We’re on the cusp of evolutionary changes in how IT is deployed in field services, medicine and sports; and Google Glass — as well as similar equipment from Sony, Vuzix, Microsoft and others — will be the hardware at the center of that change.
Google started its Glass at Work program for a simple reason: to deploy its technology where the obstacles to its reception were lowest, and the need for its technology was highest. The smartphone or tablet is now the primary communication tool for 50 percent of all companies’ workforces. The reason for that market penetration is need. Managers want to know who and where their employees are and when and how they are acting to make better decisions about how they deploy their skilled personnel resources.
Those users aren’t so fashion-conscious — that consciousness being one real obstacle for the proliferation of Google Glass in the retail and B2C market — as they are function conscious. And as the utility of smartphones is now unquestioned with smartphones crowned king, Glass, and its peer wearables have quietly but successfully been making inroads through pilot programs in the enterprise.
The Glass at Work program recognized a need for software — much like IBM met hardware needs and Microsoft met software needs starting in the 1980s — to make its product as useful as possible. Thus, Glass at Work named ten partners to meet its demands for software to power the field services and field services management software industry. Among them, CrowdOptic remains the only one to hold issued patents — nine, in fact — while the other nine hold zero.
While a number of projects at Glass at Work remain in their pilot phases, a number are now entering full-scale deployment. For example, right now, Google Glass, paired with CrowdOptic’s patented IT middleware, is being deployed at industrial and medical technology firms to allow field services professionals to “inherit the view” of other users.
Among the key beneficiaries of the technology is medical tech. We’ve seen ambulatory services, like ProTransport-1 of Los Angeles, use a combination of Google Glass and CrowdOptic technology to project visuals from an emergency medical team on site and in a transport vehicle back to a hospital where surgeons gather, analyze and immediately act on what they see. The broadcast is a HIPAA-compliant, real-time video that inserts a surgeon earlier into the equation.
But how is that different from simply strapping on a point-of-view camera? Google Glass — and the CrowdOptic software that powers it — presents and analyzes data, much like a computer would. Google Glass, unlike a simple camera, is a computer. The medical consultation with ProTransport-1 begins en-route, rather than upon arrival at the hospital. Those 10 minutes could mean the difference between life and death or between life and permanent impairment.
The evolutionary next step shows all ambulatory services deploying this technology to save lives, and by the same design, also allow for live, two-way education between a patient in her home and her medical provider.
We’ve witnessed, in parallel, the deployment of the same technology applied in sports and a host of other opportunities at the juncture of augmented reality and visual technology. As Washington Post contributor Vivek Wadhwa penned, “I expect that 2016 will be the year when we start visiting exotic lands from the comfort of our offices and living rooms.”
Deploying software that processes multiple video streams from people who wear Google Glass, in order to learn more about what they are focusing on and observing, allows for a very real “augmented reality” and, even better — a dynamic one. Most of our visual world is not static. The myriad of smartphones, smartglasses and other devices from which we pull data enriches and expands the augmented experience. It also makes it more useful.
Among those use cases, we’ve turned Google Glass into a “personal Jumbotron” for crowds in the stands as they watch their favorite match or game. The resulting enhanced experience at a game can have a real impact on ticket sales and adds another dimension for the subtle, and in more and more cases desired, input from advertisers that advertise through the new medium.
Is Wadhwa right to call 2016 the year for augmented reality to take hold in our living rooms? Yes, but it’s already there. The next leg of this journey to appreciate is the impact that smartglasses will have on field services and medicine— not just 1:1 but using multiple video streams. Years of enterprise-level investment in the right combination of technologies is just starting to bear fruit.
Jon Fisher is co-founder and CEO of CrowdOptic, the only Google Glass partner with issued patents including software that applies Google Glass to field service, medicine and sporting environments. Named on 53 patents globally, Jon served as co-founding CEO of Bharosa (Oracle ’07) and AutoReach (AutoNation ’00). An adjunct professor at University of San Francisco, his book, “Strategic Entrepreneurism: Shattering the Start-Up Entrepreneurial Myths,” is required reading at several MBA programs including Haas Business School at Berkeley.