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Utah debuts Google Glass app for transit updates

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Utah's transit smartphone app

Utah.gov has created the first transit-tracking application for Google Glass, enabling consumers to receive notifications and alerts about trains and buses via the device.

Consumers have already been able to access this information via a smartphone app, but now they can receive this information on Google Glass. This news comes when more and more wearable devices are popping up at Mobile World Congress.

“We believe that wearables will be a big deal in the near future just as smart phones have become in just the last six years,” said David G. Fletcher, chief technology officer of Utah Department of Technology Services. “That doesn't give us a lot of time to adjust to these new dynamics, so we try to get an early start which is what we have done with the Google Glass App. 

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“Utah citizens have come to expect a high level of service from Utah government online and on their mobile devices,” he said. “Producing an app early on in the development of wearable devices will give us some valuable experience which we can build on in the future.

“We recognize that the user base for Google Glass is still very small, however, in Utah we have a rapidly growing tech community and it is a sector that we actively promote.  The users of Glass will be able to use this app to receive alerts and information concerning the use of mass transit in Utah.”

OnTime
UT OnTime lets consumers track public transit data in real time and receive SMS notifications when a bus or train is nearby. It also shows nearby routes and stops in a simple map.

Utah decided to take the smartphone version of this app and apply it to Google Glass as a part of the Google Glass Explorer Program.

Not only is this the first transit-tracking Glass app, but it is also the first state Web site to create a Glass app.

Consumers with Google Glass can enable the free app at http://ontime.utah.gov.

While few consumers actually own Google Glass since the device is still in beta, Utah wanted to make an early move to show its commitment to the technology. The state believes that Google Glass is receiving enough attention from tech companies and the public to make it worth the state’s efforts.

According to Mr. Fletcher, the state has seen high adoption of the smartphone OnTime app, and it made sense to port it over to wearable devices since the basic architecture was already in place.

Wearables seem to be gaining steam, with new smartwatches, fitness trackers, and VR headsets all debuting at this year's Mobile World Congress.

Samsung alone introduced at least three wearable devices at the conference, and Motorola launched a new smartwatch. Sony hinted at a wearable camera device, and Fujitsu showcased a smart glove.

Google Glass
As more companies release wearables, Google maintains its steady expansion of Google Glass.

Utah is joining a growing group of developers that are investing in Google Glass early on.

For instance, Stanford University leveraged the device to gather video during sports games and stream it to the scoreboard and to social media (see story).

Fidelity Investments has also experimented with Google Glass, introducing an app that enables users to view a hands-free display of quotes from major United States stock indexes at market close (see story).

Developers are even looking to Google Glass for payments, with companies like Pay with Wallaby and Eaze creating glass apps. Eaze lets consumers pay by nodding their head while wearing Google Glass.

However, Google Glass is definitely still in the early stage and has a number of challenges to overcome before going mainstream. For one, not all states are as excited about the technology, and many are looking to ban wearing Google Glass while driving (see story).

“Google Glass seems to be the most highly visible of all the wearable technologies right now,” Mr. Fletcher said. “When I contacted Google, they were also interested in our project. 

“One of our developers, on his own initiative, actually procured a set and developed a prototype of the application which he shared with us,” he said.

“Since we had already been discussing the potential for this kind of service, we decided that since the investment was small, we would try it out and see how people respond.  So far, that response seems to be positive.”

Final Take
Rebecca Borison is editorial assistant on Mobile Marketer, New York

Rebecca Borison is editorial assistant on Mobile Marketer. Reach her at rebecca@mobilemarketer.com.

 
Related content: Software and technology, mobile, mobile marketing, David G. Fletcher, Utah Department of Technology Services, Google Glass

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