Is Google Glass a gimmick or the next revolution in post-PC computing? Time will be the judge—the head-mounted augmented reality device isn't even commercially available yet except to those few who attended last year's Google I/O event and ponied up $1,500 for it—but that hasn't stopped some companies from betting on its future.
Mobile device management (MDM) specialist Fiberlink is one of them. The company sees myriad use cases for hands-free, wearable computing, and is in the process of adding Google Glass to its portfolio of supported devices. Coinciding with this year's Google I/O, the company announced that its MaaS360 platform supports the capability to use Glass to monitor a mobile IT environment and perform actions like locating a lost device, remotely locking or unlocking it, even perform selective or full wipes of data.
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"One of the very first reasons we are jumping into the Google Glass area is that our customers rely on us to manage all devices," says Jim Szafranski, senior vice president of Customer Platform Services at Fiberlink. "We've always been the leader in being first and fastest in this area of mobility."
But there's more to Fiberlink's decision to support Glass than being a completist in its offerings, Szafranski says. He sees Glass, or similar forms of wearable computing, as playing an increasing role in the enterprise in time.
"Even though we're in the beginning days, we've got a lot of field applications that our customers are interested in," he says. "Right now, we've got guys climbing telephone poles holding tablets."
Thumbs Up on Hands-Free IT
It's easy to imagine scenarios where hands-free computing could revolutionize certain vertical industries, Szafranski adds. For instance, in healthcare doctors and nurses could use the technology to access information about patients while traveling from one to the other, or to scan a prescription to pull up all relevant information about a drug and its interactions. In warehouses, Glass could replace scanner guns and provide the ability to locate stock simply by glancing around the warehouse. Public sector workers like police officers and fire fighters could also benefit from hands-free computing.
The case for hands-free computing isn't quite so clear in Fiberlink's first foray into supporting Glass: It's an IT administration app that allows users to monitor a mobile IT environment and take actions like locking, unlocking, locating or remote wiping managed devices using Glass's voice commands or hand gestures.
"This is the first step," Szafranski says. "For us, this was basically the first step in helping businesses realize the potential of wearable computing."
But Frank Schloendorn, director of Android Ecosystem at Fiberlink, says he's already experienced the utility. He was attending a session at Google I/O, wearing his Glass—which was tethered to a smartphone in his pocket—when he received a message from a member of his staff that needed him to remotely wipe a device so it could be re-enrolled.
"I was sitting in the front row at the session," Schloendorn says. "From my Glass, I was able to get the text message, scroll through the list of devices, find that device and wipe it remotely. I never had to open my smart phone or my laptop and I didn't disrupt the session."
"Google Glass is a great example of how IT can adopt innovative technology to enhance the management and enablement of the mobile workplace," Schloendorn adds. "The ability to literally see your mobile environment right before your eyes and know that users, devices, applications and corporate documents are safe is a wonderful feeling. The freedom to take action on the go and help someone at any time, all by looking through Google Glass, is an amazing experience. It's just plain cool."
Wear Your Tech With Pride
The jury remains out on Google Glass, but it's likely that some form of wearable computing will become common over the next several years.
"It's ultimately all about the applications and the use," Szafranski says. "For people and for businesses, I think we call count on that in this post-PC era they'll be used and proliferate."
Thor Olavsrud covers IT Security, Big Data, Open Source, Microsoft Tools and Servers for CIO.com. Follow Thor on Twitter @ThorOlavsrud. Follow everything from CIO.com on Twitter @CIOonline, Facebook, Google + and LinkedIn. Email Thor at email@example.com