A few weeks back, I wrote a piece in Tech.pinions that blasted Google and their Glass program and said it did great damage to the overall consumer market for glasses. I explained that technologies like this first get refined through vertical markets and, in some cases, take 10-15 years to finally filter down to consumer markets where it is cheap enough and has use cases that make sense for consumers.
I also pointed out that glasses have been used in vertical markets since the late 1990s. We are now hearing Google Glass 2.0 will be solely targeted at vertical markets when it comes out later this year. I believe these kinds of glasses will stay in vertical markets indefinitely since I am not convinced they will ever gain serious consumer traction.
A couple years ago we spent some time working with a glasses company we felt had the right focus and helped them expand their overall thinking about glasses being used in vertical markets. Although we had not been in touch with them in awhile, I recently caught up with their CEO, Aaron Salow of XOeye Technologies, based in Nashville, TN.
What I liked about this company is their approach to glasses was very different than Google’s and, more importantly, did something of high interest to certain industries. What their glasses do is allow the person wearing them to send back an image of what they are seeing so a person on the other end can give them feedback or instructions. For example, a person could be on site working on a refrigeration system and run into a problem they may not know how to fix. In this case, they would turn on the glasses to capture live video of what the on site repair person is seeing and create a connection to their boss or an expert on these systems who can help troubleshoot in real time. In essence, the boss is seeing what the field worker is seeing and is able to help solve a problem a field worker might have trouble with by themselves.
Or a worker could be on a construction site and need help with a particular problem with some part of an electrical, plumbing or building issue and need an extra set of trained eyes to help them find or fix it. Mr. Salow of XOeye calls it the “brain transplant” app. He pointed out to me there is an aging workforce with great knowledge but may not be able or want to be in the field anymore. Many companies are hiring trained field engineers out of college but they do not have the actual experience that comes with years of work. This way, these new field engineers can do the leg work and, if they run across a problem or need help, they just fire up these glasses and send what they are seeing to the seasoned veterans back at the office. These vets could actually be anywhere in the world since the glasses tap into a cloud-based app/server and connects the glasses to a field worker anywhere they happen to be.
These glasses deliver some important advantages for the companies that use them. First, they increase diagnostic speed and accuracy and cut down on travel since only a single field rep would be needed on site. It also impacts the missing gaps in the workflow for ideation and customer sales and support.
XOEye’s solution is software based and linked to the cloud to create this new service. They originally made the glasses too but have since let others make the hardware and they deliver the software and services to make this “brain transplant” work.
One of the other industries using their services is the medical equipment market. Hospitals and clinics have complicated diagnostic equipment that has be serviced and repaired quickly. Using this app, a field worker can get to the site and, if they have any issues, share what they are seeing with other experts back at the office in real-time. The key is speed. These machines need to be repaired quickly and accurately and getting assistance from experienced staff who bring an extra set of trained eyes to the site without them having travel and incur extra expense is a big plus for both the medical equipment company and the hospital or clinic.
XOEye’s medical solution goal is to have real-time, hands-free, POV photo and video connected to their Vision Data platform in an organized and deliverable way that dynamically changes the way information is used and shared. In this case, the device is placed with expensive assets that require diagnosis by various experts all across the world. This tool allows the service company and engineer to make more money while reducing the amount of hours of downtime ($1000 per hour) for hospitals.
I am most intrigued by two key things this application and service delivers. First is the concept of “brain transplants” and, more specifically, the ability to tap into seasoned and highly experienced experts allowing them to give input and guidance from any place they happen to be.
The second is the actual value this delivers to all types of companies who have to have field reps dealing with diagnosis and repairs. Years ago I worked on a project for a major airline that actually had this idea or concept in mind. They would have a repair person inside a jet engine and would often need to call for extra help to quickly diagnose a problem. In these cases they had to dispatch a second or third set of trained eyes to help with the problem. They wanted something like this but at that time the technology was not there to deliver this type of solution.
Had Google designed their glasses with this app in mind perhaps it would have been a success. Version 2.0 is supposed to be aimed at these types of vertical markets and I hope Google has this type of solution on their radar since this approach of having experts see the same thing a field technician does and give assistance is a real killer app for glasses — if done right.