Tag Archives: privacy concerns

The glass was cracked, not broken

Google Glass is back

Customer value

Advances in wearable computing are affecting both the consumer and business space. Where wearable computing used to be science fiction territory, devices are now reaching the mass market for consumption, with the Google Glass being the most high-profile example: a pair of glasses augmented with a small display and a tiny computer with wireless networking and GPS functionality. At its core, it is just a tiny mobile computer with novel display technologies and user interfaces. This might seem unimpressive, but what is impressive is that the Glass puts the display directly in the user’s field of view and creates a user interface based on voice, gestures and taps of the glasses’ frame. (Gray, 2013) 


The challenge with these wearable gadgets is to find a value proposition. Smart glasses need to add to the reasons people put glasses on their face. When the Glass was released, Google hoped that the early adopters would flesh out the value proposition, but the biggest challenge turned out to be the form factor of the Glass: many people do not enjoy wearing glasses. Given this behavioural observation, the value proposition to keep the Glass on your face had to be a good one. (Benbajarin, 2013)

Business model

The business model is an ecosystem platform and like all platforms, it uses an army of developers trying to create new value-adding apps. (Dashevsky & Hachman, 2014) Partners that built apps for the Glass ecosystem included Twitter, Facebook, CNN and Elle (Gaudin, 2013). Actually, Google did not really know what to do with the Glass, which is why they built a developer program first, attempting to use the wisdom of the crowd. (Shaughnessy, 2013)

Let’s have a look at the components. It all started with a product idea. The next step was validation. Through a crowdsourced competition, Google tried to find out what the Glass could be used for. The third step was rapid evaluation of the ideas. Next, the ecosystem was formed and developers were selected to line up in the ecosystem. The fifth step was financing and acquiring funds. The last component was the proposal of a tentative launch date of the Glass and improving, or iterating, the design with customer feedback.

Reflecting on this business model, it is obvious that Google’s own investments were relatively low, even after the invention phase was over. The developers were the ones bearing the costs. Therefore the main risk for Google was not a financial risk, but a reputational one: the risk of not getting the product right and having to close the project. (Shaughnessy, 2013)

Institutional environment

 Shortly after its launch, people began to fret about the social implications. Two questions dominated the debate: (1) Is the video component of the Glass a threat to our privacy? (2) Will people be able to concentrate on what is in front of them when they get distracted by the internet all the time?


The problem is that people cannot consent to filming or being filmed by the Glass. With the Glass, Google is able to compute what a user is seeing and the idea that you can become part of someone else’s data collection was quite alarming to many. (Arthur, 2013)

“With a phone, the person I am taking a picture of will notice me; with the Glass nobody knows whether or not they are being watched, no matter what they are doing.” (Arthur, 2013; Klepic, 2014)

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ISO) warned about the use of wearables and the resulting chances on breaches of the Data Protection Act. The Glass’ wide scope for data collection led to more chances for breaking UK law than any other device. (Fox-Brewster, 2014) Should movie theatres, concert venues and casinos try to ban the Glass? And how are corporations going to stop employees from photographing confidential trade documents? (Klepic, 2014) Banning or restricting the Glass was also a major issue for restaurants, hospitals, sports grounds and banks (Gray R. , 2013)


The second debate evolved around the question: Will people will able to concentrate on what is in front of them when they get distracted by the internet all the time? This legal question was about the safety of using the Glass in traffic. The Glass is supposed to stop people from looking at their phones, but people are fundamentally incapable of looking away from what they are doing for a few seconds without losing their concentration. If texting and calling while driving is illegal, how could constantly incoming notifications that are only an eye movement away be legal? (Klepic, 2014)

Why the glass broke

In January 2015 Google stopped selling the Glass, that was made available as an early prototype to fans and journalists in 2013. As described in the section “Business model” Google wanted to release the Glass to the public so customers could provide feedback that Google X could use to improve the design. (Colt, 2015) However, Glass Explorers treated it like a finished product, despite everyone at Google X knowing that the Glass was still a prototype with major functionality errors to be solved. (Bilton, 2015)

