Enterprise-Level Augmentation: What Does the Future Hold for AR in Business?
Enterprise-Level Augmentation: What Does the Future Hold for AR in Business?
AR can already be found making waves in gaming applications like Pokemon Go and communicative tools like Instagram filters — what's the future?
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Augmented reality is gathering momentum at an electrifying scale. The burgeoning technology can already be found making waves in gaming applications like Pokemon Go and communicative tools like Instagram filters.
The practical applications for AR extend way beyond the realms of entertainment and communication, and many businesses are beginning to wake up to the potential that the technology holds in enhancing their operations and effectiveness.
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Augmented reality, in particular, is forecast to grow by around 43% in the field of commercial and enterprise-based solutions over the next five years. While the linked fields of communication, commerce, and hardware are set to report even higher levels of growth.
With this in mind, what does the foreseeable future hold for businesses looking to embrace AR solutions for both internal and customer-facing use? Here’s a look at a few key aspects of the coming AR boom.
When it comes to scaling, businesses can face a tricky task in ensuring that new employees are trained well enough to meet the expectations of their new company. This process can often be time-consuming and difficult to arrange, due to the need of fellow staff members to allow time to carry out training.
With augmented reality, the task of educating new employees can become significantly simpler due to a mitigated level of risk. Augmented reality can leverage new training programs that can place employees in hypothetical work situations. Imagine an augmented production line where trainees can categorize products before moving on to real-life situations.
Such technology means that there’s less risk of businesses wasting materials or having to re-start their processes because of a mistake from a new member of staff.
Augmented reality can also make employee training far more effective — providing an immersive experience that has the power to engage employees far better than by presenting them with video tutorials or relying on them to take on board an array of written information.
Fundamentally, AR can operate as a step-by-step guide in how employees can deliver the service that’s required of them through adding interactive digital elements throughout the course of their education.
There are plenty of great collaboration tools when it comes to business. From the communicative functions of Slack to the delegation features in Monday.com, companies have invested plenty of time in providing solutions to teams within businesses.
However, there’s plenty of gaps to fill when it comes to collaboration and augmented reality may soon provide plenty of solutions.
We’re about to enter the era of the burgeoning gig economy, where plenty of industries will be subject to the level of technological enhancements that will enable them to recruit remote workers from around the world.
This rise in freelancers will undoubtedly be a blessing for many companies — especially those in niche areas that need to hire employees who will be skilled in a considerably refined area. However, the recruitment of remote workers will lead to a need for more complete forms of communication between departments that could be scattered around the world.
Luckily, AR is set to resolve this problem, and some companies have already began to offer up working solutions.
Software like Spatial has the ability to utilize AR to impose living avatars of employees into an augmented space. This enables teams to semi-physically meet face-to-face to discuss strategies and create coherent plans without being inhibited by not residing in close proximity.
Spatial also has the ability to display a dynamic wall that helps users to visualize their plans through interactive post-it notes and 3D renderings of objects.
Another AR-infused piece of technology that offers this level of immersive communication is Mesmerise. Publishers can use the app to create an AR publication that offers 3D diagrams, renderings and supportive props in lieu of the more arduous traditionally text-based approach of producing meeting materials and business plans.
Fine-Tuned Customer Experience
Customers demand convenience through the duration of their journey from your splash pages to the end of the checkout process, and augmented reality can offer companies some significant help in keeping users engaged throughout their experience.
An early example of customer experience AR software can be found in IKEA Place, an app that lets users explore the company’s catalog and virtually position items in their living rooms, bedrooms, bathrooms, kitchens — anywhere — before they decide to make a purchase.
This level of usability can keep prospective customers engaged over long periods of time and subsequently will encourage more purchases to be made.
As 5G gathers more momentum prior to its arrival next year, businesses will soon have more processing power to appeal to more audiences who have faster data connections on their smartphones. This means that AR can be incorporated in increasingly ambitious ways, which will only aid the experience of the customer and increase the chances of them being satisfied with the purchases they make.
More Effective Marketing
When Maybelline ran an AR-enabled advert that invited users to try out an augmented version of their range of nail polishes all the way back in 2012, it might have seemed a little bit too early to foresee the full power of the technology that the company was buying into.
Augmented reality can potentially change marketing as we know it today. Companies both before and after Maybelline’s adverts have been busy experimenting with the technology to try to market to prospective customers in an innovative way.
Through AR, content can be personalized and interactive on a scale that audiences will have never before seen — making AR campaigns wholly more popular and at least highly eye-catching to those exposed to the practice.
It’s important to note that right now, the act of utilizing AR can be something of a gamble when it comes to marketing. The world is busy, and augmentation demands that audiences sit up and take notes. Today, costs are high too.
In the coming months and years, marketing AR solutions will have the ability to occur more organically, and 5G technology will ensure that overheads are kept relatively low compared to today. This will offer up plenty more freedom for marketers. It’s will also be possible to create a dedicated AR app to help users interact with the company more comprehensively — in turn, paving the way towards positive customer experience.
Today, there might not be another form of technology that’s better positioned to enhance the way businesses operate. Although it’s still transitioning from its rudimentary stages, AR solutions will soon be capable of offering seamless collaboration among remote employees, leverage a thoroughly enjoyable customer experience model, and ensure that your brand develops an unmissable presence among prospective customers. The future is nearly upon us, and it looks especially promising for those who are willing to immerse themselves into it sooner rather than later.
5G: Crossing Borders, Drone Deployment, and Is Manufacturing the Killer Application? A recap of 5G Techritory Forum – the 2nd annual Baltic Sea Region 5G Ecosystem conference in Riga, Latvia.
