A report from Gartner Institute concludes that the use of smart connected glasses could deliver substantial productivity gains in some industries, provided that an extensive ecosystem of apps and services emerges.

Smart glasses set to become a factor for productivity?

Google Glass has not yet been officially launched on the market and has only been tried out by a few hand-picked ‘explorers’, but already US-based IT research and advisory firm Gartner has released a report detailing the potential productivity gains and management innovations which the use of smart connected glasses could bring. The report’s authors predict that 10% of US firms will be using the glasses in five years’ time, and that in certain industries these gains could reach several million dollars per year. Moreover, smart glasses are likely to alter the role of training and the approach to deployment of human resources within companies, reckons Gartner.

Potential major gains for heavy industry

There are two aspects of smart glasses which have the potential to boost productivity: head-mounted cameras and augmented reality. The report examines the future impact of widespread use of smart glasses in a number of industries, especially heavy industry, the field service industry (equipment maintenance and repair services), retailing and healthcare. These smart accessories are expected to have the greatest impact in heavy industry, especially manufacturing and the energy sector. These industries could by 2017 be seeing savings of close to a billion dollars a year on the cost of direct maintenance and problem-fixing operations.  While these activities require sophisticated problem analysis and problem-solving techniques, on-site workers using smart glasses could reduce the need to keep or bring specialists on site. Meanwhile on-the-job training of workers will become much more efficient. In mixed industries such as retail, consumer packaged goods and healthcare, the technology will mainly be used for conducting visual searches for information and streamlining processes.

Ongoing learning

The Gartner experts reckon that the use of smart glasses will fundamentally affect the approach to training at companies, especially for manual tasks which require workers to have a practical familiarity with advanced technology. If an employee forgets or is unsure about how something works, s/he will be able to use connected glasses to access how-to instructions and illustrations that will help to carry out the task. In addition, at a time when the working population in developed countries is aging, these visual tools could be a great help to workers with memory issues or cognitive impairment. The report points out nevertheless that scarcely 1% of US companies use them today and suggests that widespread adoption may well be slow, mainly because the benefits they provide depend heavily on the development of apps and services targeted at smart glasses. According to one of the Gartner experts, the market is likely to mature over the next five years, but this will depend on mass market versions of the equipment, which small and medium-sized companies can afford, being produced.

By Thomas Meyer
Journalist, Business Analyst