How Google Glass may transform digital supply chains.

You just received a delivery confirmation after browsing a consumer website of your choice. Within the next 24 hours, the product will reach your door. But what really happens on the supplier’s side? To answer this question, we need to look at the advances in digital supply chains. Today’s customers, both in B2C and in B2B, want unique experiences that are delivered “on demand” and at hyper speed. [1] The greatest concern for the supplier is managing all the information at competitive prices while staying cost effective. This means that data that arrives from many different sources (warehouses, transporters, and distributors) needs to be perfectly synchronized within this time frame. Quality of the data is crucial, and thus it is still a significant technological barrier that many companies are working on. [2] A recent study by the Center for Global Enterprise (CGE) suggests that ‘a digital supply chains can lower procurement costs by 20% and reduce supply chain process costs by 50%’. [3]

According to SAP’s CEO “The digital supply chain holds the promise of real-time data to sense demand, drive innovation, reduce cost, and deliver the customer the right product at the right time and price”. [3] A McKinsey & Company research conducted on digital reinvention concluded that “The biggest future impact on revenue and EBIT growth, is set to occur through the digitization of supply chains.”[4] And so, suppliers are actively looking to improve their performance while taking advantage of various technological advances.

Digital Supply Networks: Traditional, linear supply chain nodes are collapsing into a set of dynamic networks [5]
Google Glass partners with Active Ants

In early 2013, Google Glass was named “best invention of the year” by Time Magazine and was even dedicated a 12 page spread in Vogue magazine. Despite all the hype, Google Glass did not live up to its expectations. High price and privacy concerns were raised as tech enthusiasts referred to the product as “the worst product of all times”. [6] Trying to ‘save’ the product, Google Glass partnered with various companies to demonstrate its possible transformation to the industry and so, Google Glass made an interesting stir to the world of supply chain management. [7]

Google partnered with “Active Ants”,  a Dutch logistics fulfillment company which ships products for 50 different online stores. It gave stock pickers Google Glasses for one week to check possible productivity increase. The results were impressive: Google Glass led to a 15% increase in stock picking speed and a 12% decrease in worker errors as it provided stock pickers with detailed information on certain products’ locations. Jeroen Dekker, a managing partner at the Active Ants said: “Traditionally, the pickers would walk around with pick lists specifying products, locations and quantities; now this information is displayed on Google Glass.” [8-10]

Predicting that Google Glass will be worn more by a retailer than by a customer, Google customized its technology. The WSJ wrote “The new model has a faster Intel processor, improved battery life of as long as two hours and improved wireless connectivity, it can be moved vertically as well as horizontally, while the first version offered only horizontal adjustment”. [11]

Google Glass is partnering with more companies with hopes of replacing the ageing handheld terminals (HHTs) which are in use across most warehouses across the world. Likely applications will include pick, pack and dispatch as well as workforce management for store associates in the years to come. [12]

Looking into the future through Google Glass

Google Glass must take advantage of this amazing opportunity for it to rebuild its lost reputation. There is potential to generate annual savings of millions of dollars if bigger fulfillment companies such as Amazon will implement this technology. First, Google Glass needs to acknowledge that although great improvements have been made, the technology isn’t ready yet. Currently, the battery life is only two hours, which is not long enough to last a full workday even if an additional battery were to be added. Second, consumers would like to hear how practical Google Glass is in an environment that is not as controlled as “Active Ants”, therefore Goggle Glass must actively engage and generate feedback from more and bigger trail companies, thus making the skeptics believe in the new value of their product.

Do you think that wearable tech can really transform the warehouse? If so, can Google Glass revolutionize the way supply chains operate? Conversely, is this trail only a gimmick and a means to revive and justify a product that did not sell?


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[1]  Hanifan, G.; Crosnier, S.; Timmermans, K. “Digital Trendsetters: Secrets Of The Most Successful Digital Supply Chains”. Accenture 2016, Strategy.

[2]  Stefan S.; Philipp B. “How digitization makes the supply chain more efficient, agile, and customer-focused” (Sep 7th, 2016)

[3] Digitalist “Supply Chain Futurists Predict The Impact Of Digital Transformation”  (Nov 3rd, 2016)

[4] Digital McKinsey “The case for digital reinvention” (Feb 2017)

[5] Deloitte US, Digital supply networks” (2017) |

[6] Bilton, N. “Why Google Glass Broke” , Forbes (Feb 4th, 2015)

[7] “Wearable Tech Comes to the Warehouse” – National Fulfillment Services

[8]Orange Business Services “Five real world Google Glass applications” (May 30th, 2014)

[9] Official Active Ants YouTube; 2017.

[10]  Taylor, C. “Finally, a Real Business Use for Google Glass” (May 7th, 2014)

[11] E. Morphy,  “Finally, Goggle Gets Glass, We Hope” (July 30, 2015)

[12] Retail Innovation, “Using Google Glass in a Warehouse” (Nov 21, 2014)

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  1. I agree that Google glass needs much improvement in terms of battery life, and it needs more trials in more complex working environment.

    I also agree Google glass will bring changes to warehouse, while I think it is just the interim step for warehouse transformation. I think of two dimensions for the management of the warehouse-information flow and product movement. Google glass can solve the first problem-how to get real-time information of each product in the warehouse quickly and accurately. But it is still dependent on human’s effort, which means workers need to move around in the warehouse and check information. I believe in the future, the robots and automation can completely replace this. Automation will combine two work together: collect information and move products.

    Besides, I think google glass’s end goal will still be entering consumer market, especially when VR and AR is developed so fast nowadays. Google glass is the perfect intermediate to experience AR and VR for consumers’ daily life. I expect it will replace mobile phone to further simplify people’s communication.

  2. I really like your summary on the potential implication of the usage of Google Glass, and the independent opinion listing both its advantages and disadvantages.

    Reading your summary on the potential drawbacks of using Google Glass, I thought about the significant development effort currently going into robotizing complete warehouse systems. I was wondering whether the improvement of Google Glass to fit the logistics environment will be faster than the time when robots will take over most of the activities within a warehouse system. I believe that Google can focus its efforts on improving the Google Glass exclusively on metrics that are essential to be able to integrate into a more automatized, robotics-lead logistics system.

  3. Fascinating article! Your question about whether Google Glass is a gimmick or can really transform the warehouse is an interesting one. I do worry that the technology is not there and does not offer a large enough improvement to the warehouses with HHTs. As you point out, the battery life is really a major issue that despite some improvements in picking speed, would not really hit the bottom line. More importantly, I worry about how workers will process the information on Google Glass over time, growing to ignore information of the glass when it is purely provided, as opposed to actively seeking out information in the HHTs. I do not see this as the transformative intervention that Google may have hoped for.

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