Google Glass Could Still Have a Future in Education and Healthcare

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Is Google Glass dead? Many were left asking this question after Google ended the Glass Explorer Program earlier this year, and the initial release of the product received snubs from much of the media. Recently, though, Google sent out next-generation Glass prototypes to select partners, developed a Glass at Work program, and declared it was committed to bringing this technology to the mass consumer market.

But what do IT professionals make of Glass and its future? This is something I’ve been discussing recently with senior IT professionals working in higher education and healthcare. Below are some conclusions as to how the different industries can benefit from Google Glass, and also the security concerns the technology raises.


According to a recent survey by Northwestern University, when physicians spend too much time looking at a computer screen in the exam room, their ability to listen, problem-solve, and think creatively is not optimal. Google Glass can help alleviate this through its ability to collect data and update important information through casual conversation rather than a doctor spending hours inputting information into a computer.

With the ability to collect data through verbal communication, physicians can focus on the patient at hand and provide better service and care. Through facial recognition, Google Glass is able to interpret data and communicate, giving physicians more insight and providing data at-hand, when needed.

Higher Education

Teachers and students are able to collaborate and learn through hands-free technology as well. Google Glass is able to help students learn new languages in real-time, teachers connect with other educators from different parts of the world, and students who are reluctant to ask questions can text an SMS to Google Glass. This technology reduces the gap between students and teachers and creates a more dynamic learning experience. Learning experiences vary from learning a language to streaming a live operation to colleagues in about 30 different countries.

Security Concerns

Though Google Glass can provide a great advantage to healthcare and education, security and regulatory concerns will accompany its implementation. The potential for breaching privacy regulations is clear and is aggravated by a potential need to comply with the data protection laws of multiple jurisdictions.

Google Glass’ technology saves information in a protected cloud, which is against privacy policies such as HIPAA, a well-known standard for health information, and FERPA, a lesser-known policy protecting children’s education records.

HIPAA exists to protect private healthcare information and make the healthcare industry responsible for maintaining these privacy standards. HIPAA has been implemented since 1996 and with HIPAA, patients’ information is secure and accessible when requested.

"The potential for breaching privacy regulations is clear and is aggravated by a potential need to comply with the data protection laws of multiple jurisdictions"

There are a series of security safeguards that have been addressed in the HIPAA policy to ensure protection of electronically stored health information. Google Glass collects personal health information that is owned and stored by Google, which directly breaks HIPAA policy.

According to the FERPA policy, disclosure of personal information is decided by the school district itself. One of the biggest security concerns of implementing Google Glass in classrooms is having personal information of a child automatically designated to the cloud, keeping information that some parents may find as an invasion of privacy.

Despite concern around FERPA and HIPAA, there are measures that can be taken to minimize the security risk Google Glass poses.

Employee education is key. Google Glass users are willing to comply if they fully understand the reason for policies. Employers that decide to use Google Glass need to implement an educational privacy program and reinforce it.

A Google Glass privacy and security policy must also be considered. This could, effectively, be included within the existing company policy. In some ways it is clear: it’s all just data. However, many users don’t think of video and audio as data. Data to them is a database or text file. This is one area where policy and education need to collaborate and clearly define data and data collection.

There has been research in security firms to see what, if anything is being done to provide security for Google Glass. Little response was received, suggesting that the security industry is still in wait-and-see mode. The only advice given was to concentrate on the paired mobile device, with a suggestion that F-Secure’s mobile-centric VPN could provide the necessary encryption. This, however, best suits the consumer rather than the corporate setting.

The best policy enforcement solution for Google Glass in the healthcare and education space is likely to happen when organizations form partnerships with a vendor able to offer a combination of tailored Google Glass experience and security software.

When that happens, physicians will be able to spend more time focusing on patients, allowing them to communicate better and spend less time with administrative duties. And students would benefit from live-stream learning opportunities rather than being limited to only textbook material.

Though Google Glass does not yet have a clear-cut security and privacy plan suitable for these industries, the possibilities it has to impact health and learning across the globe mean that IT professionals will continue to evaluate and take it very seriously.

About the Author

Elden Nelson is editor-in-chief and vice president of Wisegate, where he moderates webinars with seasoned IT professionals; executes numerous surveys geared toward understanding the needs of IT professionals; and writes in-depth reports on the findings. Prior to Wisegate, Nelson served as principal research analyst at Gartner, director of product platform management at Burton Group, and editor-in-chief of numerous technical publications

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