Google’s Project Glass and “Wearables”

Think for a moment about the obsolescence of mobile phones – that is, what if we didn’t need phones any more? We don’t have to worry about losing them, where they are or if they’ll ring at some inopportune time, for we’ll be wearing them. Google’s Project Glass – glasses (or at some point in the not so distant future, fitted contact lenses or an item of clothing) that show via a “heads up” (projected onto/into the glass) display the weather forecast for the day, that provides the optimal route to get where you want to go most efficiently, that keeps your calendar and/or video conferences you in to the caller appearing on your glasses screen, or that broadcasts what you are seeing – is an example of this (see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9c6W4CCU9M4 ). What if we didn’t need a mobile phone handset or smart phone as we know it, but we wore it as part of us and it did everything we now do with our hands? What do you think about the concept of wearing your phone, one that can inform you every step of your day from where to eat to a storm brewing later in the day (don’t forget the umbrella) to the subway line being delayed or traffic on the I-5? It is now even possible to imbed these images in a contact lens (http://www.smithsonianmag.com/innovation/will-these-augmented-reality-contact-lenses-replace-your-smartphone-180949342/) or have the lens monitor our glucose levels (http://www.geekwire.com/2014/googles-new-smart-contact-lens-project-began-uw-help-microsoft/). This isn’t science fiction, but reality complete with a working prototype and planned market launch in 2014.

However, there is one thing in particular that Google Glass (or any “wearable” such as “augmented reality” contact lenses) needs to work – seamless, ultra-high speed broadband internet connection – the glasses need to work in your home, out on the street, in the store, on a roof top, all seamlessly without disruption from wireless source to wireless source. Google’s project in Kansas City is a test market to do just this, deliver ubiquitous ultra-high speed broadband, both wired and wireless throughout the city of Kansas City. They have begun rolling this out at various locations in the United States, leading major news stories on “Google as your ISP?” They’re starting to give free Internet access in New York. There’s a plan here and it’s brilliant.

Now, imagine, that they have launched this throughout the US. If they are able to make this happen, they have the ability to own the key point of ubiquitous high-speed Internet access in this future market for the next generation communication device beyond the smartphone. They recognize that the hub of everything above generally goes through one place in this “Google Glass” environment – your Internet connection. Were they able to develop and run the ubiquitous, omnipresent, ultra high-speed broadband service, this combined with the suite of services and products they already have in place would make it virtually if not entirely impossible for a competitor who owns only one piece of the puzzle to compete (think of players such as Time Warner Cable, Comcast, or even Apple).  The key to Google Glass and the next generation of communication and information devices is owning the Internet connection.

To illustrate, imagine it’s 2015 and Google Glass and their high speed Internet service has launched throughout the United States and you are a manager at Time Warner or Comcast Cable trying to sell Internet service or Cable TV. I don’t care how hard you work, how good you are at your job, no matter how many hours you put in, you simply can’t compete against the ubiquitous, seamless Internet connection and Glass combination. Hence, for Google, for Apple, for Time Warner and for content providers alike, there is one battle that matters above all else – the Internet.

Think for a minute about the coverage of key players like Google, Apple, Amazon, Microsoft and Facebook. Note that Google and only Google has complete coverage, from Internet to Internet-enabled devices to a full set of applications. As such, it is able to leverage strengths in one market for advantage in another. Once they are able to provide ubiquitous Wi-Fi (now launching in New York City), the strength of Google Glass – and all of their devices and applications – can be leveraged to its strength in a way that no other company can.

Key Take-away: Google has mastered today’s interconnected market environment like no other. It recognizes that the apps, the content, the programs won’t matter if someone else controls the connection. But when combined with what we will refer to later as a “Strategic Control Point”, here the ubiquitous seamless Internet connection, Google Glass with its apps and operating system combine in a way that few if any will be able to match. It is the lesson for today’s business environment, a lesson above all else.

UPDATE 10/31/13: Women given ticket for wearing Google Glass while driving in CA (http://www.cnn.com/2013/10/30/tech/mobile/google-glass-driving-ticket/index.html?iref=allsearch). The debate and transformation has begun, the first of many situations like this. See also: http://www.qmed.com/mpmn/medtechpulse/philips-sees-medtech-disruption-google-glass?cid=nl.mpmn01/.

UPDATE 1/17/14: Google Glass driving citation DISMISSED by judge in CA: http://www.cnn.com/2014/01/16/tech/innovation/google-glass-ticket-dismissed/ 

UPDATE 1/6/14: CNN and technology journalist Robert Scoble are all wet (pun intended)! Technology blogger Robert Scoble entirely misses the point in the article featured on CNN:

http://www.cnn.com/2014/01/02/tech/innovation/google-glass-scoble/index.html?hpt=hp_bn5

The point of Google Glass isn’t the device itself. It will morph and the glass in its current form will not stay in tact. For example, companies are already experimenting with contact lenses that do the same thing (see http://news.cnet.com/8301-11386_3-57616459-76/augmented-reality-contact-lenses-to-be-human-ready-at-ces/). It will be imbedded in contact lenses, projected onto our existing glasses, worn on our sleeve or our wrist, wherever and however it’s convenient. It won’t take on one form, but many.

And it will replace our mobile handsets as we now know them. Sooner than we think.

The blog suggests that it will be a hit by 2020 – by 2020, wearables will have morphed many times over – I have been using my Google Glass for a few months now and it’s clear that it’s in beta mode for a reason. However, anyone who thinks that this is about the current design or that wearables won’t be a hit until 2020 is all wet, as the picture in the blog cited above suggests!!!

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