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The Lufthansa flight from Munich to Edinburgh takes around two and a half hours. This is where our journey through the smart product economy begins. It is no coincidence that the operator of Scotland’s most important airport is part of the revolution. The instrument of choice are the Google Glass smart glasses. They are used by the airport’s staff to give passengers exact flight details, to inform them of gate changes, to answer questions, and to act as translator.
The product, whose introduction to the mass market was (initially) a failure, seems to have serious potential for processes at airports. It enables airport staff to share text and images, to switch between phone calls, and to access a shared database that allows them to answer passengers’ questions quickly and, above all, increasingly better. The smart glasses have proved to be the perfect smart product as they constitute a small lever to make significant workflow changes.
The decisive advantage of using Google Glass from the perspective of the airport’s management is, ironically, not even digital. The glasses free up employees’ hands, allowing them to help passengers actively and directly, for example when checking in, enabling them to move more freely and more quickly. The apps, together with additional options customized for the specific requirements of airport operations and synchronized with Google Glass, add value to the process – as does the fact that it only takes one day to learn how to use the smart device.
Hands free! They’re not just needed in the departure hall. Walking towards the exit, we imagine just what benefits the analog killer app of the smart glasses could bring to our factory floors. Whether querying flight schedules or setting up tools perfectly, or using augmented reality to coordinate the activities of airport staff in a crisis situation or factory employees in lean projects – deploying Google Glass is a prime example of the “think big, start small” philosophy that is typical of the smart product economy.
There’s a great many more things to say about Edinburgh Airport, like it being the first airport in the UK to automate baggage claims using web-based software, thus simplifying the process in such a way that it takes just 30 seconds per passenger. But we need to press on as we have a long journey ahead of us.