9 to 5G: Prime Time for Next Gen Connectivity in Enterprise

Enterprises are looking to 5G in order to adopt more sophisticated AR/VR and wearable technology solutions for a greater variety of use cases. What is 5G? A network revolution that’s currently in its early stages, 5G (the new mobile standard that will succeed 4G) is an evolving constellation of technologies expected to unlock the ability to use wearable technologies (and other emerging tech) for a much wider range of applications in the workplace. Providers are beginning to deploy 5G around the world to support the expanded mobile connectivity and capacity requirements of the Internet of Things, including immersive experiences, machine learning, Big Data, etc. Enterprise decision makers tasked with identifying, testing and implementing wearable solutions can now begin to consider the capabilities that will be at their disposal once the speed, flexibility, and reliability of 5G becomes available. The speed of deployment of 5G-based mobile networks depends on the timing of the massive investments needed to build out the infrastructure. Nevertheless, now is the time to consider the future applications of immersive and wearable technologies and how 5G will enable the transformation of your enterprise.  

5G promises a solution to the many network and performance challenges holding back Industry 4.0 (current trend of automation and data exchange in manufacturing technologies). Using a range of new technologies, 5G permits the exploitation of a wider band of spectrum, including the high frequency millimeter wave spectrum in between microwave and infrared waves that has never before been used for mobile communications. A 5G network is equipped to provide greater bandwidth capacity, increased throughput (high data rate), improved reliability, while greatly reducing latency. At full deployment, 5G is touted to provide peak speeds 600 times faster than average 4G speeds and 10 times faster than standard fiber broadband, with the capacity to service 1,000 times the number of devices per square meter than 4G and a potential latency of just one millisecond.

The mass deployment of connected devices in the enterprise, including smart machines, robots, sensors, AR glasses, etc. is well underway. The reliable and seamless communication between machines/sensors and humans that the use cases of Industry 4.0 require, however, is currently impossible or attainable only via inefficient, inconsistent and very costly means. Intelligently-managed 5G networks will sustain the proliferation of devices with higher network demand that are putting 4G under great strain, meeting the growing complexities of enterprise IoT environments and facilitating the rising interconnectivity of public and private infrastructure assets. Faster than 4G LTE, more flexible than fiber, more secure than WiFi, and more dynamic than lower power wide area (LPWAN) tech like Sigfox and LoRa, 5G networks will be able to integrate those technologies and in some cases replace them completely.

An important feature of 5G is the ability to design customizable network connectivity solutions through a feature called network slicing. Network slicing is a layered network virtualization that creates independent silos or slices of connectivity optimized for a particular use case. Multiple networks are created on the same physical infrastructure and optimized for efficiency, delivering distinct bandwidth, capacity, availability and security characteristics according to how the particular virtual network will be used. If an enterprise builds out its own private network, it can configure the requirements and parameters of each network slice to support particular services or business segments for greater efficiency and security. For mobile network operators and telecom vendors, 5G connectivity could be packaged and marketed using a network as a service (NaaS) model.

With network slicing, you can partition a secure “slice” that would reserve independent network capacity for the connectivity needs of a particular function. For example, sensors in a factory relaying small packets of data at relatively long intervals require minimal bandwidth but do require a network with the capacity to accommodate a large volume of sensors. An enterprise network may host relatively few mobile devices but if there are data-heavy applications, then greater bandwidth and different security capabilities are required. Take robots performing high-priority, critical tasks; today, there is no alternative to achieve the reliable bandwidth they need to process information at high speeds save for expensive fiber connections. A mobile industrial robot tethered to a cable connection on the factory floor cannot reach its full potential. 5G network customization will allow enterprises to quickly adapt to changing needs (e.g. rapid and cost-efficient reconfigurations of the factory floor); it will also encourage enterprises to take a more active role in managing their networks, with many assuming greater control over enterprise network infrastructure that was previously externally or passively managed.

5G is a cloud-native technology that will unlock the transformative potential of AR/VR and wearables via edge or fog computing and exponentially multiply the potency of wearables in enterprise. With edge computing, data generation takes place at the source of the data, which in the case of IoT could be a connected machine, sensor or embedded device, and then instead of relaying the data to a distant cloud computing facility where there would be a delay in analyzing and processing the data, the data is processed and analyzed instantaneously in a smaller facility closer to the network edge. 5G enables this accelerated capacity for (less) remote computing to occur in real time.

From a hardware perspective, low latency edge computing reduces the need to install high performance processors into the device, which frees up hardware design and battery options. Bulky, energy-hungry headsets may become a thing of the past, as 5G and edge computing ease the ergonomic and performance challenges of today’s devices, including form factor, comfort, processing power, and battery life. This hardware transformation will be accompanied by a revolution in user experience. 5G should also bring down the cost of high quality AR/VR devices, enabling wider adoption and the practical consideration of more ambitious technological integrations.  

5G’s low latency is the key feature that will drive the transformation of AR/VR and wearables. Latency above a certain threshold disrupts fluid virtual reality experiences and any lag in overlaying information in augmented reality is intolerable for collaborating with others or performing precision or time-sensitive tasks. Ideally, virtual reality should be so vivid, responsive and interactive that the user cannot distinguish the virtual from the real world. High latency destroys the illusion of VR and can cause VR sickness (dizziness and nausea), and is evident when motion in the virtual environment doesn’t sync up with the user’s movements.

Today, high quality, high resolution VR experiences must be physically tethered to high-performance computers due to insufficient battery and local processing capacity. Only with the rollout of 5G will immersive technologies reach their potential: Practical, fully mobile, truly wearable headsets that immerse users in vivid, interactive scenarios that would otherwise be impossible or prohibitively expensive to recreate in real life (e.g. simulating a utility repair in inclement weather). 5G will unleash more ambitious and ubiquitous enterprise applications like remote collaboration in the same virtual space that feels as natural as an in-person meeting and applications making use of real-time haptic feedback and unrestricted mobility.

5G is well-positioned to support the rising demands of the connected workplace over the next decade, even if full-capacity deployment is likely to be inconsistent due to uncertain use cases and costs. In the 5G world, the connected worker will collaborate and operate wherever she’s needed, leveraging seamless communication with robots and machines, vehicles, sensors and other humans to get the job done. It will be exciting to see what new use cases enterprises come up with as 5G is rolled out. 

 

Image source: MWRF

The Enterprise Wearable Technology Summit (EWTS) is an annual conference dedicated to the use of wearable technology for business and industrial applications. As the leading event for enterprise wearables, EWTS is where enterprises go to innovate with the latest in wearable tech, including heads-up displays, AR/VR/MR, body- and wrist-worn devices, and even exoskeletons. The 6th annual EWTS will be held September 17-19, 2019 in Dallas, TX. More details, including agenda and early confirmed speakers, to come on the conference website.

Avoid the Headache: IT Security in the Age of Wearables and AR/VR

As the modern industrial workplace becomes increasingly connected by IoT-enabled devices, including AR/VR glasses and headsets, wearables, robotics and smart machinery, the enterprise grows more vulnerable to potentially devastating cyberattacks, privacy intrusions and IP theft. Enterprise wearables promise to advance workplace safety, efficiency and profitability, but they also present novel dangers that can have disturbing consequences. A network breach can have devastating financial, legal and reputational consequences for not just the enterprise and its clients but also the general public in sectors like power generation and oil and gas. A changing threat landscape makes it difficult to evaluate risk, nonetheless the decision facing enterprise leaders is when, not if, they should adopt IoT technologies into their operations. Enterprises that are too cautious and hesitant in pursuing digital transformation will fall behind their competitors. Now and in the future, the success of integration and responsible management of connected technologies will depend on enterprise IT leadership to implement and govern appropriate security measures.

At EWTS 2018 this past October in Austin, a common thread among the speakers was the importance of involving internal enterprise stakeholders responsible for safety and security as early in the pilot process as possible. It’s challenging enough for innovation teams to communicate the value of investing in AR, VR and wearables to corporate leadership; it’s next to impossible if the proof of concept exposes the company to unnecessary and unmitigated risks.

The strategy recommended by current end users is to have agility and imagination when developing a PoC or pilot project while taking a more conservative and measured approach to mitigating security and safety risks. Safety, security and device management experts are needed to judge the viability of any wearable solution under consideration. In general, established corporate cultures are not very receptive to new, relatively untested technology and expanded cybersecurity risks. Corporate financial leadership may see the deployment of wearables as a drain on company resources, while the IT team regards it as a threat to network security and workers see it as a threat to their own privacy and job security. In order to successfully deploy a wearable solution all parties must be convinced that the benefits outweigh their concerns.

