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Could Google Glass help you bank?

By Claes Bell, CFA · Bankrate.com
Wednesday, May 22, 2013
Posted: 6 am ET

Sure, Google Glass might be great for capturing your latest skydiving adventure or giving you some inspiration for your next ice sculpture as it did on a video that's been viewed more than 20 million times on YouTube. But can it help you with the less-glamorous task of managing your bank account?

Right now, it's a little early to tell. There are only a few thousand or so of the devices in use in the wild, and Google hasn't made them available for purchase to the masses just yet.

Banks have dipped their toes into augmented reality, the category of technology that Google Glass falls into, before. The technology overlays a computer display in your visual field. Last year, both PNC Bank and U.S. Bank released apps that can add the location of ATMs and bank branches nearby into a smartphone's camera display to point you in the right direction. Should Google Glass catch on with consumers, it's not a stretch to think banks may try to bring that functionality, and others, to the new gadget.

But it will be a while before banks pay much attention to the device, says Jim Marous, senior vice president of corporate development at New Control, a digital direct marketing agency serving financial institutions, and author of the Bank Marketing Strategy blog.

That's in part because many banks are behind the curve on technologies that are much more popular at this stage.

"It is not a top priority. For any bank that doesn't already have a good tablet app, it's certainly not the priority," says Marous. "'Basics' are not easy."

Another issue is security. Most banks' security procedures for apps are too clunky right now to be of use on the device, he says.

"If most banks ask for two levels of authentication before you can even get your balance, they're not ready for Google Glass," he says.

Still, Marous definitely can see some ways banks could take advantage of it to help account holders manage their money and market their products.

As a baseline, allowing customers to check their balance and find out if they have the cash flow necessary to comfortably afford a purchase might be useful, he says. Banks already have put substantial resources into personal finance management tools, Marous says, and Google Glass could take those capabilities further.

Banks also could partner with businesses to display deals on products an account holder frequently buys, which may be a good way to save customers money and generate a little extra revenue, or allow house hunters to display homes nearby in the price range that they could qualify for, he says.

Eventually, a Google Glass app might even be able to scan a purchase you're looking at and automatically let you know if you can afford it in real time.

What do you think? Would you want your bank to put your money front and center in your visual field through Google Glass? Or would you rather keep it at arm's length?

Follow me on Twitter: @ClaesBell.

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