Google Glass Helps Enterprise Workers Help Themselves

J.P. Gownder
Vice President, Principal Analyst
May 14, 2014

Google recently announced an expansion of its Explorer Edition program to anyone in the U.S. — still at $1,500. This doesn't constitute the mass market release of the product; it's an incremental move to extend its beta program. I believe the move mostly benefits enterprise customers of the device — continuing Forrester's research call that Glass will be more successful among enterprise customers than among consumers, at least in the short term.

Recently, I've received a number of questions about wearables as they pertain to field service work. In the age of the customer, field service work has a direct impact on customer service. Think of the cable repair person. The top reason cable repair people fail to fix a problem with your cable service on the first visit is that they have never seen the specific problem before; it's a long tail of possible problems. Traditionally, the cable person would need to go back to headquarters and log a return visit — inconveniencing the customer, who might have stayed home from work to meet the repair person, and harming the workforce productivity of the cable company's agents. It's lose-lose.

With wearables, cable companies and other companies employing field workers can increase the percentage of first-time fixes. Recently, ClickSoftware and FieldBit posted a video demonstrating one such solution:

As you can see in the video, Google Glass helps the field technician deal with a number of challenges:

Inability to continue working while consulting a smartphone.

Challenge: Using a smartphone isn't hands-free, and makes it awkward to work continuously on problems.

Solution: Google Glass plus smart applications can use voice control for navigation. It's also glance-able, and can be consulted when hands are busily working. (This also applies to warehousing and logistics professions).

Need for lengthy phone conversations for real-time mentoring and training.

Challenge: Field technicians face a lot of technical complexity.

Solution: Rather than going back and forth on the phone — possibly waiting in a phone queue to reach someone at their own company — Google Glass can empower how-to guides that offer step-by-step tutorials. In the video, the technician was trained on a new model of equipment and benefits from an instantly-available training manual.

Time-consuming approvals; lack of confirmation of success; and difficulty filing compliance reports.

Challenge: Lots of administrative red tape.

Solution: Technicians can automate a good bit of the process, taking a photo of the finished work to confirm completion of the task. Location-based tagging can also come into play here (verifying the worker's presence at the site).

Each of these applications of Glass (plus some back-end software that's key to the solution) drives better productivity for the field worker. Other wearables take this in a different direction. Vidcie by Looxcie allows real-time collaboration via head-mounted camera. If a field technician hasn't seen a problem before, he or she can beam live video back to headquarters to get real-time help. It's another way wearables can empower a workforce and drive customer value as well. If she can fix the problem on the spot, the customer isn't inconvenienced by the need for a return visit.

For more information on how wearables help workers help themselves, I invite you to read and download my major report, The Enterprise Wearables Journey

J. P. Gownder is a vice president and principal analyst at Forrester Research serving Infrastructure & Operations Professionals. Follow him on Twitter at @jgownder

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