Will Google Glass make it into the enterprise?


Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) delivered its much anticipated Google Glass eyeglass computer to software developers and other early adopters this week.

Certainly, its futuristic look will attract techies, who like to have the latest and greatest technology, and Trekkies, who grew up watching Geordi and his VISOR. But will it attract mainstream users? And will enterprises allow those users to bring the devices into work.

I see three main problems that might discourage the use of Google Glass at work: battery life, privacy and data security, and safety.

First, on battery life, Google said in the Google Glass specifications released this week that the battery will be able to provide power for "one full day of typical use," unless the user wants to view videos or conduct Hangout sessions.

I agree with Ewan Spence, a contributor to Forbes, who found the vagueness of this description troubling. Usually, when companies are confident about their products' specs, they provide specifics. For example, Google was quite specific about Google Glass's memory--12 GB of usable memory synched to Google cloud storage. There were no concerns there.

But how Google defines a typical day should be of concern to average users. "Google Glass is going to be forgiven for a lot of issues when it appears, but I think that any battery life issues will not be brushed aside. For Google Glass to take off, regular members of the public need to buy in to the system, not just the geekerati. And if there's one thing people are conscious of, it's the battery life of their devices," Spence wrote.

Certainly, in a work setting, battery life will be a major concern for users.

A second issue is privacy, something that was highlighted in a story I wrote last month based on an article by James Kendrick of ZDNet. Kendrick argued that the ban of Google Glass by a bar in Seattle, even before the product is available, is only the beginning of widespread bans of the product.

There are concerns about people using Google Glass to take photos and videos of people without their knowledge or consent.

"Businesses are going to quickly realize the exposure to both liability and corporate security and one after another companies, large and small, are going to ban Google Glass use within work areas. Because Google Glass can be used without notice, that ban will extend to even wearing the device on the premises," Kendrick wrote.

The risks of privacy lawsuits and theft of corporate data will certainly be on the minds of companies as they consider whether to allow these devices into the workplace. Surreptitious recording would be much easier with Google Glass than with a smartphone, which requires the user to point the device at the subject being recorded.

Finally, safety at work could be an issue. An employee checking out information on the Google Glass screen might be distracted from another task that could endanger fellow workers or the public. Consider a forklift controller or a bus driver, for example.

I was intrigued by one of the prohibitions included on Google's application programming interface  terms of service released this week. Google stipulated that developers "may not use the APIs for any activities where the use or failure of the APIs could lead to death, personal injury, or environmental damage (such as the operation of nuclear facilities, air traffic control, or life support systems)."

So, safety is on the mind of Google, at least from a liability perspective. It will also be on the mind of any chief information officer as he or she considers whether to allow these devices into the workplace.

I doubt if Google Glass will become a popular BYOD device the way smartphones and tablets have. It raises additional privacy, data security, safety and legal issues that will trouble many companies. - Fred