Since the launch of Glass Enterprise Edition last summer, we’ve introduced Glass to many new companies, and helped existing customers scale their deployments across critical workflows. It’s been rewarding to help our customers realize their decades-long vision of using wearable technology to improve the quality of their products and help their employees work faster and smarter.
Many of us in the wearables industry, including hardware manufacturers, software developers, and enterprises using wearables, are gathered in Austin this week for the annual Enterprise Wearable Technology Summit to share our experiences with each other as we continue to push this field forward. In my keynote speech, I shared trends the Glass team has observed alongside our partners and customers.
When a large organization is rolling out a new technology into decades of ingrained habits and clearly defined processes, there are no shortcuts. Technology providers and the organization’s executives need to get into the trenches to understand the organization’s needs — from the front-line workers wearing the device to the IT and HR departments who play critical roles in their deployment. Everyone needs to be prepared to support the challenges that inevitably arise as a deployment grows from tens to thousands of devices, and from episodic to all-day use.
Each organization is unique; it takes a strong partnership between the technology providers and company stakeholders to get a project over the line. One of our customers had different IT policies for workers doing the same job in different countries, and so it took a lot of time (and patience) on the part of the IT department to deploy Glass across their global manufacturing plants. Together, we were able to find a creative solution that allowed the customer to deploy Glass within their policy constraints.
As wearable devices come into their own in work environments, we’re identifying the benefits and limitations of their use in newer applications, and learning about how to best integrate them with other commonly used tools. In efforts to simplify their IT ecosystems, we often see CIOs attempt to leverage a single wearable as a “one size fits all” solution across multiple use-cases throughout their company. This limits the potential benefit that wearables can bring. It’s important to recognize that different workers and tasks may best be supported by a variety of wearable devices, often working in concert with each other.
For example, we’ve seen logistics companies use Glass as a heads-up display in tandem with ring scanners and scan guns to improve workers’ speed and accuracy. In these cases, Glass can direct the worker to the right location in the warehouse to find packages while the small form factor of the ring scanner enables workers to quickly and comfortably scan dozens of boxes with small barcodes. It’s all about truly understanding your employees’ needs on the job and then building the right solution from there.
Wearables are becoming useful tools for creating educational content within an organization. Several of our customers are using the video recording feature of Glass to document best practices across different tasks; a worker wearing Glass can narrate and demonstrate, step-by-step, how to assemble an engine, or repair some machinery. These recordings can be turned into training assets that can reduce the time and cost of on-boarding a new employee and minimize the loss of expertise when experienced workers leave the company.
We’ve also seen companies identify opportunities for process improvements. An auto manufacturer uses Glass to help maintain quality standards on a paint and assembly line. The existing best practice was for workers to paint the panels of the car and then attach them to the car frame. One worker, however, took a shortcut: painting the inside of each panel, attaching it to the car frame, and then painting all the outsides of the panels at once. At first glance, this looked like a process violation, but the painter had determined that his way was faster, and any smudges introduced in the process were irrelevant, because they were inside the wheel wells and engine compartment. Glass made it possible for the company to discover and share a quicker and more cost-effective process, which ultimately became a new best practice for all employees.
Beyond the trends noted here, the most important message I have for the wearable industry is in line with our Google heritage: focus on the user and all else will follow. We’re continuing to improve Glass based on feedback from our software partners and customers, and we’re looking forward to helping many more businesses work faster, smarter and more safely.
If you’d like to find out more about the updates and improvements we’re making to Glass, please get in touch or find us at EWTS in Austin this week.