According to research by Cornerstone OnDemand, two-thirds of employees surveyed said they’d be “curious” about wearable technology if they saw a colleague using one. More than half, 58%, say they’d be willing to try wearable tech if it helped them do their jobs better. These numbers are likely to go up further as the technology proves itself.

And, as can be expected, there is still a difference in generations. Sixty-six percent of Millennials, for example, would be willing to try wearable tech in contrast to 55% of Generation X and Baby Boomers. (Interestingly, though, these tech-savvy Millennials actually feel more “information overload” than their older colleagues – 41% versus just 31% among older generations.)

In any case, none of this means that society is becoming a world of automatons - 72% of employees still prefer in-person collaboration in the workplace, as opposed to 23% who prefer online. The point is that technology takes us all to new levels; and the future, which some think can only be imagined, is here.

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