Fidelity Labs, a unit of Fidelity Investments, is launching a Market Monitor app for Google's Glass that is by all accounts basic but may also signal how wearable devices are catching on with financial services providers.
Fidelity's new app delivers quotes for major U.S. stock indexes over the search engine giant's computerized frames. The modest first step is reminiscent of the earliest mobile banking smartphone apps.
The uncertainty surrounding the future of Google Glass is also reminiscent of the early days of the iPhone, according to Hadley Stern, a vice president at Fidelity Labs.
"I think we have a similar uncertainty around Glass," he says. "The device is very capable and one can imagine very easily it becoming yet another way that we interact with information."
For bankers and wealth managers, the move towards a wearable computing device represents a very different medium through which to deliver information. With smartphones and other handheld devices, users tap or touch a screen. Glass presents information in the periphery of a person's vision as that data is pushed to the headset.
As apps become more sophisticated and personal, privacy will be a growing concern. Fidelity currently is relying on OAuth, an open standard for authentication. It has also produced a video that outlines how Glass might someday use voice commands to determine if the person wearing it is the account holder.
Stern concedes that Fidelity's first piece of Glassware (Google's moniker for Google Glass apps) is rather simple but says it "will allow us to understand the pool of people and how they react to it."
Fidelity developers, part of an early group to which Google has granted platform access, are using the experience to get a handle on some of the technical, legal and compliance issues related to Glass.
Banks will face similar opportunities and challenges in deciding whether to develop Glassware to attract or retain customers.
"I can see the value proposition of a real-world overlay of information relating to what is visually apparent, but some services may be better delivered over 'traditional' means such as SMS or email" says Nick Holland, a senior payments analyst at Javelin Strategy & Research.
Even so, financial services companies and bank tech vendors will initially "throw money" at Glass apps purely to be on the cutting edge, he predicts. "Ultimately, form will follow function and Glass apps will evolve to being actually useful in the real world."
Fidelity launched its Glass app just as Google was introducing a barrage of changes to the device. The upgrades give beta testers the ability to watch videos on Glass and add new voice commands, among other features.
Currently beta testers are running XE8 (Explorer Edition 8).
Wearable computing, whether with Glass or a watch-like computer, presents an opportunity for both banks and wealth management outfits, alike.
"Companies that are cutting edge are certainly looking beyond keyboard strokes," says financial technology consultant JP Nicols. "I think there is going to be a big opportunity. Some things will work. Some won't. But the smart companies will be iterating and trying new things."