On the EWTS 2018 stage, Steve Labudzinski, an R&D specialist from Con Edison, described the difficulty of equipping his field workers with the proper tools while also satisfying security measures, lamenting that it is not practical for workers to carry four different mission-critical wearable devices and also have to carry four corresponding mobile phones. He appealed to the audience for advice on getting all devices to communicate securely on one common platform, a software solution to solve a hardware problem. If the value of an application is to give instant feedback and present relevant, real-time information to workers, an integrated platform for all network devices greatly transforms the utility and potency of the wearable technology.

Introducing wearables into the workplace and achieving interoperability across platforms is like a double-edged sword. Companies that would generate value from the visualization of data and models have to bridge formerly separate silos of information, integrating wearable-incompatible formats like PDFs and paper into a digitally-integrated platform. The unification of previously disconnected and inaccessible information sources for use across the enterprise can create a wealth of value for collaborative and analytical purposes; however, enterprise-wide integration of digital resources also represents a larger target for cyber-attackers. The proliferation of IoT devices like wearable technologies multiplies the nodes of entry that bad actors might attempt to exploit. End users, corporate leadership, and partners must be accountable for upholding security standards.

From the EWTS 2018 stage, Jeff Lind of Caterpillar talked about the importance of evaluating potential partners and the development and management of long-term relations with them, noting “all partners must be trusted to protect client data. Trust, but verify.” Diligence in mitigating security risks and guarding against potential breaches includes auditing the practices of partners and vendors. A wearable deployment is only as secure as the integrity of the chain of custody. Absent government regulation and cybersecurity standardization (steps have been taken in Europe with GDPR), it is the enterprise and solution providers that need to work out standards for implementing security and privacy safeguards.

In some cases, security policy is governed by industry regulations that require strict compliance. At EWTS 2018, Chris Comfort, the Innovation Technology Manager of the Nuclear Division of Southern Corporation, shared his eight-month-long journey to get the greenlight for company-wide deployment of AR wearables. The restrictions were particularly inflexible because the devices would be deployed near the company’s nuclear power assets. Image- and data-collecting AR smart glasses attracted extraordinary scrutiny and the pilot had to be conducted offline and offsite. Comfort had to solidify support for “two-way video communication on a business network with confidential information within a highly regulated industry,” seeking access to a highly privileged network.

A pattern of stakeholder engagement and solution iteration was key to Comfort’s success. The constraints of elevated security concerns in a highly competitive corporate environment are not easily overcome. To get approval to introduce the RealWear HMT-1 smart glasses, Comfort had to convince influential members of the organization of the devices’ value and utility so they could in turn communicate the value to others and advocate on behalf of his project.

Comfort observed that the eight months he spent seeking approval can be considered a fast track, with much of that time spent working with vendors to align software designs and IT with Southern’s security protocols. This would not have been possible without ongoing consultation with internal allies, engagement with internal critics, and support from software vendors. Collaboration with the company’s IT department converted some IT leaders into enthusiastic advocates who helped shape adequate security protocols and the software features that Comfort would implement in collaboration with his vendors.

Innovation leaders should seek feedback from all interested parties and their varying expertise and concerns in order to better collaborate on producing a viable and effective solution. The push and pull to satisfy enterprise security standards can frustrate the advancement of even the most promising projects. “If you want to talk barriers, you can just talk about security all day. It’s a thing of nightmares,” remarked Walmart’s Steven Lewis in October. Steven was describing the difficulty of advancing an efficient technology solution not functionally hamstrung by the protocols of internal security groups. In anticipation of this hand-wringing, security considerations should be intrinsic to the design of a solution from the earliest stages of a project because a wearable pilot will not go forward without buy-in from internal security groups.  

IT’s traditional role in maintaining the digital infrastructure of a business has changed as IT has become a key profit driver and the operational backbone of many companies. The long-term success of businesses today hinges on a proactive approach to security with the adoption of any new technology. Cyber criminals will meet innovation with innovation as IT infrastructures grow more robust. To protect truly connected workplaces, IT priorities must receive the same timely attention and budget flexibility as the most critical business decision. The ongoing advancement of Industry 4.0 technologies and the rollout of 5G present immediate opportunities that any organization must be ready to approach with enthusiasm and caution.

 

The Enterprise Wearable Technology Summit (EWTS) is an annual conference dedicated to the use of wearable technology for business and industrial applications. As the leading event for enterprise wearables, EWTS is where enterprises go to innovate with the latest in wearable tech, including heads-up displays, AR/VR/MR, body- and wrist-worn devices, and even exoskeletons. The 6th annual EWTS will be held September 17-19, 2019 in Dallas, TX. More details, including agenda and early confirmed speakers, to come on the conference website.


Augmented World Expo (AWE), the world’s #1 AR+VR conference and expo, returns to Santa Clara, CA May 29-31, 2019. Join us for the biggest AWE yet and help celebrate the show’s 10th Anniversary! Apply to speak and/or exhibit at AWE 2019on the event website.

When is the time to talk about consumer-facing AR apps in enterprise?

The release of Magic Leap One was supposed to be the “magic moment” for consumer AR, the development that finally got consumers excited about augmented reality glasses. Needless to say, it wasn’t. Despite the billions in funding, awesome concept videos and mainstream media attention, Magic Leap did not suddenly big-bang the consumer AR market into existence with the launch of its much-hyped headset.  

Though Magic Leap the product may be “just another HoloLens” aimed at consumers; Magic Leap the company did a lot in 2018 – through strategic partnerships with AT&T, Sennheiser, and Wayfair – to impress upon consumers the potential for augmented reality beyond Google Glass and Snap filters. In addition, 2018 saw a number of relatively normal-looking smart glasses hit the market, including Focals by North and Vuzix Blade, which make a far stronger case than Google Glass did in 2013 for putting our smartphones (and AI assistants) on our faces. And just this week at CES 2019, nreal debuted colorful, 3-ounce AR glasses that look like everyday sunglasses and ThirdEye unveiled its X2 Smart Glasses, “the smallest standalone 6oz mixed reality smart glasses with built-in SLAM.”

Why should any of this matter to enterprises? Is it still too early to talk about consumer-facing AR applications in enterprise that aren’t branded mobile apps? I don’t think so. It’s possible to serve the existing enterprise market and simultaneously prepare for one that doesn’t yet exist. Today’s companies know they must prepare for a future in which augmented reality glasses are a standard tool in the workplace, even if they’re not yet deploying AR solutions; why should companies not prepare for a future in which consumers own smart glasses (or, if not own, are at least accustomed to AR in a heads-up form factor)?

Though AR Insider estimates there are only around 129 million active mobile AR users; there are nearly one billion AR-enabled smartphones around the world capable of exposing their owners to the benefits of AR. This represents a huge potential market with opportunities for new revenue streams and services in retail, travel, hospitality, airports, even field services. There are untapped applications for AR glasses in the consumer-facing aspects of business in industrial sectors, as well: Manufacturer AGCO, for instance, uses smart glasses on the plant floor and for public tours of its factories. With the number of consumer-friendly devices now (or soon-to-be) available, the time is now for organizations to begin innovating around these products in order to engage with customers in new ways, including providing pairs of smart glasses for temporary use by customers during interactions with the business.


Current Consumer AR Market:

Furniture retailers like Ikea and beauty brands like MAC are already capitalizing on AR via new try-before-you-buy features in their mobile apps. Although companies aren’t sharing the data, AR shopping experiences built with ARKit and ARCore presumably help to increase conversion rates and average order values while reducing returns. But are consumers aware that this is augmented reality? Are Snapchat users aware that AR tech powers the app’s face and world lenses? In a recent study by GlobalWebIndex, 70-75% of respondents aged 16-44 said they were aware of AR. Awareness, however, is not the same as experience: In the same survey, only 35% of 16-34s said they had experienced AR in the past month. The best way to sell immersive technology is through experience, the level of which is currently low among consumers. There have been no killer AR apps and I suspect that many smartphone users do not register that they are experiencing AR when they do. I expect this to change as AR is integrated with other everyday form factors, including car windshields and kitchen ovens.

One day, according to analysts and futurists, smart glasses are going to replace smartphones altogether, but the transition to head-worn mobile computing is proving less predictable and slower than imagined. The reality is there are a number of significant barriers to consumer smart glasses adoption as well as a number of positive signs for the future of the consumer AR market. What’s throwing us off, as Charlie Fink points out, is the comparison to smartphones, which took only two years to reach mass adoption. Charlie argues that while the iPhone was innovative it was still a mobile phone, whereas smart glasses are an entirely new product, a new purchase much like the personal computer was in its day and the Apple Watch was in 2015. The adoption factors are similar, too: Design (form), user interface (function), utility (content), enjoyment, cost, and social acceptance.

