Google Glass and other smart glasses are likely to see their first big impact among people who get their hands dirty when they work.
The field service industry is likely to get the greatest benefit from Google Glass over the next three to five years, potentially increasing profits up to $1 billion annually, according to a Gartner report. "The greatest savings in field service will come from diagnosing and fixing problems more quickly and without needing to bring additional experts to remote sites," said Gartner research director Angela McIntyre in a statement.
Smart glasses have the potential to improve worker efficiency in vertical markets such as manufacturing, field service, retail, and healthcare, Gartner said. Smart glasses with head-mounted cameras and augmented reality can increase the efficiency of workers technicians, engineers, and other workers in field service and maintenance.
Less than 1 percent of companies in the US have implemented smart glasses, although Gartner predicts that may increase to 10 percent in the next five years for companies with offsite workers such as field service personnel and inspectors. Low-priced consumer versions of smart glasses will further drive adoption, and in 10 years, perhaps half the companies that would benefit from the technology will give them to at least some of their employees.
Adoption depends on the apps and services available. But those will evolve over the next five years, Gartner says.
Smart glasses will be most significant in heavy industry such as manufacturing, oil, and gas. These devices will assist with on-the-job worker training on how to fix equipment and perform manufacturing tasks. Mixed industries, such as retail, consumer packaged gods, and healthcare, will see medium impact, Gartner says.
How-to instructions and illustrations on smart glass displays will help workers perform tasks.
So-called "weightless industries," such as insurance, media, and banking, will experience low impact from smart glasses, although there are some potential uses there, says Gartner. Insurance agents could use them to video property damage and check replacement value. "Financial institutions and the media will use smart glasses to deliver alerts via subscription services for smartglasses to professionals who need up-to-the-minute information," Gartner says.
Smart glasses will enable video collaboration with experts in remote locations, resulting in faster repairs and eliminating the need to fly in an expert to help. "Employees at remote sites can communicate and share video of what they see with experienced workers to get advice on how to diagnose and fix problems," Gartner says. "In this way, enterprises can improve the cost-effectiveness of their field service and remote operations by employing a larger ratio of less-experienced workers to experienced ones or specialists, thus saving labor costs." Smart glasses can also facilitate remote medicine.
Get the Gartner report here: "Innovation Insight: Smartglasses Bring Innovation to Workplace Efficiency."
Gartner's perspective makes sense. Many people can benefit by keeping their hands free to work, keep their eyes on what they're doing, while simultaneously consulting supplemental information and instructions. Until now, that kind of multitasking has been impossible -- like sticking your elbow in your ear. But smart glasses make it work. You can have your information in front of your eyes without having to prop it up with your hands and without having to glance back and forth between the work at hand and the supplemental information.
If the smart glasses get inexpensive enough -- and consumer-grade models will probably come down to under $300 over five years -- they can replace smartphones and tablets for some tasks, such as video recording and receiving alerts.
Vendors are working on a variety of wearable technologies, including fabrics for smart clothing, finger-mounted ring scanner, and infant pajamas that function as baby monitors.
But Google Glass is not yet ready for prime time. That's why our own Ron Miller returned his.
Why I'm Returning Google Glass
Google Glass: A Segway for Your Head
Google Glass Shines in Business World
— Mitch Wagner, , Editor in Chief, Internet Evolution