The section “Customer value” already described that it would be difficult to create customer value. Google advertised the Glass in terms of experience augmentation, while in reality, no one was comfortable with wearing the camera on their face in the way of normal social interaction. (Weidner, sd) The Glass failed to be  “cool”. Google desperately tried to make the Glass seem cool by putting it on models during Fashion Week, in fashion advertorials and in the hands of fashion influencers, eventually reinforcing that the Glass was not cool. This is a typical case of a post-modern marketing failure. (Haque, 2015)

The best explanation for why the Glass failed is that it entered the wrong market. The Glass could be a transformational tool for professionals, like truck drivers, train conductors, machine operators, police or airplane pilots. The problem is that Google did not target these professional and B2B audiences. Instead, they targeted journalists and celebrities. (Monetizing Innovation, 2016)

Raise the glass “The Glass is back”

Alphabet reintroduced the Glass to the world. It officially ended its initial ambition to make the Glass a consumer device, because of privacy concerns and because of the fact that the Glass simply looked unfashionable. Finally, the potential for use in business, as a tool for training, has been acknowledged. (Tsukayama, 2017) The Glass is now advertised as an enterprise focused device aimed at the healthcare, manufacturing and energy industry. Despite the first consumer preview being unsuccessful, it did reveal the potential of using the Glass in these specific institutional contexts. (Hern, 2015)


Arthur, C. (2013, March 6). Google Glass: is it a threat to our privacy? The Guardian: https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2013/mar/06/google-glass-threat-to-our-privacy

Benbajarin, B. (2013, September 16). Wearable Gadgets: In Search of a Value Proposition. Time: http://techland.time.com/2013/09/16/wearable-gadgets-in-search-of-a-value-proposition/

Bilton, N. (2015, February 4). Why Google Glass Broke. New York Times: https://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/05/style/why-google-glass-broke.html

Colt, S. (2015, February 4). Google knew Glass ‘wasn’t even close to ready,’ but Sergey Brin pushed it out. Business Insider: http://www.businessinsider.com/why-google-glass-failed-2015-2?international=true&r=US&IR=T

Dashevsky, E., & Hachman, M. (2014, April 15). 16 Cool Things You Can Do With Google Glass. PCMag: https://www.pcmag.com/feature/308711/16-cool-things-you-can-do-with-google-glass

Fox-Brewster, T. (2014, June 30). The Many Ways Google Glass Users Risk Breaking British Privacy Laws. Forbes | Security : https://www.forbes.com/sites/thomasbrewster/2014/06/30/the-many-ways-google-glass-users-risk-breaking-british-privacy-laws/#3068e6e147d8

Gaudin, S. (2013, May 16). Google Glass ecosystem grows with Twitter, Facebook and CNN apps. Computerworld: https://www.computerworld.com/article/2497625/emerging-technology/google-glass-ecosystem-grows-with-twitter–facebook-and-cnn-apps.html

Gray, P. (2013, May 14). The business value of Google Glass and wearable computing. Techrepublic: https://www.techrepublic.com/blog/tech-decision-maker/the-business-value-of-google-glass-and-wearable-computing/

Gray, R. (2013, December 4). The places where Google Glass is banned. The Telegraph: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/google/10494231/The-places-where-Google-Glass-is-banned.html

Haque, U. (2015, January 30). Google Glass Failed Because It Just Wasn’t Cool. Harvard Business Review: https://hbr.org/2015/01/google-glass-failed-because-it-just-wasnt-cool

Hern, A. (2015, July 31). Google Glass is back! But now it’s for businesses? The Guardian: https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2015/jul/31/google-glass-wearable-computer-businesses

Klepic, J. (2014, January 23). People Aren’t Seeing the Legal Problems Ahead With Google Glass. Huffington Post: https://www.huffingtonpost.com/jure-klepic/people-arent-seeing-the-legal_b_4113417.html

Monetizing Innovation. (2016, April 28). The reason Google Glass failed that no one is talking about. Monetizing innovation: http://monetizinginnovation.com/2016/04/the-reason-google-glass-failed/

Shaughnessy, H. (2013, May 3). Google’s Innovative New Business Model For Google Glass. Forbes | Tech: https://www.forbes.com/sites/haydnshaughnessy/2013/05/03/the-radical-new-business-model-behind-google-glass/#7715cd6a3d8a