Both personal computers and smart glasses require(d) big changes in consumer behavior. Mass adoption of PCs took 15 years. I was one of the first kids in my class to have a computer at home. My father, a lawyer, had his own computer at work, so he purchased a laptop for his home office. My brothers and I played games on it (floppy disks!), leading to the purchase of a second “family” computer. Might the new wave of consumer-friendly smart glasses follow this pattern, with businessmen, designers and technologists first to adopt and convert the rest of us?


Positive signs for consumer smart glasses in 2019

Apple is very serious about augmented reality; Tim Cook calls it a “profound platform” and market researchers are predicting a release date for the company’s rumored AR glasses as early as 2020 (2022 or 2023 is more likely). Given Apple’s design cred and clout with consumers, it’s not hard to imagine Apple being the first to come out with sleek smart glasses that look no different from regular glasses and offer enough style and functionality to make hands-free AR apps a part of everyday life. After all, the Apple Watch has made watch-wearers out of people who never used to wear a watch.

In addition to Apple’s belief in AR and the latest iPhones, which seem to be built for running AR apps, there are other positive signs for consumer augmented reality: Magic Leap is offering $500,000 grants and support to developers who build design, engineering, architecture and other creative software for its headset; and it was just announced that the company’s partnership with AT&T is expanding to include enterprise AR. AT&T has also promised nationwide 5G by 2020, which is necessary for higher quality AR experiences. I can see Magic Leap finding a niche in B2C use cases, which would increase consumer exposure to wearable AR beyond in-store retail apps and social media.

Source: Vuzix

Vuzix Blade and Focals by North are promising, as well, not only because they’re more stylish and lightweight than anything that came before but also because of popular apps like Alexa integrated with the technology. Vuzix and North have taken bold steps into the consumer market: Vuzix, for instance, was marketing Blade on Instagram and at New York Fashion Week. While the company hasn’t even cracked 1,000 followers on Instagram, it is smart to experiment on the social platform that gave rise to influencer culture and has become mandatory for brands today. Vuzix also recently partnered with AccuWeather to provide local weather information to Blade users, who can tap on the glasses or ask Alexa to bring up forecasts right in their field of view. Blade went on sale to the public earlier this month for $999, a price point that’s still too high for consumers but just right for what Vuzix calls “light enterprise” use cases.

I have to say that Focals are better looking than Blade. The cost is the same but the mainstream appeal of North’s branding, social presence, and Warby Parker-esque sales model make Focals (in my opinion) the best effort yet in consumer AR. Focals can replace one’s prescription glasses, sync with Android and iOS devices, and offer a degree of customization: Shoppers can choose between classic and round frames in black, tortoise or gray, and you have to get fitted at either North’s Brooklyn or Toronto showrooms. The integration of Uber and exclusive in-store availability are genius, yet even Focals won’t make smart glasses mainstream.


Investing in consumer-oriented devices outside the workforce

In 2017, DigitalBridge found that 56% of 18-24-year-olds would be more likely to use AR if it were offered to them via a wearable device, and 69% would be more loyal to the brand that offered this. Retailers are arguably having the most success getting smartphone owners to use AR by solving a real consumer pain point. (IKEA Place was actually the second-most downloaded ARKit app in a 2018 survey.) It seems inevitable that AR will reinvent the shopping experience, but why not also the personal banking experience or the dentist’s office, hotel, post office, etc.?

I don’t know which device will win over consumers or what the breakthrough app will be, though it will definitely be practical as opposed to a game. Nevertheless, with AR invading our cars and homes and startups introducing new consumer-friendly smart glasses, consumers should have more opportunities to experience the technology in 2019. Businesses that regularly interact with consumers don’t have to wait for smart glasses to completely usurp smartphones to begin benefiting from consumer-facing applications of devices like Blade. My prediction is that 2019 will be the year of light enterprise use cases, with companies purchasing early consumer smart glasses for employees to interact face-to-face with end customers and for consumers to use in places of business.

It’s telling that one of the very first use cases of Google Glass involved Virgin Airlines staff processing first-class passengers for their flights and that every automotive manufacturer seems to be experimenting with “loaning” AR headsets to shoppers in dealerships. There is ROI in businesses investing in consumer smart glasses if it solves a customer problem or improves customers’ interactions with the business. The other side to this is that consumers do want to try immersive technologies but they don’t want to pay for the devices right now. Here are three applications I imagine business-wide:

  • Product testing: Enabling consumers to clearly envision a product or service. Right now, mobile AR apps offer this but there hasn’t been much innovation around incorporating smart glasses into the in-person shopping experience, improving the in-store experience, and drawing customers back into stores. (Imagine entering a grocery store and grabbing both a cart and a pair of smart glasses to help you make informed decisions or being able to preview how to use a KitchenAid blender while at Bed, Bath & Beyond.)
  • Guidance and context: Showing directional information via a digital overlay in airports, malls, banks, and other large places of business. No physical signs, reduced frustration, and less pressure on employees to direct customers. Additionally, providing contextual information via digital overlay to help customers make decisions (nutrition information, product reviews, etc.) and get more out of their experience of the business.
  • Engagement: Beyond marketing gimmicks, engaging consumers to interact in new ways with products, buy more and stay longer at the business, increase brand loyalty, etc. (Imagine wearing smart glasses around a wine store to learn about where each bottle came from, hear stories about famous wine-producing regions, read reviews, etc.)

Conclusion

Personally, I’m excited about all the new consumer-friendly AR products, and not because I think they will be a hit or want to buy one myself. The arrival of products like Blade and nreal light marks an intermediate stage in consumer smart glasses adoption in which businesses provide consumers with the opportunity to use these devices risk-free in the (non-industrial) office, at stores, in office reception areas, etc. 2019 should see an expansion in enterprise use cases beyond industry into more mundane areas of business and commerce, in turn providing a much-needed push to consumer AR.

 

The Enterprise Wearable Technology Summit (EWTS) is an annual conference dedicated to the use of wearable technology for business and industrial applications. As the leading event for enterprise wearables, EWTS is where enterprises go to innovate with the latest in wearable tech, including heads-up displays, AR/VR/MR, body- and wrist-worn devices, and even exoskeletons. The 6th annual EWTS will be held September 17-19, 2019 in Dallas, TX. More details, including agenda and early confirmed speakers, to come on the conference website.


Augmented World Expo (AWE), the world’s #1 AR+VR conference and expo, returns to Santa Clara, CA May 29-31, 2019. Join us for the biggest AWE yet and help celebrate the show’s 10th Anniversary! Apply to speak and/or exhibit at AWE 2019on the event website.

 

Image source: nreal

Wearable and Immersive Tech and the Female Workforce

In the three to four years since the release of Oculus Rift and HTC Vive, the number of VR headsets available on the market has grown. Millions of VR headsets have been sold and PwC expects an installed base of 55 million active VR users by 2022. I work in XR, organizing events and writing about AR and VR for my livelihood and yet, unlike some of my male peers, I purchased my very first piece of VR hardware just this year with the release of Oculus Go.

Go was the first headset I put on that was relatively comfortable, and no wonder: Women were behind its design. Oculus’ Charmaine Hung, Caitlin Kalinowski, Rachel Franklin and Reina Shah put their past experiences with frustrating VR hardware into a physical design that’s more appealing to female VR users than its predecessor (content is another story). Go is untethered, relatively lightweight, a pleasing dove gray in color, and lined with the same material used in women’s bra straps.

A world designed by and for men:

The Oculus Rift, of course, provides a much more powerful, high-end VR experience than the Go. I’d love to own one (never mind the computer requirements), but the headset’s just too heavy for me. To keep the device from falling down and myself from having to constantly readjust, I’m forced to hold it up with my left hand or else tilt my head and neck slightly up, which limits the amount of time I can stand to spend in VR. It’s not just the Rift: I’ve tried on haptic gloves that were too large for my hands and gotten my hair caught in the HoloLens’ adjusting mechanism, not to mention how ridiculous I feel wearing the devices, making me less eager to try these new experiences in public.

There are plenty of examples of apps and tools that have been designed in ways that inhibit use by women and/or outright neglect factors that disproportionately affect female users. “Patriarchal coding” can be found in technology, buildings, public transportation, consumer products, and even life-saving medical devices. For instance, temperature regulation in office buildings still accords with standards set over 50 years ago for a 154-pound man. Since men have faster metabolic rates than women, female workers are more likely to freeze in the office, which studies show negatively impacts productivity. (Imagine if due to lower productivity, a woman got passed over for a job promotion that went to her male colleague instead!) Even cars were designed for decades to be safer for men than women, with industry regulations permitting automakers to use just one crash test dummy representing the average male in vehicle safety testing.

