It's Going to be Huge! Google Glass, Open Source, & Healthcare

Google Glass and other commercial variants of this particular type of wearable IT systems are about to hit the market 'big time'.  The open source community is also getting very active in this arena. In addition, the healthcare industry is getting busy developing software apps and exploring how this emerging technology can be tailored to meet its needs.

Better batteries, miniaturization, nanotechnology, and new manufacturing techniques have made computers, user interfaces, and sensors small enough to fit just about anywhere. It no longer seems strange to see someone wearing a bracelet that records a users vital signs, a watch with as much power as yesterday's computers, and now Google Glasses and a slew of similar competitive products that are about to hit the market. See YouTube video on the Future of Wearable Technologies.

Looking back, the 1980's were dominated by the use of personal computers (PC). The 1990's saw the widespread acquisition and use of laptop computers. This past decade has seen the widespread acceptance and use of mobile personal digital assistants (PDA) or smartphones, e.g. iPod, Blackberry, etc. By the end of this latest decade, we will acknowledge that it was dominated by the production and use of a wide range of wearable information technology (WIT) systems.

In April 2012, Sean Kerner  wrote a blog asking the question "Will Google Glasses be the Greatest Linux Device Ever?"  He recognized that Google Glass was probably going to be built on a thin version of the Linux operating system. Turns out he was right. A few weeks later, Google CEO, Larry Page, confirmed that Google Glass runs on Android.  A week after that announcement by Larry Page, Google released the open-source Android-based kernel code for its Glass Project.

The release of the open source Android code for Google Glass was welcome news to developers around the world.  Once again, Google chose to take advantage of the following simple formula for success –  Collaboration + Open Solutions = Innovation (COSI), which goes a long way to ensuring business success in today's global marketplace. For more detail, visit the Google Glass web site.

A number of competitors to Google Glass have already emerged. For example:

  • In mid-July 2013, an Italian startup called GlassUp started taking pre-orders on Indiegogo for an Android eyewear display system billed as a simpler, lower-cost alternative to Google Glass. The GlassUp device is a receive-only Bluetooth accessory to a nearby mobile device, providing a monochrome, 320 x 240-pixel augmented reality display of incoming messages and notifications.
  • Vuzix is also positioning itself as a competitor to Google Glasses. It provides a "hands free" smartphone display and communications system running applications under the Android operating system. Vuzix smart glasses offer a wearable visual connection to the Cloud, through your smartphone or other compatible smart device.

Other possible competitors down the road might include "Baidu Eye", Oculon Smart Glasses, Telepathy, and many others that will be sure to emerge.

Google Glass in Healthcare

Users and vendors across the healthcare industry are now actively exploring how to adapt the use of Google Glass and similar products for use in a variety of settings. For example:

  • In May 2013, Lance Nanek, a software engineer for New Frontier Nomads wrote an app at a medical hackathon called MedRef for Glass. The app lets you find and create patient folders by voice, add photo and voice notes, view previous notes, and also find patient folders by facial recognition. Read more about it on NeatoCode Techniques.
  • Dr. Christian Assad, with the help of Chris Vukin and Thomas Schwartz from the evermed team, have developed a prototype of an application that will help people perform the CPR in a given situation. Learn more about CPRGlass and the CathGlass Projects on the MedBonsai web site.
  • On July 12, InternetMedicine reported on the news that Dr. Rafael Grossmann, of the Eastern Maine Medical Center, recently performed his first Google Glass aided surgery. This caught the attention of a lot of people in the industry. You can read a his detailed account of the event on his blog.

We are just starting to find potential uses for Google Glass. Think of all the other possible uses of this new technology such as a visual interface to a hospital's electronic health record (EHR), gain access to a patients clinical images, medical education materials, and much more.  Health IT vendors and the open source community are going to busy for years creating innovative apps and tools tied to this new technology for healthcare providers, trainers, patients, researchers, administrative staff, and more..

There are sure to be many issues and problems that will emerge as Google Glass and related variants of this technology hit the marketplace.  For example, you can already read about some of the specific privacy and security concerns that are being raised. There will also be many unintended consequences when this technology is unleashed on the world. But there's no stopping it. This new technology is about to impact the marketplace, and our lives, 'big time'.

Other selected links to visit include:

OpenGlass Library
Google Glass Apps      
Google Glass Developers
+Google Glass