Faced with substantial wariness toward privacy concerns, and continued mocking over fashion concerns, Google Glass is moving away from individual consumers toward a more natural ally of its wearable technology — businesses. More specifically, toward hospitals and doctors who can use Glass as a tool rather than a diversion.
A recent study highlighted by Mashable underscored the general problem, as 72 percent of Americans said they won't wear Glass because of privacy concerns. The New York Times puts the conundrum succinctly. "Consumers have been wary of Glass. Yet it is finding more enthusiastic acceptance in the workplace: in medicine, law enforcement, manufacturing and athletics," The Times writes.
As if on cue, late Monday night Google introduced its Glass at Work program that targets businesses directly. "A number of companies have already teamed up with enterprise software developers to create new ways to serve their customers and to reach their business goals," Google writes. "This is only the beginning of what’s possible for Glass and business." Glass at Work will initially work with the Washington Capitals hockey team, but there are plenty of other areas it can move into easily.
The potential for medicine appears to be the most relevant and dramatic, and several U.S. hospitals have begun equipping doctors with the technology. For example, The Times details a U.C.S.F. lung surgeon who uses Glass during surgery because it shows live images from scans in the corner of his vision while he works. In low-pressure situations, too, like doctor-patient check-ups, some Glass software can hear patient information and automatically input that into electronic medical records. That streamlines the documentation of charts and also allow doctors to spend more time with their patients.
Glass even indirectly helped save a life recently, as The Daily Beast highlighted. In an emergency situation where every second mattered, Boston doctors using Glass were able to access a patient's medications and allergies without breaking eye contact. That allowed for quicker help in the high-pressure ER. And given the importance of sterilization in medicine, Glass's voice activation can help doctors access records without needing outside help, or even putting down their instruments.
The strict legal rules of doctor-patient confidentiality and HIPAA regulations also help by making clear what's okay and what's out of bounds privacy-wise. While the public has yet to fully address the legal ramifications of Glass, medicine has clear boundaries. Software for Google Glass used in hospitals have specific protections built in, including keeping information off Google servers and disabling the technology in different locations.
The technology is still in its early phase, of course, but targeting medicine and doctors allows Glass to answer the vexing question of why it needs to exist. “It’s a technology that’s searching for problems to solve, and it’s really a matter of where do the problems emerge?” a chief technologist for business consulting firm PwC told The New York Times. Thus far, those problems point Google to a more corporate-oriented pitch for Glass.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.