The point is that there are real physiological and lived experiential differences between men and women; and in the case of technology worn intimately on the human head and body in the workplace, those differences can alienate the female workforce.


 “That’s a woman’s job:”

In 2016, women made up:

  • 90% of registered nurses
  • 79% of elementary and middle school teachers
  • 61% of accountants and auditors
  • 35% of supply chain workers
  • 29% of the manufacturing workforce
  • 24% of the transportation and utilities workforce
  • 16% of architecture and engineering professionals
  • 13% of the mining workforce
  • 9% of the construction workforce

Though women make up nearly half the labor force (46.9% in 2017), they’re underrepresented in certain industries—in particular, the skilled trades affected by an aging workforce like manufacturing, logistics, construction and utilities. This is problematic, as those sectors desperately need to find and train the next generation of workers and can’t afford to ignore half the population. In business in general, women’s participation in the workforce is more than a social issue; it’s an economic one, too, with researchers finding that barriers to women in the workplace are stifling the growth of the U.S. economy. Whether it’s a historically male-dominant industry in need of a public image makeover or one in which the gender pay gap and unfavorable employment policies (ex. no paid maternity leave) are turning women away; the future economy and growth of the workforce depend upon improving job prospects and working environments for women.


Physiological differences between the sexes:

Of her time at a trade show, Adi Robertson (writing for The Verge) recalled a much-hyped virtual reality headset that was too loose around her head even when tightened all the way, as well as a motion control ring that left a quarter-inch of space between her fingers and the hardware. Wearables, including XR glasses and headsets, body-worn sensors, wrist wearables, and even exoskeletons, are not one size fits all; they’re one size fits most men and it shows: Headsets are often too heavy for female users, frames too large, lenses too far apart, accessory and motion control devices ill-fitting, etc. As a result, women are literally unable to have some of the same (quality) XR experiences as men. Of course, such wearability issues with XR devices are not universal for women but it is a common pain point impacting women’s use of the technology.

Physiological differences between the sexes have major implications for wearable technology, or so one would thinkWomen on average are smaller than men and while sizing is an issue with wearable tech by definition, the problem is magnified in the case of wearable XR devices that require precise calibration to deliver the experience. If the fit isn’t just right in VR, the simulation can be blurred, distorted and/or nauseating for the user, yet today’s VR headsets are made to fit the average male’s head. This is one reason women experience VR sickness more often than men. The fact that men and women see differently is another: Men have better depth perception and more M cells for tracking the movement of objects in their retinas—a plus in VR. Women can see more of the red end of the color spectrum, but they also blink twice as often as men and their retinas are rich in P cells, great for identifying objects and analyzing color but not for preventing motion sickness. In other words, we’re dealing with advanced optic technologies, yet the two major groups of potential XR users don’t even perceive distance and space in the same way.

In addition to stature and vision, other differences between men and women go right to the bone. For example:

  • Men’s upper body strength is estimated to be 30% greater than women’s.
  • Women have wider hips, broader facial bones, a smaller chin, longer neck, and shorter legs than men.
  • Broader hips mean a wider angle at the knee joint, so females’ knee joints are under more stress than males’.
  • Women’s hands are, on average, 17 mm shorter than men’s. A woman’s index finger is typically longer than her ring finger, while the opposite is true for men.
  • Women hear better but have a stronger emotional response to the anticipation of pain. (Implications for high-stakes, hazardous job training in VR)
  • Men and women use different areas of the brain for navigation: Women navigate using landmarks while men use cardinals and distance.

Can you imagine how such differences might work against women in XR or how exoskeletons and other wearables could be more beneficial to male workers simply because the fit is better? If a female worker has to stop a VR training simulation due to motion sickness, will she be able to get the training she needs? If a pair of smart glasses constantly slide down a female worker’s face, will she be less efficient than her male coworker who’s comfortably working heads-up and hands-free?

What about menstruation and pregnancy, two conditions unique to women? Research indicates that the hormonal and physical changes involved affect a woman’s balance, dexterity and coordination, making her more vulnerable to injury on the job and more prone to VR sickness. The sad reality is many women are pressured to work throughout their pregnancies and return to work soon after childbirth; yet I can’t recall a wearable tech article or actual enterprise product that singles out pregnant women, let alone female enterprise end users. (By the way, it took until iOS 9 for the Apple Watch to finally track menstruation.)

Where an employer may see reason for assigning fewer physical tasks or limiting work hours (and thus pay) for a female employee, I sense an opportunity for working women to leverage wearable technologies to reduce the risk of injury when at their most vulnerable, to alleviate physical and cognitive stress, and to work longer and safer during the course of pregnancy. The problem is I don’t think designers have potentially pregnant users in mind when creating wearable devices. We as a community talk a lot about taking a user-centric approach to hardware and its applications for enterprise, but are all workers truly reflected in the form factors and user experience of enterprise wearables today? If not, how can we expect wearables to ever go mainstream in enterprise?

Betting on a future with more female industrial workers:

Standard worker health and safety gear in general has been designed for male users, without regard for the unchangeable physical limitations of women (or anyone else for that matter). The fact that tools and work stations aren’t really designed for the female frame may be one reason women suffer a disproportionate number of ergonomic-related injuries in the workplace. As a single upper extremity claim can cost an employer upwards of $20,000, you would think more attention were paid to whether standard work processes, essential equipment, and the working environment allow women to work with the same efficiency, productivity, and safety as their male coworkers. And with companies strapped to find and train new workers, you would think employers are doing all they can to source, retain and enable people to work for them.

Women currently make up a smaller portion of the workforce in sectors set to be dramatically transformed by wearable and immersive technologies, but that doesn’t justify the continued use of the male as a default. There are many women today performing hands-on, deskless work on the assembly line, in the warehouse, etc., with more to come in the future, and they need hands-free, well-fitting, performance-enhancing tools they can wield comfortably and efficiently.

Future looking: What does XR’s potential to make job training faster and easier mean for women just entering the workforce or changing careers? If XR makes it theoretically possible to learn any skill or trade, could it solve both gender inequality in the workplace and the skilled labor shortage, expanding the talent pool in many male-dominant sectors, by lowering the barrier of entry for women in industry? One thing I know: Wearables and XR will never reach their full potential if the user experience is inferior for women than men.


Technology “for men:”

“The form factor design of so many wearable XR devices, as with so many everyday objects, has gender bias and ableism baked into design. This is the new equivalent of work gear that only comes in men’s size large. Head gear, glasses, watches, controllers – so much of this stuff is conceptualized and designed to standards that don’t meet the basic functional, ergonomic or aesthetic needs for a multiplicity of users.” – Margaret Wallace, Founder, KijiCo & Playmatics 

“[VR] controllers are too big for the hands of many of the women I demo to. Headset straps are too small to fit around large textured or styled hair, or things like turbans. Don’t get me started on [external] battery packs that expect you to have belts or pockets.” – Becca Little, software developer, State Farm

“…it took me a year to get the HoloLens to fit right for my head. The Magic Leap One has a smaller size for smaller heads and faces, so that helped tremendously, but none of the smart glasses fit my face right yet.” – Evo Heyning, CEO & Founder, Light Lodges

“For me, it’s not about looks but size. I am a petite female, so nearly all gear is heavy and adjustment elements don’t adjust small enough, from the face of a watch on your wrist to the focal adjustment of lenses inside a headset, to the Velcro and clips of a haptic vest. I know weight can’t be avoided much yet, but I’m afraid that targets are not low enough to be ergonomically friendly for those of us with smaller frames.”Jamie Woodard, Senior Solutions Engineer, Instructure

In 2010, Danish researchers found that the basic premises underlying many advanced electronic products like the mobile phone and even GPS were dominated by male thinking. Not much has changed: The women who were kind enough to share their experiences with me on Facebook and LinkedIn pointed out numerous “sexist flaws” in wearable devices. Their complaints resonated with my own: Hands too small to reach the grips on a VR controller; glossy or elastic headset straps that don’t work for certain hair types; HMDs that sit heavy on the nose bridge or cheekbones; losing the full immersive experience when looking down (being able to see beyond the visor, like breaking the fourth wall); lenses that prove their makers are unaware of the existence of mascara; face makeup smudging and dirtying HUD screens in general; un-adjustable smart bands that slip off the wrist; a lack of female avatars; having to take out braids, ponytails and topknots to put on a headset, and more. Again, this isn’t every woman’s reality with wearables; neither are men immune to discomfort while using wearables. Not all wearable devices exhibit gender bias and those that aren’t very gender neutral weren’t designed intentionally so.