Tsukayama, H. (2017, July 18). Remember Google Glass? It’s back and ready for work. The Washington Post: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-switch/wp/2017/07/18/remember-google-glass-its-back-and-ready-for-work/?utm_term=.2f69bcd0090f

Weidner, J. (sd). How & Why Google Glass Failed. Investopedia: https://www.investopedia.com/articles/investing/052115/how-why-google-glass-failed.asp

Personalized e-learning is on its way and we should be prepared


With the rise of digitalization has come the rise of digital personalization. Personalization has been existent for a couple of years now, in different kinds of industries, such as retail, cars and even perfumes (Randall, Terwiesch & Ulrich 2005). This means companies and researchers also already had quite some time to learn about both the benefits and the drawbacks of personalization. However, the drawbacks are harder to overcome nowadays, since the use of personalization has already been implemented on such a big, global, scale. Think, for instance, about privacy concerns that could have at least partly been prevented if legislation was set in place in time. However, we can all understand that it is hard to act upon potential drawbacks in advance if there is no prior experience whatsoever.

Nevertheless, it is always a good idea to be cautious and critical about upcoming trends such as personalization, before blindly implementing them without thinking about any potential consequences, either negative or positive. This means, foreseeing any potential drawbacks, as well as keeping in mind what you would like to reach as a goal by pursuing a trend such as personalization.

Personalized e-learning

Ashman et al. (2014) have presented a detailed discussion regarding personalization, but not in the field of, e.g., e-commerce, where it is already widely implemented, but rather in the field of e-learning. Personalization in e-learning is still in its beginning phase and therefore not yet widely implemented. Thus, the authors act in advance on warning e-learning providers and educational institutions on the potential drawbacks of the personalization of e-learning, including recommendations on how to overcome them, before it is too late. Especially since educational institutions are increasingly using such models as a way to gain as much as new students as possible, to increase their income, risking to lose their initial, most important goal out of sight: to enhance the quality of education. (Ashman et al. 2014)

But why is personalization of e-learning initially needed, then? The authors acknowledge where institutions’ interest in personalization of e-learning is coming from. E-learning is an upcoming trend on its own already to overcome the lack of time and resources to facilitate an increasing number of students globally. However, students might feel disenfranchised and their individual learning needs might become neglected by the use of e-learning. To overcome this issue, educational institutions are starting to implement the personalization of e-learning. However, then again, personalization comes with its setbacks.


The three main setbacks discussed by Ashman et al. (2014) are privacy concerns, serendipity issues and deskilling problems. The authors discuss these three setbacks in great detail. Privacy concerns is a recurring issue surrounding the topic of data gathering in general, which is also needed for personalization. Serendipity issues are about the reduced ability to learn and understand different beliefs, cultures and lifestyles, or to learn ‘out of your comfort zone’, as personalization leads to the targeted student to only be presented information that fits within his/her field of interest. Lastly, students can be deskilled in the sense that they do not learn how to critically assess and evaluate the information that they are given, as with personalization they are presented the results that most closely fit their needs, so they stop looking further very quickly. The authors emphasize, in order to overcome these issues, it is important to inform students about what and how data is gathered about them, and to give them the opportunity to control what information is presented to them. Additionally, they advise a clear and thorough understanding by e-learning providers and educational institutions of why personalization in e-learning is needed and what can be achieved by it, for which thorough experimentation is required.

In their paper, several universities, such as Harvard, St. Gallen and Ontario, are used as an example, from which data is analyzed very extensively by Google Analytics. Google Analytics tracks staff and students on the websites of the universities. This enhances the concern of privacy, as the user ID’s were visible.


Despite these discussed setbacks, the authors do see great value in personalized e-learning as “the system is genuinely able to interact with users, recognize when they need assistance and guide them to the appropriate information or educational activity” (Ashman et al., 2014). Unfortunately, the authors of this paper focus solely on education in well-established economies, which is only a small part of the world. It would be interesting to see the possibilities of personalized e-learning being enforced globally, and thus in poorer areas, too. Interestingly, founder of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, and his wife, are planning to donate 99% of their Facebook shares to invest in, amongst other things, personalized learning. He mentioned:

“Students around the world will be able to use personalized learning tools over the internet, even if they don’t live near good schools. Of course it will take more than technology to give everyone a fair start in life, but personalized learning can be one scalable way to give all children a better education and more equal opportunity.” (Strauss, 2015)


Let’s see what the future holds for us and the upcoming generations regarding a transformation in education, not only in well-established, advanced countries, but also in countries limited in access to good education. Although the negative consequences should not be forgotten and be acted upon well in advance…


Ashman, H., Brailsford, T., Cristea, A. I., Sheng, Q. Z., Stewart, C., Toms, E. G., & Wade, V. (2014). The ethical and social implications of personalization technologies for e-learning. Information & Management, 51, pp. 819–832.

