Google Glass: The next huge competitive advantage

Credit: Photo by Max Braun on Flickr. Used under CC 2.0 license

In George Orwell's classic tale Animal Farm, he coined the famous phrase, "All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others." That could be true as it applies to employees who wear Google Glass instead of simply carrying a mobile device. 

That's because for the short term at least, employees who wear a mobile device may be more equal than those who have to stick their hand in their pocket and explicitly pull it out and make it do what they want.

Or at least that's what Shelly Palmer, author of the book, Digital Wisdom, Thought leadership in a digital world, told an audience at the Mobile Loco Conference at Mobile World Congress last week.

"Now we have Google Glass," Palmer told the audience. "Think about how different a human who has that kind of power is compared to someone who doesn't."

He added, "You can walk around and see the world with augmented reality. How much more powerful does that make you than than a person who has to reach into their pocket to look something up -- and how much more powerful than someone has no digital life at all?"

It's an interesting question.

Palmer suggested that there was a huge and growing gap in the world, one that has always existed on some level, between the haves and the have-nots. In this case, the gap is digital, rather than economic, where those who have smartphones are much better off than those that don't because they have immediate access to information and communications.

"I am holding a computer in my hand," Palmer said. "I am now with that tool an exo-digitally enhanced human being." It got me thinking that his theories could apply to business as well. If your employees are equipped with the latest and greatest mobile devices, that might give them an advantage of sorts over competitors who might be using less sophisticated devices (which is probably one of the driving factors behind Bring Your Own Device).

That's certainly something for the German companies I wrote about last week to think about when they are still handicapping their employees with 4-year old Blackberries because of security concerns. 

This idea is especially interesting in light of the blurring of the lines of tablets and smartphones we were seeing at MWC. Suddenly we have gone very quickly from 4-inch screens to 5, 6 and 7 and believe it or not, most of these devices make phone calls. 

At the other extreme, I saw the I'm Watch, an Italian designer watch and Android device in one which pairs with your smartphone using Bluetooth and can send and receive calls, read email, and even have apps. The keyboard is too small for texting or replying to emails, but perhaps another solution like Snapkeys (also at CES), which reduces the keyboard to four small blocks with the most popular letters, could help with that problem.

Yet all of these devices could pale in comparison to Google Glass.

That said, it's worth noting that The Creative Good blog had a piece recently on the privacy implications of Google Glass. If you can record any time anywhere without anyone's knowledge, what impact will that have on society and business? It's a reasonable question. I suppose you could insist people leave their Google Glasses at the door to a meeting, but as the author suggested, if it ever gets built into a contact lens, we won't have any way of knowing if a person is wearing it. Perhaps we'll have to do security scans to look for wearable devices.

For now, most of you reading CITEworld are probably among those powerful exo-digitally enhanced human beings Palmer referenced. As the mobile devices we carry get more sophisticated, the social, economic, and business implications of having these devices grows ever more significant

As Palmer pointed out, we are so far ahead technologically from where we are socially in terms of how to deal with devices like Google Glass from a social norm and legal standpoint, but as he pointed out, if you are equipped with one you could have a significant advantage over someone who doesn't  have one -- at least for a while until the next big thing comes along.

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