I was unable to find any in-depth scientific research or ergonomic studies specific to XR and wearables for this article, probably because the tech is still emerging. Even so, it’s recognized that technology has long been designed by and for men; and there are enough women having ergonomic issues trying to use wearables and XR to, at the very least, start a conversation. As a new training medium, XR is going to be crucial for filling millions of vacant positions in the workforce. A new wave of technology is an opportunity to examine old workplace tools and processes favoring a certain type of worker and empower all types and shapes of workers. Take manufacturing, where women are one of the largest pools of untapped talent according to Deloitte. Emerging tech like automation and robotics should be used to reduce barriers of entry for women in manufacturing, as should new remote work platforms allow women to work more flexible hours from anywhere in the world. XR should serve as a means of professional training and visual guidance, preparing women for new careers in unfamiliar industries; and exoskeletons should enable them to perform on a more even playing field as their male colleagues, taking on moving, lifting and technical roles traditionally seen as “men’s work.”


All-inclusive wearables:

Women are the least likely buyers of consumer VR, which doesn’t bode well for the consumer market or for companies hoping cool new tech will attract both male and female millennials to fill out their workforces. The answer, however, isn’t to develop an attractive headset that, while less capable than the original, is small enough to fit around a woman’s head; nor is it to offer something like VR training or exoskeletons as an option for workers knowing the tech’s design puts some women at a disadvantage. As women are nearly half the labor force, organizations and enterprise wearable and immersive solution providers must consider hardware and user experience issues unique to female workers.

Field services, manufacturing, utilities, and other sectors struggling to recruit new members to the workforce should make tackling gender inequality in the workplace a priority, from the very tools used on the job to the policies that support employee wellbeing. In addition to paying attention to the needs and experiences of the existing female workforce, enterprises should consider women who haven’t yet entered the workforce, young women beginning to use AR/VR in their education, women forced to change careers due to the skills upheaval expected across business and industry, and women who might never think to take on traditionally male jobs like material handlers, machine operators, etc.

Going forward, hardware and software designers should adopt a more mindful approach to developing solutions for the modern and future workforce, considering the female experience at every stage of the design process, asking for and listening to women’s feedback, and even setting up all-female usability tests. What are the unique requirements of female workers? For example, women tend to wear makeup; how does that affect sharing devices among workers? XR brings sight, sound and touch to the workplace in a new way; do smaller hands, shorter fingers, long nails, different hairstyles, varying levels of visual acuity, even a higher voice have any effect on the mode of interacting with the device? It could be as simple as making a headset more adjustable and developing VR simulations where women can see themselves in the avatars; or it may be more complex, requiring customization of solutions for different user groups.


Conclusion:

When it comes to work, AR and VR are essentially career development tools for the next generation of workers, which is why it’s imperative that women feel comfortable using the technology. Hands-free is the future: From delivering just-in-time information and immersive training to collecting biometric and environmental data for increased situational awareness and augmenting workers’ strength; there are applications for wearable technologies that we haven’t even begun to consider. While the current focus is on the business problems of today, there’s opportunity in wearable and immersive tech to make industry not only inclusive of women but also individuals previously ineligible for some or all kinds of work like the physically and vision-disabled. But first, the hardware needs to be built so everyone can use it and the user experience designed to be equally accessible to everyone.

 

The Enterprise Wearable Technology Summit (EWTS) is an annual conference dedicated to the use of wearable technology for business and industrial applications. As the leading event for enterprise wearables, EWTS is where enterprises go to innovate with the latest in wearable tech, including heads-up displays, AR/VR/MR, body- and wrist-worn devices, and even exoskeletons. The 6th annual EWTS will be held September 17-19, 2019 in Dallas, TX. More details, including agenda and early confirmed speakers, to come on the conference website.


Augmented World Expo (AWE), the world’s #1 AR+VR conference and expo, returns to Santa Clara, CA May 29-31, 2019. Join us for the biggest AWE yet and help celebrate the show’s 10th Anniversary! Apply to speak and/or exhibit at AWE 2019on the event website.

photo credit: Philicious Photos 2018-05-12 05 via photopin (license)

Enterprise Wearable & Immersive Tech 2018: Magic Leap, Exosuits and VR Training, Training, Training

This year was going to be the year of augmented reality, but by the end of 2018 market analysts were pointing to 2020 or 2021 as the “golden year” of AR. While wearable technologies, including wearable XR, didn’t exactly “blow up” this year, the technology did further entrench itself in enterprise—the number of companies in the evaluation stage rose significantly, several large deployments made headlines, and solution providers continued to partner and expand their products to more platforms. Magic Leap finally dropped to mixed reviews and BrainXchange published its Definitive Guide to Adopting Wearables, AR and VR in Enterprise. Going into 2019, the industry eagerly awaits HoloLens 2 and Glass Enterprise Edition 2, as rumors swirl around the possibility of AR glasses from Apple and/or Facebook in the near future. Read on for a recap of the major developments that took place in 2018:


Enterprises that made the news for using wearables:

In 2018, major retailers got more serious about XR in hopes of competing with Amazon and improving the shopping experience. Walmart was very active, beginning with its acquisition of VR startup Spatialand in February. Just three months ago, the company revealed it’s putting 17,000 Oculus Go headsets in Walmart stores for employee training. In March, Macy’s announced it would use VR to sell furniture in 50 of its stores. The pilot, which used an iPad and HTC Vive powered by Marxent’s 3D Cloud Service, showed that VR increases average order value by 60%. And this year, Lowe’s extended its use of mixed reality to employee training and rolled out more XR experiences aimed at solving customers’ challenges.

Training, of course, was a huge application area, with banks and even restaurants employing XR to recruit and train the next generation of workers. Among those using AR/VR for training were logistics company DB Schenker, telecom giant Verizon, and hotel chain Hyatt. Honeywell also announced plans to use XR to transfer skills to millennials and revealed the new Honeywell Connected Plant solution for industrial field workers, which combines the RealWear HMT-1Z1 with Honeywell’s Movilizer platform.

In aviation and aerospace, Lockheed Martin’s space division received attention for its use of MR headsets and software by Scope AR to build spacecraft faster, as did Bell Helicopter for using HTC Vive to drastically accelerate the helicopter design process. Meanwhile, Boeing and Delta Air Lines have been testing exoskeletons to augment employee safety; and both companies joined the exoskeleton advisory group X-TAG launched by Sarcos Robotics in March.

The auto industry’s adoption of wearable and immersive technologies showed no signs of slowing down in 2018, from Porsche’s new Tech Live Look system to Ford’s Immersive Vehicle Environment Lab (FiVE). Mercedes-Benz, Toyota, Audi and Mazda all drank from the XR Kool-Aid; and RealWear’s HMT-1 was the device of choice for pilot programs at Lexus and Volkswagen. In addition to using XR for vehicle design, Ford also rolled out the EksoVest to 15 of its plants to reduce injuries.


Hardware announcements:

Head-worn

After years of secrecy and hype, Magic Leap finally released its first developer kit in August for $2,295. At its first developer conference in October, the company spoke of a few upcoming enterprise-facing apps; and in November, Magic Leap announced a creator fund to encourage designers to develop apps for the Magic Leap One. The company’s direction is unclear.

As usual, Vuzix was incredibly busy in 2018, demoing the first Amazon Alexa-enabled smart glasses at CES; launching the first commercial release of Vuzix Blade; receiving its largest M300 order to date from AMA XPertEye as well as a follow-up order by SATS; partnering with Plessey Semiconductor to increase the processing power of future Vuzix smart glasses; and completing pilots with companies like H-E-B.

RealWear had a great year, which included the unveiling of the intrinsically safe HMT-1Z1 at AWE USA; the release of RealWear Foresight cloud platform at EWTS 2018; and an announcement in October that Colgate-Palmolive is rolling out the HMT-1 across 20 facilities. Epson announced Upskill’s Skylight platform for the new Moverio BT-250 ANSI Edition; and, in a move to expand its audience, launched the Moverio BT 35-E Smart Glasses, which can connect to popular output devices for new enterprise applications. Toshiba upgraded its software engine to create Vision DE Suite 2.0, and expanded the partner program for its dynaEdge AR Smart Glasses to include Atheer’s AiR platform, Ubimax’s Frontline application suite, and ACS’ Timer Pro. HoloLens got a major software update, and Microsoft introduced new enterprise mixed reality applications like Microsoft Remote Assist and Microsoft Layout.