Randall, T., Terwiesch, C., & Ulrich, K.T. (2005). Principles for user design of customized products. California Management Review, 47(4), 68. Links to an external site.

Straus, V. (2015). A primer for Mark Zuckerberg on personalized learning — by Harvard’s Howard Gardner. The Washington Post. 

Helix: How Your DNA is Choosing Your Wine

Imagine that you really like pizza. You probably have a favourite pizza – and a favourite place to get it – right? Let’s say your favourite pizza is a margarita. When you get the pizza and eat it, you will probably like it. However, do you not sometimes think something could have been done differently? Maybe there should have been less cheese, maybe it’s too greasy, or maybe the temperature is just off? Does getting the perfect pizza every time sound like a dream to you?  Well, it’s time to wake up then, because consumer genomics start-up Helix is very close to realizing this concept.

But first, let’s back it up a bit.

What are Human Genomics?
The whole concept of human genomics started off in medicine. A patient’s DNA would be sequenced, which means that “the exact order of the four bases in a strand of DNA” would be determined (yourgenome, 2016). Why does this matter, you ask? Well, with the exact order of the composition of somebody’s DNA, doctors could tailor their treatment, medicine, and pretty much every factor that would impact a patient’s health (Farr, 2016). Probably the most popular case of DNA sequencing is that of Steve Jobs, who paid $100,000 in 2011 to sequence his DNA in an attempt to let doctors gain more insight into his sickness and try to help him more effectively (Farr, 2016). Next to the value of DNA sequencing in medicine, Illumina – the company whose supercomputers are behind 90% of DNA sequencing ever done – has identified a use for DNA sequencing outside of the medical field (Farr, 2016).

The Birth of Helix
Helix – an Illumina spin-off – is said to “democratize genomics” (Farr, 2016). Illumina has managed to bring the costs of DNA sequencing down tremendously – partly due to decreasing lab costs and more lenient regulatory decisions in the US (Farr, 2016; Teo, 2017). Where Steve Jobs paid $100,000 in 2011, a comparable procedure would now cost less than $1000 (Farr, 2016). According to helix, DNA sequencing can – next to provide more insight into diseases – discover other personal matters like your lifestyle, personality traits, taste senses, and much more (Farr, 2016). See where I am going with this?

Helix provides many different products. They – for now – offer six different product categories (Helix, 2018).

  • Ancestry: These products help you find out where your ancestors stem from, to hundreds of thousands of years back;
  • Entertainment: This is the fast-moving consumer goods section, if you will. Here, you can get for example a wine tailored to your taste perfectly;
  • Family: These products are mainly meant for families that want to grow, offering them fertility information;
  • Fitness: Here, Helix wants to help you to “reach your full potential” by designing the perfect workout routine;
  • Health: This is the more traditional use of DNA sequencing as explained in the previous section;
  • Nutrition: Lastly, the nutrition products let you design your perfect nutrition plan that suits your metabolism the best (Helix, 2018).

Source: Helix.com

The Business Model
Helix has a new and unusual business model. As they work closely with Illumina, they have many valuable resources that help them analyse consumers’ whole DNA spectrum, whereas similar companies are able to only analyse part of it (Zhang, 2017). Consumers pay a one-time $80 fee to analyse their DNA and the rest is subsidized by Helix (Zhang, 2017). The consumers then choose what kind of products they would like to purchase, and Helix lets third-party companies create those products based on the genetic information Helix provides them (Zhang, 2017).
Helix has, in that sense, created an online platform with customers – on one hand – who gain access to the platform by letting their DNA be sequenced, and on the other hand the product developers (Molteni, 2017).
The business model is efficient in the sense that its platform brings together companies that offer very specialized, personalized products and consumers that are seeking such products and cannot find them in conventional retail channels. Customers benefit as they receive products that are tailored to their individual tastes to the maximum extent, and companies benefit as they cater to the customers. Also, as the companies get to know more and more about individual customers, they could use this information to develop tailored product recommendations. However, as will be explained in the next section, the efficiency of the business model might suffer from regulatory decisions and consumer privacy issues.

