Innovation

Smartglasses: Do they really have a place in business?

Analysts point to some industries where Google Glass-style devices could be useful but benefits are likely to come later rather than sooner.
Google has already dropped a few hints about the next iteration of Google Glass, but widespread adoption of smartglasses is still a long way away, especially in business.

In the next three to five years, the industries that are likely to experience the greatest benefit from smartglasses are those with some offsite workers, such engineers or inspectors, which could save up to $1bn by, for example, diagnosing and fixing problems more quickly and without needing to bring additional experts to remote sites, said analyst group Gartner.

Other industries that could benefit include manufacturing, retail and healthcare, it said."Smartglasses with augmented reality and head-mounted cameras can increase the efficiency of technicians, engineers and other workers in field service, maintenance, healthcare and manufacturing roles," said Angela McIntyre, research director at Gartner in a statement.

Smartglasses, and indeed other wearable technology such as smartwatches still remain at best nascent technologies, despite the efforts of companies such as Google and Samsung to create momentum in the market. Less than one per cent of companies have implemented smartglasses, although Gartner predicts that may increase to 10 per cent during the next five years for companies with offsite workers, such as field service personnel and inspectors.

If smartglasses catch the public imagination to the extent that lower-priced, consumer versions become available then within 10 years, "perhaps half the companies that would benefit from using smartglasses will give them to at least some of their employees who could make use of them", Gartner suggests.

Smartglasses might also give on-the-job training a boost by piping instructions and illustrations on the smartglass displays to enable workers to perform tasks even if they do not remember all the procedures. As such, the devices may be of use in heavy industry situations, such as manufacturing, and oil and gas where they could help workers fixing equipment. Industries such as insurance, media and banking are likely to find only limited uses for the devices.

But McIntyre said IT organisations are already being asked to make recommendations about whether smartglasses should be used in the workplace, and said organisations should refresh their bring-your-own-device policies with such devices in mind.

About

Steve Ranger is the UK editor of TechRepublic, and has been writing about the impact of technology on people, business and culture for more than a decade. Before joining TechRepublic he was the editor of silicon.com.

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