In other hardware news, Qualcomm unveiled the Snapdragon Wear 3100, a new low-power chipset designed for smartwatches; as well as the Snapdragon XR1, the first chip specially made for standalone XR devices with accompanying reference design. Kopin announced the Golden-I Infinity, essentially an attachable smart screen that turns any pair of eyewear into an AR display.

In the virtual reality space, HTC targeted enterprise with the debut of the Vive Pro VR Kit intended for work applications like training and design. In November, the company launched Vive Focus, a standalone HMD for enterprise, as well as collaboration tool Sync. And in July, Oculus began shipping Oculus Go for Business, a bundle including not only the headset and accessories but also an extended commercial warranty and dedicated support, for $299 each.

Body-worn

In 2018, Gilbane, Bosch Power Tools and KPE Building all adopted Triax’s Spot-r system to detect falls, track the location of workers and equipment, and improve safety on the job. Meanwhile, Samsung’s Gear S3 smartwatch continued to make inroads into the enterprise: Samsung partnered with DataXoom to provide LTE data coverage for custom-developed smartwatch applications; worked with Viceroy Hotel Group and hotel operations platform ALICE to create a smartwatch solution for the hotel industry; and teamed up with HSBC to test the Gear S3’s impact on customer service in banking.

Exoskeletons have arrived. In addition to Ford’s rollout of the EksoVest this year, Hyundai began testing exoskeletons to aid workers with repetitive overhead tasks and two new exoskeletons came onto the market: Comau’s MATE for repetitive tasks and the LG CLOi SuitBot for heavy lifting and tool operation. We also learned that Sarcos Robotics’ Guardian XO and XO Max exoskeletons are coming out in a little over a year; and on the haptics side of VR, the HaptX Gloves Development Kit debuted, offering touch feedback and natural interaction in VR training and design applications.


Software developments:

In 2018, the platforms we know (and love) matured and expanded to a broader array of devices: In March, Scope AR announced ARCore support for its Remote AR application. Soon after, the company merged Remote AR with its WorkLink application, creating one new AR platform offering real-time remote assistance and smart instructions. Scope also revealed it achieved 99% faster completion rates for some of the tasks in Lockheed Martin’s manufacturing operations.

AMA and Proceedix partnered to deliver a comprehensive solution for industrial sites with multiple use cases for smart glasses. Atheer revealed the “world’s first Augmented Reality Management Platform,” a cloud-based, device-agnostic solution aimed at helping companies tackle challenges related to change, connectivity, talent and complexity. Upskill unveiled Skylight for Mobile as well as support for Microsoft HoloLens, allowing customers to leverage the Skylight AR platform across multiple devices and experiences; and RE’FLEKT built a new standard enterprise operating system atop REFLEKT ONE. With an extensive partner program, the new system enables workers to use visual (AR) guidance as an out-of-the-box integration. In June, RE’FLEKT also launched Sync, a software solution designed to further simplify the transformation of existing technical documentation and CAD data into AR applications.


Interesting research:

A number of reports and studies circulated in 2018. Notable among them were AREA’s ROI report, calculator and case study; an ABI Research report predicting that the AR hardware market will eventually diverge according to differing enterprise and consumer requirements; and research out of the University of Maryland indicating that people learn and retain information better through immersive experiences.

EPRI continued to study the potential benefits and risks of equipping utility workers with AR devices; IDC relieved worries about declining VR headset shipments, pointing out that commercial pilots are picking up; two-thirds of respondents in a Capgemini survey said they believe AR will be more applicable to their organizations than VR; and a joint report by PTC and Aberdeen showed that AR adopters have best-in-class factory operations, service and training.


Into 2019:

I think we can safely predict that VR training will be huge in 2019 and expect to see more see-what-I-see applications for smart glasses and hopefully more content-creation solutions for non-AEC organizations. In the new year, I’d personally like to see more peer-reviewed, scientific research on the health effects of wearables on different user groups, including prolonged use of XR HMDs and exoskeletons. And with the arrival of Magic Leap and a storm of rumors about upcoming consumer devices from Apple and Facebook, I think 2019 is finally the year to talk about consumer-facing AR/VR applications in enterprise.

 

The Enterprise Wearable Technology Summit (EWTS) is an annual conference dedicated to the use of wearable technology for business and industrial applications. As the leading event for enterprise wearables, EWTS is where enterprises go to innovate with the latest in wearable tech, including heads-up displays, AR/VR/MR, body- and wrist-worn devices, and even exoskeletons. The 6th annual EWTS will be held September 17-19, 2019 in Dallas, TX. More details, including agenda and early confirmed speakers, to come on the conference website.


Augmented World Expo (AWE), the world’s #1 AR+VR conference and expo, returns to Santa Clara, CA May 29-31, 2019. Join us for the biggest AWE yet and help celebrate the show’s 10th Anniversary! Apply to speak and/or exhibit at AWE 2019on the event website.

 

Image source: ZDNet

Challenges of Enterprise Wearables, AR and VR: A Changing Landscape, Budget, Battery, and More

In this largely Q&A-driven panel discussion from last month’s EWTS 2018, Tacit’s Todd Boyd and members of the audience question IT leaders from Worthington Industries, HB Fuller, Ford, JetBlue and The American Bureau of Shipping (ABS) on the cultural and technical challenges of adopting wearable technologies. Some of the challenges addressed include keeping people engaged, dealing with opponents and a constantly changing hardware landscape, budget and financing, battery life and back-end system integration. Watch now:

 

The Enterprise Wearable Technology Summit (EWTS) is an annual conference dedicated to the use of wearable technology for business and industrial applications. As the leading event for enterprise wearables, EWTS is where enterprises go to innovate with the latest in wearable tech, including heads-up displays, AR/VR/MR, body- and wrist-worn devices, and even exoskeletons. The 6th annual EWTS will be held September 17-19, 2019 in Dallas, TX. More details, including agenda and early confirmed speakers, to come on the conference website.


Augmented World Expo (AWE), the world’s #1 AR+VR conference and expo, returns to Santa Clara, CA May 29-31, 2019. Join us for the biggest AWE yet and help celebrate the show’s 10th Anniversary! Apply to speak and/or exhibit at AWE 2019on the event website.

Build a Culture of Bottom-up Innovation and More Advice for Adopting AR/VR and Wearables

In this video from last month’s Enterprise Wearable Technology Summit in Austin, Upskill’s Brian Ballard leads early wearable tech adopters from Toyota, Duke Energy, Merck and Southern Company in a discussion around strategies for accelerating an organization’s wearable journey. Though the panelists represent very different operating environments; they all agree that an agnostic approach to hardware, end user input and feedback, having systems of bottom-up innovation in place, line-side support during rollout, and room to fail are key components to successful adoption. Enjoy this first-hand advice available nowhere else but EWTS:

 

The Enterprise Wearable Technology Summit (EWTS) is an annual conference dedicated to the use of wearable technology for business and industrial applications. As the leading event for enterprise wearables, EWTS is where enterprises go to innovate with the latest in wearable tech, including heads-up displays, AR/VR/MR, body- and wrist-worn devices, and even exoskeletons. The 6th annual EWTS will be held September 17-19, 2019 in Dallas, TX. More details, including agenda and early confirmed speakers, to come on the conference website.


Augmented World Expo (AWE), the world’s #1 AR+VR conference and expo, returns to Santa Clara, CA May 29-31, 2019. Join us for the biggest AWE yet and help celebrate the show’s 10th Anniversary! Apply to speak and/or exhibit at AWE 2019on the event website.

All the News Out of EWTS 2018

The 2018 Enterprise Wearable Technology Summit took place October 9-10 at The Fairmont in Austin, TX. A number of announcements were made at the event—all great news for the future of enterprise wearable technologies. From new partnerships to global deployments, here are the developments announced at the event:

RealWear Announces That Colgate-Palmolive to Roll Out HMT-1 Hands-Free Wearable Computers to 20 Manufacturing Sites in 11 Countries

Colgate-Palmolive is rolling out RealWear’s voice-operated HMT-1 among hundreds of its mechanics and engineers across 20 of the company’s largest manufacturing facilities in 11 countries. Colgate-Palmolive employees will use the technology to receive support from remote SMEs, equipment suppliers and manufacturing teams, as well as to retrieve and capture documents and video.


Vuzix Receives M300 Follow-On Orders from SATS to Outfit Ramp Handling Operations with Smart Glasses at Changi Airport

SATS, the chief ground-handling and in-flight catering service provider at Singapore Changi Airport, began piloting the Vuzix M300 to increase accuracy and efficiency in its ramp handling operations in mid-2017. The company is now expanding its use of the technology, deploying smart glasses to over 500 employees at Changi Airport. Wearing Vuzix M300 Smart Glasses, workers will be able to receive real-time loading instructions and scan barcodes on luggage and cargo containers, hopefully reducing loading times by up to 15 minutes/flight.