Talk About Personalized Products
Basically, Helix takes product personalization to the next level. Personalizing products has many advantages, for example customers’ craftsmanship is emphasized, and customers form a connection with the product if they have put effort into designing it (Nagle, 2017). However, writing your name on a wine label and getting the wine tailored to your DNA are two completely different things. Because DNA is pretty much as personal as you can get, there are potential drawbacks of the Helix business model. The first and most obvious issue is privacy concerns. If people are already freaking out about the cookies that are gathered on websites, why would they send their DNA to a company to get a product of which they could by a similar version in the supermarket?

Some companies using DNA sequencing store consumer data for “unspecified research” and might sell it to third parties (Niemiec & Howard, 2016: p.23). If consumers get suspicious about this, and privacy concerns rise through the roof, it might negatively impact Helix as well. Also, ethical issues such as discrimination based on DNA information are surfacing, too (Farr, 2016). Imagine that your life insurance gets to know your DNA information, this could highly impact the price you pay.

All in all, although customers like personalized products, the safety of information security measures – or even international regulations – need to be established before customers can completely trust the businesses.

The Future
In the future, Helix aims to create an “App Store” for their genomics products and services (Farr, 2016). They want to create the platform in such way that consumers can access their DNA information, browse the “App Store” to discover products that they like (Farr, 2016). The consumers just need to let their DNA be sequenced once – just like you create your Apple ID once – and can then browse the “App Store” as they wish (Farr, 2016). Helix compares their platform to the App Store rather than to Google Play, as they aim to review each seller, which is what Apple does do each app created, whereas Google takes a more lenient approach (Zhang, 2017). Right now, Helix already has 14 employees whose task it is to get to the bottom of the products developed by their featured companies (Zhang, 2017). The buzzword of the platform is that it is “dynamic” (Molteni, 2017). Helix wants to evolve and widen its platform as the research improves, resulting in more products and services to offer to their customers (Molteni, 2017).

So, if you ask Helix, the next time you eat a margarita, you will love it so much that you will feel it in your genes, literally.

Farr, C. (2016). Genetics Startup Helix Wants To Create A World of Personalized Products from Your DNA. Retrieved from: https://www.fastcompany.com/3065413/genetics-startup-helix-wants-to-create-a-world-of-personalized-products-from-your-dna [Accessed February 16th, 2018]

Helix (2018). How It Works. Retrieved from: https://www.helix.com/howitworks/ [Accessed February 16th, 2018]

Molteni, M. (2017). Helix’s Bold Plan To Be Your One Personal Genomics Shop. Retrieved from: https://www.wired.com/story/helixs-bold-plan-to-be-your-one-stop-personal-genomics-shop/ [Accessed February 17th, 2018]

Nagle, T. (2017) How Personalized Goods are Shaping the Economy. Retrieved from: https://www.forbes.com/sites/theyec/2017/05/05/how-personalized-goods-are-shaping-the-economy/#b6bca33a1cce [Accessed February 17th, 2018]

Niemec, E. & Howard, H. C. (2016). Ethical Issues in Consumer Genome Sequencing: Use of Conumer’s Samples and Data. Applied & Transational Genomics, 8, pp.23-30.

Teo, G. (2017). The Second Coming of Consumer Genomics With 3 Predictions for the Future. Retrieved from: https://medcitynews.com/2017/07/second-coming-consumer-genomics-3-predictions-2018/?rf=1 [Accessed February 17th, 2018]

YourGenome (2018). What is DNA Sequencing? Retrieved from: https://www.yourgenome.org/stories/what-is-dna-sequencing [Accessed February 16th, 2018]

Zhang, S. (2017). How Do You Know When a DNA Test is B.S.? Retrieved from: https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2017/07/helix-dna-tests/534402/ [Accessed February 17th, 2018]