Google Glass--a computer you wear on your face that looks a bit like eyeglasses--is about to spawn an ecosystem that could create new business opportunities.
Juniper analyst Nitin Bhas estimates the global market for wearable technology such as glasses, scanners and tracking devices will expand from 15 million units in 2013 to nearly 70 million in 2017 -- fast growth but a mere 7 percent of the billion smartphones now in use.
By 2014, Juniper reckons the value of those wearable technologies could nearly double from $800 million to $1.5 billion.
If you’re an entrepreneur looking for the next big thing, Glass could be it. But when it comes to grabbing that opportunity, you need to pick the one that stimulates your passion and that demands the skills at which you excel.
Glass lets users take “pictures or record video without using their hands, send the images to friends or post them online, see walking directions, search the Web by voice command and view language translations,” according to The New York Times.
Glass accesses the Internet through Wi-Fi or Bluetooth linked to the wireless service on a user’s cellphone. And users activate Glass by speaking, touching the frame, or moving their heads, according to the Times.
Glass could be the basis of killer apps for different people. But in order to turn those apps into reality, someone needs to add to what Google is offering. First, take a look at five possible killer apps.
Entrepreneur. I’m CEO of an enterprise software company attending an investment conference. I’d use Glass to scan the room and ask Google to show me which people are venture capitalists who’ve invested in companies in my space. Before introducing myself, I’d ask Google to show me their LinkedIn profiles.
Professor. I’m a professor about to start the first meeting of a class of 40 executives. Wearing Glass, I would look at each person in the room, ask Glass to take their photos, tell Google to display information about their companies and their LinkedIn profiles. Then I’d link all of it to my grading sheet.
Surgeon. I’m a heart surgeon at a teaching hospital. I’d tell Glass to take a video of a particularly difficult aorta surgery, annotate it with graphics and verbal commentary, and post the result on the students’ social media sites to review before the next class session.
Secret Service. I’m a secret service agent protecting the president during his visit to Jerusalem’s Western Wall. I’d use Glass to can the crowd and ask Google to search the faces to find the people with records in global terrorist and criminal databases. I’d tell Google to display those records and I’d take action.
Stranded in the woods. While cross-country skiing deep in the woods, I fall and break my leg. I try to ski back, but can’t. I’d tell Glass to video my location, record a voice message for help, call 911, and send the video and voice message to my social networks.
1. Stylish Glass
One of the most obvious barriers to people actually wearing and using Glass is that they don’t want to look like geeks. This means that if you’re good at designing and retailing fashion products, you have a business opportunity.
How so? If you can design fashionable frames - and accessories that go with them like cases and cleaning products--you have a chance to help Google to make Glass the kind of product that non-geeks will proudly wear.
2. Facial recognition
Speaking of geeks, if you know how to build facial recognition software, you have a short at helping Google make many of the killer apps
To be sure, Google already offers a service called “Find My Face that scans users' and their friends' photos for recognizable faces, and suggests nametags for the faces by matching them with users' profile photos and other tagged photos on the social network,” according to CNNMoneyTech.
This technology could go part of the way to helping implement the secret service or entrepreneur apps I mentioned. But if you have what it takes, Google would need to add the ability to scan a face through Glass, compare the scan to a database of faces, make the best match, and return to your Glass the terrorist database or LinkedIn profile that match that person.
3. Glass Supply
Someone is going to profit from Glass by making and shipping its different hardware components to Google.
You might design, make and ship Glass’s processor or memory, the visual display located above the eye so that a Glass user can interact with the virtual world while still living in the real one. You could make and ship Glass’s camera, microphone, speaker, data communications radios, gyroscopes, accelerometer, and/or compass.
If Glass becomes popular, the companies that supply Google--particularly with components that are hard to make--could prosper.
4. Content Curation
Glass would make it so easy for people to make videos of their interactions with people and computers that an entire industry could emerge to help people organize, store and retrieve all of their recordings.
You could start a business to help Glass users decide which videos to pitch and which ones to save. Or you could become a Glass video editor--helping to pick out the best video clips from an event such as wedding or a business conference and weave those pieces into a compelling narrative.
Ever since Apple lost its innovation mojo, it’s been hard to find new opportunities to profit from Silicon Valley’s ground-breaking new ideas. But Glass could spawn plenty of them - and these four may be a place to start.