Toshiba Adds Voice Commands and Enhanced Camera Capabilities to Create Vision DE Suite 2.0

Toshiba has upgraded its software engine to include voice commands, enhanced camera capabilities, and other new features. Vision DE Suite 2.0 delivers live video collaboration, photo/video capture and viewing (plus image resolution control), real-time file synchronization and alerts, a remote management console, and flexible controls to dynaEdge AR Smart Glasses users. The upgraded software is now available for purchase, while existing customers will receive a free upgrade.


RealWear Rolls Out Zero-Touch Deployment Solution with RealWear Foresight Cloud Platform

In other RealWear news, the company announced the RealWear Foresight cloud platform with zero-touch deployment, now a built-in feature of the HMT-1 and HMT-1Z1. The solution accelerates early enterprise deployments, allowing RealWear to ship devices directly from its fulfillment centers and organizations to immediately and securely deploy the technology by adding any app from the RealWear app catalog. Companies who’ve optimized their apps for the HMT-1/HMT-1Z1 include HPE, Librestream, PTC, Ubimax, and Upskill.


AMA Partners with Proceedix to provide advanced remote assistance solutions

The integration of XpertEye and Proceedix delivers the most comprehensive solution for remote assistance and work flow support on mobile and wearable devices, maximizing usage and benefits for end users. The alliance of the two solutions is designed for industrial sites with multiple use cases for smart glasses, so that a worker can use the same pair of smart glasses to view heads-up, hands-free work instructions and receive real-time support when needed. See what the CEOs of AMA and Proceedix had to say at EWTS here.


Atheer Announces the World’s First Augmented Reality Management Platform, Creating New Enterprise Software Category

Atheer revealed the “world’s first Augmented Reality Management Platform for industrial enterprises,” a new category of enterprise software aimed at helping companies tackle challenges relating to change, connectivity, talent, and operational complexities. The device-agnostic platform supports natural controls, see-what-I-see video collaboration, digital asset management, contextual awareness, predictive and performance analytics, and more. Aragon Research calls it “an important milestone” for enterprise AR. Check out the White Paper that accompanied the announcement.


Upskill launches support for Microsoft HoloLens

Upskill announced the early release of its AR/MR platform Skylight for Microsoft HoloLens. The move opens up more real estate to display information and extends Skylight into the spatial computing environment, offering a new experience for Skylight customers. Users can use hand gestures and simple gazes to navigate in virtual space and view multiple windows at the same time. Building on HoloLens’ Windows 10 capabilities, the solution securely connects to back-end systems to pull information into the mixed reality environment. Watch the video.


Three trends to watch in enterprise wearables

The Glass team shared their experiences at EWTS 2018 in a blog post, recapping the trends they’ve observed working with their partners and customers. Read it here. Jay Kothari and his team at X, the moonshot factory, say they are continuing to improve Glass based on user feedback.

3 Steps to Escaping Pilot Purgatory & Nailing Your Wearable Tech Pilot

Ever since I became involved in the wearable and immersive tech space, I’ve wondered how a digital revolution really gets underway in an organization. What goes on behind the scenes within organizations? What’s the best starting point? What are the most common mistakes made during the pilot phase? What should enterprises know before piloting or adopting wearables, and how can they avoid pilot purgatory? I spoke with Sanjay Jhawar, co-founder and president of RealWear, maker of the HMT-1 and HMT-1Z1, to get the inside scoop. Read on for best practice advice, pilot lessons, and steps to nailing a pilot:

In a May 2017 survey of companies exploring digital manufacturing strategies, 84% of respondents said they had been stuck in pilot mode for over a year, while less than 30% were beginning to scale (McKinsey & Co.) In another McKinsey report, 41% of industrial firms surveyed said they were in pilot limbo and 30% were still discussing how to start a pilot—that’s 71% stuck in pilot purgatory. Though these findings aren’t wearable tech-specific, a similar story holds across the industry spectrum—pilot purgatory remains a common dead end for companies pursuing wearable technologies like smart glasses and mixed reality headsets.

“Every sales cycle looks like this: Evaluation, pilot, deployment, scale-up. What’s exciting is that we have hundreds of evaluations and pilots, and a large handful now moving into full-scale, large deployments for their enterprises.” – Sanjay, RealWear

Though enterprise wearables are new tech, we’re beyond the first mover stage. At this point, there have been hundreds of pilots by early enterprise adopters for newcomers to learn from. Over the last several years, companies big and small in all areas of industry have tested wearables, making mistakes, establishing some best practices, and even making it to the rollout phase. Solution providers have also learned lessons. At RealWear, according to Sanjay, “the more pilots we do the faster they go.”  So, why do pilots fail? One root problem is the use case itself.

Step number one to nailing a pilot is finding a high-value, hole-in-one use case, and the best place to start is with those closest to the problem, i.e. real workers.


Step 1: Choose a viable use case

“The biggest pitfall is when there’s a customer [looking] for an AR wearable to solve a problem that may not exist. We’ve found that in the conservative world of industrial, pragmatic applications that provide value now as opposed to eye candy demos of AR are the way to go. When we get engaged with the operations, quality or training executive who owns the profit and loss for the specific problem, that’s when things go fast—solving for a specific pain point that yields measurable ROI.  We need to be talking to the executive that owns a seven-figure dollar problem that they must address in under 6 months.” – Sanjay, RealWear

Start simple by matching a known business problem or need to a wearable solution. To identify a “good” problem, you can, of course, look at past safety data, quality statistics, etc. to figure out where the business incurs the greatest risk of injury and profit loss; you should also brainstorm with actual end users by going out into the field or onto the factory floor and speaking with respected frontline workers.

Ask employees what tools and methods they use to access task-based information, get help from others, verify or record their work, and interact with customers on the job. Do they have any complaints about the tools they use? Have they come up with any makeshift solutions or hacks to speed up their work or make themselves more comfortable? When is vital information not at the ready or delivered to workers in an inconvenient, inefficient manner? Are you using the best training methods for a multigenerational, changing workforce? Try to pinpoint sources of error, fatigue and injury, paid travel and rework, downtime and customer dissatisfaction; and consider inserting a wearable. And if you have the resources, consider setting up a kind of hub for employees to try out new devices on their own.

Choosing a use case around a clear business problem will help you determine an appropriate wearable form factor and guide you to the right software partner. The enterprise wearable tech ecosystem has matured to the point where most hardware companies have multiple software partners and many software solutions are cross-device/platform. If working with a hardware provider like RealWear, consult with them to find a software match for your use case.


Step 2: Determine requirements

“[Our] type of customer, which is medium to heavy industrial, is very concerned about not violating any of their sacrosanct safety standards. We’ve also seen a heightened awareness in IT security.” “My biggest advice is to involve IT from the start, rather than hiding your project from IT in the hope that it will go faster…Try to understand and address IT’s objections as soon as possible, even if takes a few months, because when IT has weighed in as an internal stakeholder, you’ll have IT pulling for you. Remember that wearables are part of IT’s jurisdiction as it’s connected to the enterprise.” – Sanjay, RealWear

Security reviews following software selection are often the greatest hold-up in the pilot phase. It’s so important not to lose momentum, so engage with IT right away. Give them a sense of ownership, as Sanjay said, and they’ll try hard to make the solution compliant to the business’ needs. Support from IT will also be critical to scale up down the road.

In this step, work with IT as well as EHS (Environmental Health & Safety) to determine all the operational factors you would need to account for in order to deploy the technology. This includes security as well as usability, safety, connectivity, mobile device management, and training. Sanjay perfectly summarizes the process of setting up a pilot: “It’s really to say if we had to deploy this headwear, how would we do it?”

How would you integrate the tech into existing processes, systems and facilities? Determine the limits and requirements of the workplace and use case, including:

  • How many devices you will need to test and where the funds will come from
  • Who will participate and what are their needs (comfort, safety, ease of use)
  • How you will measure the results (what KPIs you will track) and for how long
  • Any aspects of the work environment itself that might interfere with use
  • The scope of current MDM platforms and policies
  • Industry safety requirements

Given these factors, what needs to be addressed, worked around or changed before the pilot begins? A common workaround, for instance, has been to deploy a wearables-only wireless network when the existing network’s security protocols are incompatible with the new tech.


