five real-world Google Glass applications

Google Glass has been heralded as the future of wearable computing, but is the technology more style over substance, or will it revolutionize how we interact with machines?

The initial launch of Google Glass focused on leisure and consumer applications, but business applications are gaining much more traction, as recognized by Google with the Glass at Work program. We take a look at five real world applications for business where Google Glass is making a tangible difference.

medical: saving lives in Boston emergency room

Boston hospital the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) started a pilot of Google Glass in December 2013 with four emergency doctors testing the equipment. This was extended to 10 more staffers  in January 2014. Because of privacy issues, the hospital doesn’t use Google software on the device. Instead it uses a custom software interface that only connects to the hospital’s Wi-Fi network.

The device helps deliver better emergency care in a number of ways. For example, emergency responders are able to send the patient’s vital signs to accident & emergency before they arrive at the hospital so that the doctors are ready with appropriate treatment. Doctors are able to record videos of the patient when they arrive so they can have a baseline for the condition, and use the technology to video conference with colleagues. The hands-free nature of Google Glass makes it an excellent match for hospitals because it limits infection spread and provides doctors with real-time alerts and information.

BIDMC’s Dr Steve Horng reported how Google Glass had actually helped save  a patient’s life in the emergency room. Because he could access the patient’s medical record in real time, he was able stop the administration of blood pressure drugs to which the patient was severely allergic. “I believe the ability to access and confirm clinical information at the bedside is one of the strongest features of Google Glass,” he says.

I believe the ability to access and confirm clinical information at the bedside is one of the strongest features of Google Glass.

supply chain: higher efficiency at Active Ants warehouse

Google Glass is proving particularly popular in warehouse applications, because it can provide stock pickers with instant information on where to locate certain products. E-fulfillment company Active Ants, which ships products for 50 different online stores, gave Google Glass to its stock pickers to assess the effect it had on their productivity.

The results of the trial were impressive, with Glass helping reduce the stock pickers error rate by 12% and increase their speed of stock picking by 15%. “Traditionally, the pickers at Active Ants would walk around with pick lists specifying products, locations and quantities,” said Jeroen Dekker, a managing partner at the Dutch company, “This information is now displayed on Google Glass.”

Active Ants believed there were three main reasons staff were more efficient with Google Glass. First, the pickers’ hands were free to access the shelf;  second, there was no need to print and bind checklists for the pickers; and third, orders can be sent individually to the picker via Google Glass, which reduces errors.

military: ground crew support at US Air Force

The US Airforce is testing Google Glass as a heads-up display (HUD) for airmen to help them make better decisions on the battlefield when out of the aircraft. Airmen are already familiar with HUDs integrated into their helmets when they are flying, but once out of the plane, they no longer have this computing support.

“Trying to interact in the battlespace places a lot of burden on the dismounted battlefield airmen,” said Dr Gregory Burnett, the chief engineer of the BATMA(N) program, which is looking into Google Glass. “BATMA(N) is a constant endeavor to try to improve tactical decision making and reduce the human error associated with our airmen’s mission set.”

Possible applications include medical support that would allow first responder to monitor the vital signs of multiple casualties without having to take their hands off patients or weapons. “Since pararescuemen have the need to recover personnel, it’s beneficial for them to monitor many people at once,” said Andres Calvo, a software developer and civilian contractor with the 711th HPW. “The app aims to better enable them to assess who needs urgent medical attention, and it would improve their accountability.”

air transport: improving customer service at Virgin Atlantic

Airline Virgin Atlantic ran a six-week pilot for check-in staff with Google Glass to help process Upper Class passengers. When they arrive at the Upper Class Wing passengers are greeted by name and the agent can start the check-in process immediately. Google Glass also provides the agent with up-to-date flight and destination information.

Virgin reported that its six-week trial was a success and that it is planning on extending the trial further. Key to the trial’s success was that agents were able to maintain eye contact with the passengers while providing information. It also negated the requirement for radio communication between staff, because all the information was available via the device.

oil industry: Safer workers at Schlumberger

Oilfield service company Schlumberger is using Google Glass to help it work more safely in oilfields, which can be very hazardous environment. The company is using 30 devices out in the field to provide hands-free intelligence to workers out in the field. It provides them with instant information, and because their hands are kept free they are also able to act immediately on it.

For example, workers can watch maintenance videos to get guidance on how to carry out specific tasks such as releasing pressure from a valve safely. They can also carry out inventories of equipment and do a checklists of tasks in a certain order. All of this increases safety and efficiency.

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