Daily Management Review

French Optic 2000 unveils smart glasses


French eyewear giant Optic 2000 presented, during the CES 2019 edition, its flagship product: smart glasses. With a drastically different approach from Google’s failed Glass project, Optic 2000 is designing products which cover all the traditional parameters of classic glasses and launches the new eyewear era by addressing additional issues, one by one.

CES 2019, the launching platform
The Consumer Electronic Show has been around for ages and gets bigger every year. 200 000 people gather in Las Vegas to find out the hottest releases in a buzzing market, with novelties every year. Tech blogger Jamie Carter writes : “How big exactly is CES? It's huge[...] If you're going for the first time, go on a few five-mile walks in the preceding weeks. Seriously, it's hiking boots-big. There are 2.75 million net square feet of exhibit space. Eleven venues. 24 product categories.” One thing that doesn’t change over time though, is the show’s segment: innovation. Just about every product which has “made it” on the market today, was showcased in Vegas just a few years before, ranging from smart watches to new-generation sound tech, and from vintage turntables to voodoo neuropriming hardware. French eyewear specialist Optic 2000 used the opportunity to show its worth, as the industry has been technologically rejuvenating in past years, after almost a century of dormancy. The past decade has been marked by the arrival of the Internet of Things, pervading almost every traditional market, and eyewear is no exception. By injecting electronics and software into glasses, a whole new array of possibilities arises, with promising solutions to persistent public problems at stake. Optic 2000 therefore saw CES 2019 as the perfect booster for it new smart glasses, leading tech reporter Stephen Fenech to report : “The French company behind Ellcie Healthy has an objective to use innovation to detect potential risks and improve people’s health and well-being. Its smart connected eyewear is an example of a product that can be used in a variety of situations and with the potential to save lives”, in the wake of the exhibition.
A focused approach on one urgent issue
Optic 2000’s smart glasses are the result of traditional eyewear, with the addition of invisible motion detectors turned inwards (towards the wearer’s eyes). Motion-analysis software will easily detect signs that a driver wearing the new French connected glasses is falling asleep on the road, and a set of stimulus-sending devices (LED, vibrator, bluetooth alert on smartphone, etc) will jolt the driver awake. In the US alone, “A study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety estimated that 328,000 drowsy driving crashes occur annually. That's more than three times the police-reported number. The same study found that 109,000 of those drowsy driving crashes resulted in an injury and about 6,400 were fatal. The researchers suggest the prevalence of drowsy driving fatalities is more than 350% greater than reported”, according to the National Safety Council. But why focus on road safety, when so many other issues can be addressed with smart glasses? The answer is simple: strategy. Before launching its smart glasses, Optic 2000 carefully studied previous projects, namely Google Glass. Despite much hype and consistent funding, the project was pulled before it ever reached the market, as its relevance failed to impose itself. By addressing everything at once, Google Glass achieved nothing. Optic 2000’s strategic choice is therefore to stick as closely to the market’s needs as possible, step by step. When it will have contributed its share to saving the millions of people who die in the world each year from fatigue-related accidents, it will address the other types of issues which can be solved with connected eyewear. And there are many.
With many more issues to be addressed
Optic 2000 has invested heavily into its new smart glasses, ensuring the technical perfection of the product, and does not intend to release pressure on the technological front. Many more years of research will be in order to tackle the entire potential of connected eyewear. “Optic 2000 is one of the most contributing investors in eyewear R&D on its market, and we have no intention of deviating from that path. The future is too full of possibilities and our commitment to public health is too strong for us to loosen our grip on technological innovation”, says Yves Guénin, chairman of Optic 2000. One of the most likely next steps will be home-monitoring functions for the elderly. The aging of western populations has come with its long trail of subsequent problems, and one of them is older citizens living alone, subjects to health incidents or falls, with no one by their side to take action and help them. Just as Optic 2000 realized that a majority of car drivers wear glasses (hence the opportunity to address the market), the proportion of elderly people wearing glasses is very high. Therefore, the implementation of motion sensors and fall detectors, linked to monitoring software, is virtually a guaranteed success in Europe and North America. After that, future capacities can be developed: gps navigation, communications display, social media, night vision, etc. The nascent market is tricky, but rife with opportunities, which the French giant intends to address.
As has happened many times in the past, one-solution-to-all-problems products fail when they are launched too early on a market - even for a seemingly all-powerful firm like Google. Optic 2000 has approached the market in a different way: tackling problems one at a time, to ensure that their offer is perfectly relevant. Many more features will be injected into Optic 2000’s smart glasses, thanks to their heavy research and development investment policy, but in due time.