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Future Watch: Google Glass in Franchising

Glass is far from ready for prime time, but as with most emerging technologies, expect it to evolve quickly.

As technology continues to evolve at breakneck speed, it’s important to understand how new innovations might impact your system in the future.

Colburn, K.-Google Glass (1)-blogTwo areas of innovation that I’m watching closely are wearable technology and the Internet of things (common household objects with embedded sensors and communication capabilities).

Wearable technology can range from a smart watch that interacts with your smartphone to a bracelet that monitors your health and fitness to a sleeve that acts as a basketball coach on your arm.

One of the latest wearable technology innovations, Google Glass, is an ambitious attempt to change how we interact with our mobile technology and our environment.
The most common response I get when I show someone Glass is ‘Wow, that’s really cool, but what would I use it for?” It’s a similar question I got when I first showed people another now ubiquitous device: the iPad.

Just as the iPad needed compelling apps and developed use cases to become more than another “gee whiz” device, Glass as a platform needs to be developed.
At its core, Glass is a sophisticated miniaturized computing platform that’s been integrated into a titanium frame that sits on your head like a pair of glasses.

Glass can make and take phone calls, read and send e-mails or text messages, search the Internet, translate simple phrases, give you turn-by-turn directions, take pictures and record videos, post updates to social media sites, automatically track your flight status or other events and it can even make video calls.

When you place the device on your head, a small display hovers just over your right eye (not in front of it) and becomes a sort of “heads-up” display.

A small touchpad area integrated into the right side of the frame allows you to navigate what Google refers to as “cards” by dragging your finger forward or backwards.

The home card displays the time and the phrase “Ok Glass,” which is the wakeup command for the system. A swipe of your finger from front to back will bring up other cards such as weather, tasks, the distance you are from home, any recent text messages or emails or just about anything that you would normally see on your smartphone.

Colburn, K.-Google Glass (1)-blogWhile on the home card, when you say “OK Glass” a list of verbal commands such as “take a picture,” “send a message,” “get directions to,” or “record a video,” will appear.

In my interactions, the voice recognition on Glass has been far superior to Apple’s Siri or Samsung’s S Voice in both its recognition accuracy and speed.

The mapping system provides turn-by-turn instructions and if you’re in walking mode, the map pans to reflect the direction you are facing so you’ll know exactly which direction you should be walking. Anyone that’s ever popped out of a New York City subway station with no idea which direction to take to begin walking will appreciate this function.

Potential Uses in Franchising

Remembering that the potential uses for Google Glass have yet to be fully realized, here are some ways that I can already see how they could be used in franchising.

Training

Glass has the potential to dramatically reduce the cost of creating meaningful video training libraries. Glass makes it super simple to record high definition (720p) video from the first-person perspective, so creating useful training videos won’t require an expensive videographer. And as the trainer gets more comfortable with the process, this could potentially reduce or even eliminate expensive post-production costs as well.

Think about a food service trainer who can capture the step-by-step process for creating menu items in the first-person perspective (it’s already being used by at least one sandwich shop franchise http://goo.gl/OLwEsm).

Thinkabout technical-service training programs that generally require one technician to show another a step-by-step process. With Glass the trainer will know exactly where to point the camera instead of having to explain to the videographer what he is supposed to be shooting.

Colburn uses Google Glass on Capitol Hill.

Colburn uses Google Glass on Capitol Hill.

Think about first-person training videos that capture your point-of-sale interactions; you could create dozens of searchable training snippets just by having a seasoned employee wear Glass for a couple of hours while working with your POS systems.
Conversely, think about a trainee wearing Google Glass and getting video or audio step-by-step instructions on how to do something that requires both hands to accomplish. With today’s workforce, how much quicker might they learn from a Glass-based training program as opposed to reading through a text-based training manual?

With the video call capability, think about plumbing, HVAC or automotive technicians who need help while in the field or under a car. They could stream video hands-free back to a support center to get direct guidance from a more experienced technician while they are actually working on the problem. Try doing that with a smartphone.
With a little practice, the video that’s shot with Glass can be much smoother than the shaky handed videos generated by smartphones, especially if you need to move around.

The possibilities are endless and have yet to be discovered, but my prediction is that training will be one of the first places that most brands will start to incorporate Glass as a tool.

Field Support

Glass is an exceptionally easy device to use for gathering data, complete with time and date stamps. Field support teams could much more easily (and subtlety) document their visits with photographs, video and verbal notes that are automatically backed up to Google’s various cloud resources.

Eventually, building Glass apps that walk a field service person through each step of a support or compliance visit that prompts them for the proper documentation is just one of many possibilities.

If a field support person is asked for help by a customer or a franchisee, creating a quick video that they can leave behind for future reference would be a snap (think customized support videos).

Mystery Shopping

Gathering intelligence about the competitive landscape can be much more subtle than whipping out a smartphone to take pictures or record a video if you used Glass.

Future Marketing Platform

An even more interesting possibility as consumers adopt the technology will be from the marketing side. One of the current apps, called Field Trip, alerts Glass users of local points of interest based on their location. While roaming the streets of Washington D.C., I got a sound every time I walked past a local historical site or an insider tip from various travel resources.

Ken Colburn is president of Data Doctors Franchise Systems, Inc.

Ken Colburn is president of Data Doctors Franchise Systems, Inc.

One of the resources that Field Trip uses is Google-owned Zagat, so restaurant suggestions are naturally part of the current offerings as you pass them.
Your existing social media strategies may automatically put you in front of Glass users if you are already engaged with the Google ecosystem, but you can expect other angles – Google Adwords for Glass, perhaps – to evolve as the public adopts the technology.

By all accounts, Glass is far from ready for prime time, but as with most emerging technologies, expect it to evolve quickly. Privacy concerns, lack of apps and the overly expensive price tag ($1,500 at the moment) are just the beginning of the issues, but all of that will get sorted out over time.

I highly recommend that you keep an eye on Glass!

What uses can you think of for Google Glass in your system? Let me know on fransocial.franchise.org.

Ken Colburn is president of Data Doctors Franchise Systems, Inc. He serves as chairman of the International Franchise Association’s Marketing and Technology Committee and is a member of the FranSocial Advisory Group. Find him at fransocial.franchise.org via the directory.

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