You couldn't read a tech prediction for 2020 without breathless proclamations for all things 5G and this year's CES included a plethora of 5G-ready mobile phones. What is the current reality outside the glossy marketing spin? Earlier this year, I attended 5G Techritory Forum – the 2nd annual Baltic Sea Region 5G Ecosystem conference in Riga, Latvia. The Baltic Sea Region consists of 9 countries and 150 million inhabitants.
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Europe Has Unique Challenges
Europe lags behind other parts of the world in 5G readiness. Europe consists of a diverse and fragmented society, compared to the vast expanses of Asia and the United States with federal regulations, in which it is easier to achieve compliance and an agreement on standards. Then there's the strict EU legislation regarding GDPR that limits the use of personal data.
In response, the 5G Techritory Forum aimed to solve both of these obstacles through providing the space for the different European parties to converge, converse, and decide, to lay the foundation for further cross-border, cross-sector, and cross-industry collaboration for a more rapid 5G deployment and commercialization.
The First Remote Drone Using 5G
The conference opened with a unique demonstration – for the first time in the region, drone flight BVLOS (beyond the visual line of sight) was conducted on the mobile network, demonstrably switching from one base station to another. The drone was controlled remotely, by Latvian Mobile Telephone (LMT) president Juris Binde and Prime Minister of the Republic of Latvia, Krišjānis Kariņš.
At the same time, the drone was flying within the Adazi airport territory, 25 km away. LMT tests demonstrated that during the entire duration of the flight, the mobile network strength already meets 97.6% of the requirements for successful remote drone management. According to Dr. Juris Binde:
"One of the most critical issues was how to make 5G metaphorically "fly". It's not a matter of building a network, that's the easy part. What is not clear, however, is how to use this network for the needs and purposes of increasing competitiveness, productivity, for business and society."
Hackathons Are Not Only for Devs
The event included the usual suspects at conferences including plenty of presentations, a networking event, and workshops. What was particularly interesting was a two-day hackathon with participants from businesses, mobile operators, European and national policymakers, and lawyers to map existing policy and develop recommendations for approaches to policy adaptation to support 5G deployment in the Baltic Sea Region.
The reasoning for the hackathon stems from the problem that the legal framework is not yet in place for the successful implementation of 5G technology, as well as the solutions it will make possible. The new technology needs a legal framework and infrastructure to simultaneously provide the necessary checks and balances, as well as enable innovation.
The winning team looked at cross-border travel of autonomous vehicles as current European legislation does not support cross-border travel of autonomous (fully and partially) vehicles. The team created an extensive list of things that policymakers need to solve or include in the current legislation to truly enable the creation, testing, and deployment of autonomous vehicles.
The list included chapters such as cross-border travel; cyber incidents; mandatory reactions to an incorrect read of a traffic sign; connectivity issues; liability issues. They also created a roadmap of how policymakers should enable the cross-border travel of autonomous vehicles.
Is Manufacturing 5Gs' Killer Use Case?
I interviewed several conference speakers about their thoughts of 5G. One was Dr. Andreas Mueller, the Chairman of the Board of the "5G Alliance for Connected Industries and Automation" (5G-ACIA). 5G-ACIA is a global alliance for paving the way for the use of 5G technology in smart manufacturing and for unlocking the enormous potential that comes along with it. He's also the Head of Communication and Network Technology of Bosch Corporate Research in Stuttgart, Germany.
Dr. Mueller said:
"Manufacturing is the killer application of 5G, there's a lot of potential and value: if you can increase productivity by even1%, we're talking about millions of dollars. We don't need a nationwide roll-out to begin. It's pretty easy to start, and you can unlock huge potential with relatively easy efforts."
According to Bosch, the factory of the future is one where the floor and ceiling are fixed, but everything else is moveable. Assembly lines will be modular, and their constituent machines will move and reorganize themselves into new paths for new purposes. They'll communicate wirelessly with one another and with other process functions via 5G, and they will be powered through the floor via an inductive charging system.
I was interested to see if 5G was a hard sell in the industrial space, where IoT and digital transformation have struggled due to the traditional IT/OT divide. Dr. Mueller notes that "it's first about discovering an understood language. Traditionally disjoined ecosystems, now they are coming together, but teams need to understand the different roles and the terminology - Latency for a radio guy might be different from someone in on the factory floor."
Dr. Mueller also spoke about the value of non-public networks. In contrast to a network that offers mobile network services to the general public, a 5G non-public/private network (NPN, also sometimes called a private network) provides 5G network services to a clearly defined user organization such as a campus or a factory. He noted:
"Bosch doesn't want to run a factory on a public network. It's not optimized for factory needs, it's optimized for consumer devices, and there are limitations. Industrial data is very sensitive, and we don't want to lose control of the data."
5G Will Brings Fans Closer to Their Idols
Mark Smith, former marketing director at GSMA, spoke about the impact of 5G on sports. He noted the impact of low latency due to 5G on esports, which he stated are "the fastest growing area of the video games market, set to cross the $1.0bn threshold in 2020".
Many telcos in Europe are already sponsoring tournaments with a consortium formed in Asia to capture the market. Regarding physical sports, he detailed Wolfsburg's Volkswagen Arena, the first in Europe to have a 5G network.
Last year, the Deutsche Fußball Liga teamed up with Vodafone with a smartphone app for the Arena to provide statistics and data before, during and after football games in real-time. The app processes the information in visual form, producing live graphics, stats, and analysis that — until now — have been exclusively used in post-match television shows.
It is a pioneering step and one that has never before been made available to fans in stadiums anywhere in the world. It will be interesting what kind of initiatives we see at the upcoming Olympic games in Japan.
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