Wearable Tech World Feature Article
January 22, 2014

Industrial and Public Safety Applications Abound for Google Glass

In an enterprise environment, it’s easy to believe that the functionality of Google Glass, the search engine giant’s forthcoming wearable technology device, will be limited to email, navigation and social media interaction. For the 10,000 people currently using the glasses in a beta release (they are called “Explorers”) this is largely the case. (Or maybe it’s simply to look cool.)

The device, which is expected to be widely available sometime this year, has far more applications than simply keeping in touch, however. Some of them are highly unique and will present serious advantages in environments such as manufacturing, construction, public safety and other areas. Some of them are highly questionable, such as the recently publicized “Sex with Glass” app debuted at London’s Wearable Tech Hackathon. This app will allow the wearer or wearers to record everything that happens during intimate encounters and easily upload them to the Internet. (The question whether anyone would actually want to view the footage remains unaddressed.)

On the more savory side, a computer-savvy firefighter in North Carolina, Patrick Jackson, has developed an app for Google Glass that will provide important information directly to the eye-line of firefighters in an emergency, eliminating the need for them to pick up a smartphone or tablet and browse for the information or open an e-mail.

"I'll hear a little notification and can look up into the top corner of my vision and see a map of where it is,” Jackson told CNN. “I see the location of the incident and what type of call it is.”

Firefighters can also record the first moments of the scene when they arrive, which may yield important clues to how the fire started, who was involved and how it could be best fought. In law enforcement, the devices may be used in conjunction with facial recognition software, allowing police to patrol and search for known suspects, or identify people on the street. (The civil rights implications of this kind of activity are less clear, however.)

In the construction industry, Google Glass also has great potential, allowing workers on site to view plans or blueprints, for example, projected onto their vision of the physical site or the real project. Workers could consult with an off-site architect via video chat, as well, allowing the architect to view buildings and other sites to provide more specific advice.

In manufacturing, Google Glass wearers can accomplish machine maintenance more easily, even using video cameras embedded into equipment to watch live feeds from inside machines. The devices will form the basis for a new kind of communication called “augmented reality,” thanks to Indiana Technology and Manufacturing Companies (ITAMCO), which offers a free application called MTConnect + Google Glass. The app, together with Google Glass, offers image recognition technology that will allow the wearer to examine machinery for power statuses, view alarms and messages, and monitor operations. Wearers can also share live video with others or capture and store video and still images. (You can watch a cool video demonstration of the app here.)

Applications for Google Glass are also abound in the healthcare industry, where physicians can share video of live patient exams with remote specialists, or use the device to help diagnose symptoms and measure injuries. They can also use the device to document patient visits, allowing them to make more complete patient records in electronic health record (EHR) systems.

While there is still no wide-release date available for Google Glass (some tech sites are saying April, with a projected retail price of $600), it seems clear that by the time the rest of us are able to visit Best Buy to grab a pair, there will already be a cool array of apps for us to choose from, whether for work or for play. 

Edited by Blaise McNamee

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