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Google's Glass Guidelines Provide Clues to Future Bank Apps

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As the world's largest online search firm started releasing its wearable computing product Google Glass to privileged developers and early adopters, it had a message for banks and other would-be commercial users: You will be prohibited from distracting users with ads.

Google on Tuesday released terms to companies developing so-called Glassware apps that include its intention to reject software it believes users will regard as irritations. The product will function like a standard pair of glasses frames, with a heads-up display attached. The display will project images in front of wearer's eyes. Glass will be released to the public by year's end and retail for less than $1,500, according to media reports.

"Google is very clear about apps limiting distractions, not [bothering] people all the time, so this isn't something that banks can use as a platform to coax their customers 100 times a day," says Sarah Rotman Epps, a Forrester Research analyst. "It is potentially a platform for them to deliver utility when it could be most useful."

A more feasible way for banks to use Google Glass would involve enabling a customer to check his account balance while picking up groceries, Epps says.

"Traditional advertising is not going to be appropriate for this kind of intimate platform," the analyst added. "I really don't think we'll know until the app goes through its process. Just as with Apple [and iTunes], app developers learn over time."

The search firm's recent releases involving Google Glass include some straightforward guidelines for which sorts of apps are acceptable and which are not. The company is also encouuraging developers with doubts to err on the side of consumers.

As with Apple's iTunes, Google Glass apps will be approved and distributed via a software store maintained by the tech giant that created the platform.

Glassware will function much the same way that Android and iOS apps function on smartphones—albeit with smaller screens and translucent displays that appear in front of users.

The New York Times' Bits Blog was one of the first to notice the ad restriction on a terms of service page Google recently release for its wearable device.

Among the best practices Google cited are its desire to have programmers build unique Glass applications and those that feature "unexpected functionality."

Google has already selected around 8,000 beta testers who will be among the first to buy the hardware for $1,500 — a price developers previously paid to purchase the devices. (Some programmers have apparently already gotten their hands on Glass.)

For banks, certain Glass apps have obivous appeal, says Rakesh Agrawal, principal analyst at product strategy consulting company reDesign Mobile. Two possibilities: fraud prevention and detection and real-time transaction alerts.

Agrawal says the app submission process could be a boon for banks. "I would consider that to be a good thing," he says. "You don't want phishers. If they [Google executives] weren't checking submissions, it would be possible for someone to submit a bogus Bank of America app just to get people's passwords."

A Ukrainian bank has already told fintech blog Finextra that it plans to allow its customers to log into online bank accounts and make payments using Google's device.

As with mobile phones and the iPad, banks may some day discover those who ignored Google Glass did so at their own peril. However, banks bigger priority should be mobile banking, says Jim Marous, a senior vice president of corporate development at digital direct marketing agency New Control, and author of the Bank Marketing Strategy blog.

"A case could be made that an augmented reality branch location tool may be a viable use for Google Glass," he wrote in an email. "I would rather see banks spend their development time on improved mobile applications for phones and tablets. I am amazed every day how rudimentary mobile banking apps continue to be and that the majority of mid-range banks have not developed interactive tablet applications. Heck, there are still many banks that do not have responsive design [adapting apps] for mobile devices."

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