This post originally appeared on Huffington Post.
The Internet has been the most democratizing technology of all time. It has enabled knowledge, ideas, culture and expertise to be transferred between people and places more quickly than ever before.
We’ve seen entire industries disrupted by the Internet including newspapers, magazines, encyclopedias, libraries, travel agents, music, taxis, hotels, the Yellow Pages and more. All of these industries were predicated on controlling proprietary information flows. When the Internet brought the marginal cost of communication and information transfer to $0, the old business models failed and new ones emerged that took advantage of a fundamentally new way to communicate.
What About Non-Information-Based Businesses?
The industries that have been disrupted are, at their core, information-based businesses. The Internet hasn’t transformed industrial enterprises and more hands-on industries such as manufacturing, warehousing, energy, healthcare and field service. Operationally, these industries are remarkably similar to their 1960s counterparts: They still rely on airplanes and cars to move workers around to do things — inspection, audit, diagnostics, repair and service. Why can’t people communicate virtually in these scenarios across distances to address the problems at hand? Why hasn’t the Internet virtualized communications around real-world, hands-on collaboration?
The Internet hasn’t yet disrupted many hands-on industries not because the Internet is deficient or because management is incompetent, but because the Internet end-points have been deficient. The client devices we’ve been computing with — desktops, laptops, phones and tablets — are simply not designed for hands-on jobs; using these devices in hands-on settings is simply ergonomically impractical in most cases.
Enter Smart Glasses: The Internet’s Portal to the Physical World
Today, we are finally on the cusp of the industrial Internet. Using smart glasses (like those manufactured by Vuzix, Google and others) as a portal, the Internet will reshape traditional industries by bringing information and expertise where it was previously not possible: into hands-on arenas.
Field service in particular is ripe for disruption. When mission-critical equipment is down, business operations come to a halt. Using glasses, workers will be able to remotely collaborate to diagnose and repair problems. Rather than waiting hours or even days for the right people to arrive, workers will begin collaborating immediately and fix problems and order of magnitude more quickly than ever before.
This problem manifests in all kinds of industries: airline manufacturing (e.g. conveyer belt not working), pharmaceutical manufacturing, contract research organizations (CROs), HVAC refrigeration (industrial, commercial, academic), midstream and downstream oil and gas, and telecom.
Healthcare is also ripe to adopt glasses. Smartphones are remarkably filthy. Why are healthcare workers touching these devices all day while taking care of patients? This seems like a recipe for accelerating the growth of hospital-acquired infections.
There are incredible opportunities ahead. By breaking old assumptions about who can do what and where, entire industries can be reshaped. Just imagine being able to extend the knowledge and insight of your best workers to the periphery of your distributed workforce. Or training your customers on a new machine daily over the course of the first month, instead of 0- and 30-day trainings.
The future of traditional industries look remarkably different — for the first time in a long time — through Glass.