Aaron Tilley // Forbes Staff / Tech 7/08/2014 @ 8:00AM
Glass has had a difficult time finding its way in the world. As a consumer product, it has been the subject of endless ridicule for being too awkward and intrusive–most recently in a Daily Show segment. One day, people may begun accepting an odd contraption sitting on a person’s face, but for now, the focus has shifted toward how this technology can be used in the workplace. And that’s where Virginia-based startup APX Labs plans to start making some money.
APX Labs’ Skylight software allows businesses to develop software apps for smart glasses–including not only Google Glass but also Japanese electronic maker Epson’s clunkier version of smart glasses.
The company today announced it’s hiring Eric Johnsen away from Google X as VP of business development to work out the deals to get smart glasses into the workplace. At Google X, Johnsen led the Glass at Work program.
“This space of wearables in enterprise is about to blast off,” according to Johnsen.
What’s convinced Johnsen of this area’s potential for growth is the overwhelming interest he had received from various industries while leading Google’s efforts in figuring out how the technology could work in the workplace.
“A lot of customers are trying to solve the same problem for the past 20 years,” Johnsen says. “There’s been lots of technology we haven’t been able to push out to workers who don’t sit at a desk.”
The types of industries smart glasses fit particularly well in are jobs that require workers to be using both hands and are away from a desk, according to Johnsen. A worker on an oil rig, for example, would usually need to continuously be looking over at an instruction manual while handling such complicated machinery. With smart glasses, they can stay focused on the job. And if something goes wrong, they don’t have to fly in an engineer from Houston to deal with it. Instead, they can guide the worker through the problem using the glasses’ camera.
Healthcare and manufacturing are other major areas for potential customers.
This is all in the early stages for APX. Currently, it only has dozens of Fortune 500 businesses signed up, and they are all still in pilot programs. APX isn’t able to name these customers yet.
Cofounded by former NSA officer Brian Ballard in 2010, APX cut its teeth on bringing smart glasses-type technology to the military. It was initially spun out of Battlefield Telecommunications Systems, a Maryland-based company that brings new wireless tech to the battlefield.
With Google pushing the concept of smart glasses into the mainstream and pushing down the cost, APX saw an opportunity to expand into the commercial space.
APX raised $10 million in Series A venture capital from NEA in April.