Step 3: Wrap it up in 6 months or less

Time. Kills. All. Pilots. The longer it takes, the more risks there are that something will happen: The budget goes away, a new shiny object steals the focus, an organizational change or your sponsor changes roles or jobs. If it takes more than six months, it’s almost not going to succeed by definition. A successful pilot should take three months. What we recommend is to have entry and exit criteria defined and agreed in writing up-front while designing your pilot.”  – Sanjay, RealWear

Before pressing “Go,” prepare to measure results and gather feedback. Work with all stakeholders to define the pilot objectives and agree on a method for measuring success. Prepare the workers involved, as well, clearly explaining to them the potential benefits, assuaging concerns, and providing a channel for honest feedback. Hopefully you chose a use case based on a problem the entire organization wants to solve.

Common pilot killers:

  • Not knowing what problem you’re trying to solve (going tech-first)
  • Overly complex use case
  • Unrealistic expectations
  • Lack of top management and IT support
  • Employees weren’t properly trained on the devices
  • Too much time: You want a quick win to prove the business case and justify next steps

A successful pilot should expose security vulnerabilities and opportunities for improvement to work out and apply in the rollout phase. I asked Sanjay from RealWear if he could share any examples of improvements made to the HMT-1 as a result of pilot feedback:

The core hardware hasn’t really changed, but the software and accessories have evolved. On the accessories side, as one example, we started out with a head strap to attach the device to your head and clips for different types of hardhats…We eventually came up with a succession of different baseball cap mounting options but we didn’t have a way to accommodate an existing baseball cap without damaging it.”

In that case, workers wanted to be able to use the HMT-1 with their own baseball caps, so RealWear had to innovate, figuring out a way to combine form, function and user preference. The company recently came up with a special clip that achieves this. In another example, Sanjay recalled customers having trouble with Wi-Fi password entry using RealWear’s voice keyboard. While the voice tech was great for words or commands, it was less so for entering secure, enterprise-standard passwords. In response, RealWear is preparing to release a new voice keyboard with a radically improved user experience for entering complex text. The company also built more functionality into its smartphone companion app, allowing users to enter a Wi-Fi SSID and password and generate a QR code that the HMT-1 is scanning for with its camera, right out of the box on the very first power-up. “From using another device to configure, we’re moving towards a single sign-on in the Cloud which will take away the need for passwords altogether. That has been a lot of learning from end users and customers.”  – Sanjay, RealWear

 

About Sanjay Jhawar:

Sanjay Jhawar is Co-founder, President and Chief Product Officer at RealWear, makers of the world’s first head-mounted tablet computer, a wearable that completely frees the hands of industrial workers. Known as a strategist, innovator and leader for over 25 years, Sanjay has a deep product background in mobile devices, including smartphones and wearables, mobile SaaS cloud services, client apps, accessories and core network infrastructure. Prior to RealWear, Sanjay served on the senior executive teams at three tech startups:

  • VP/GM Solutions and Marketing at Sonim Technologies, maker of the world’s toughest mobile and smartphones for industrial and public safety users, a private company that quadrupled revenues to $115M in a 3-year period during Sanjay’s tenure
  • SVP Marketing and Product Management at BridgePort Networks who invented the telecom technology that lets you use voice and messages to your phone seamlessly between Wi-Fi and cellular networks
  • VP Marketing, Bus Dev and Product Management at Sendit AB in Sweden, a mobile email pioneer acquired by Microsoft in 1999 for $128M

Sanjay also product managed the world’s first Java based smart phone at Motorola and co-founded WAP Forum, the standards body for the early mobile Internet. Sanjay started his career at IBM and has also spent time in venture capital in Milan and Boston, and in consulting. He holds a Masters with Honors in Electric Engineering from Cambridge University.

 

The Enterprise Wearable Technology Summit (EWTS) is an annual conference dedicated to the use of wearable technology for business and industrial applications. As the leading event for enterprise wearables, EWTS is where enterprises go to innovate with the latest in wearable tech, including heads-up displays, AR/VR/MR, body- and wrist-worn devices, and even exoskeletons. The 5th annual EWTS will be held October 9-10, 2018 at The Fairmont in Austin, TX. For more details, please visit the conference website.


Augmented World Expo (AWE), the world’s #1 AR+VR conference and expo, comes to Munich, Germany on October 18-19, 2018. CXOs, designers, developers, futurists, analysts, investors and top press will gather at the MOC Exhibition Center to learn, inspire, partner and experience first-hand the most exciting industry of our times. Tickets now available at www.aweeu.com.

Let Your Customers and Workers Choose the Right XR Use Case for You

Here’s a common misconception: The more robotics and Artificial Intelligence (AI) advance, the more expendable human beings become in the workplace.

Although Forrester Research predicts automation will displace 24.7 million jobs by 2027, it’s irrational to fear that robots will ultimately replace all human workers. For as robotics and AI improve, so do technologies for empowering human workers. I’m talking about wearable technologies like augmented and virtual reality headsets as well as wearable robotics (exoskeletons) that enable humans to work longer, quickly train for new jobs, and perform in sync with automation. You could even argue that as automation progresses, human workers will become more indispensable to enterprises—while robots may assume the dangerous and repetitive aspects of work, unmanned technology won’t be able to address every productivity issue or match distinctly human capabilities like human dexterity and imagination.

When it comes to embracing disruptive technology, successful organizations take a “user is king” approach, finding out pain points in the business directly from the source, i.e. workers or customers who are expected to use or benefit from the technology. Whether it’s getting a group together for a brainstorming session, including members of the workforce in the proof of concept stage, or simply encouraging a company culture where employees feel comfortable sharing their ideas with leadership; there is no one better than the user herself to determine where and how to digitally transform.


“Treat employees like they make a difference, and they will.” – SAS CEO Jim Goodnight


Two companies have gone beyond merely asking for user input: KLM Royal Dutch Airlines established a physical hub to foster workers’ original ideas for using emerging technologies; while Lowe’s went directly to the customer, applying “young” immersive tech to age-old home improvement shopping challenges. Essentially, KLM and Lowe’s are letting their employees and customers come up with the use cases in which they’re investing.

KLM Royal Dutch Airlines

In 2016 at its Amsterdam Airport Schiphol East base, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines opened its Digital Studio, a creative space where workers from all areas of the airline’s business are encouraged to come and innovate. Here, employees can put forward ideas on how to use digital technologies like AR and blockchain in their work, and see their ideas fast-tracked into development and then, hopefully, into practice.

The Digital Studio, which currently has room for 200 workers, is based upon Dave West’s Scrum Studio concept of an environment where high-performing teams, physically separated from the main business, can fast-track projects. It’s very hard to change large legacy companies like KLM from within: The larger the organization, the higher the chances of disruptive technologies ending up in pilot purgatory and innovation suffocating in red tape between divisions and levels of management.

Though most of the current projects at KLM’s Digital Studio are still in the experimental stage, a handful have turned into practice. The studio has embraced KLM employees of all different backgrounds and roles, who may not have otherwise had the opportunity to take their transformative ideas further. Take Chris Koomen, who was stationed in KLM’s engineering and maintenance division: Chris had an idea for using VR, so he joined the Digital Studio and has been a part of integrating VR for training aircraft crew. Another idea pitched by a KLM mechanic involves using AR in aircraft and engine maintenance.

Every four weeks, the Digital Studio hosts a demo of what it’s working on to interested observers. The lesson here is don’t hide emerging tech in a lab unless you’re going to let the user in. Show employees what’s out there, give them resources, and let those who perform the job every day tell you how to transform the business.


“The customer experience is the next competitive battleground.” – Jerry Gregoire, former VP & CIO of Dell


Lowe’s

Despite the impression one might get from HGTV, building things is not easy for the non-professional. Planning a home improvement project, shopping for building materials, executing the project…what’s most difficult for the average consumer, even a hardcore DIY-er, is visualizing the final product. But it seems a solution has finally appeared in the form of XR (AR, VR, MR), and all the major home improvement brands recognize the potential. There are now apps for virtually measuring your surroundings and picturing all kinds of design options and home products in your real space. And it’s not just the Lowe’s and Home Depots of the world—architects and engineers have seized upon VR to help clients visualize new structures, real estate agents are giving virtual home tours, and even Gulfstream Aerospace employs XR so its clients know exactly what their custom jets will look like when delivered.

Lowe’s has been conspicuously innovative in making the benefits of XR available to its customers. For the last four years, powerful new immersive technology design and shopping tools have been brewing in Lowe’s Innovation Labs. Josh Shabtai, Director of the Labs Productions and Operations, says he looks at those problems that keep resurfacing. Since the introduction of Holoroom How-To in 2014, Lowe’s Innovation Labs has rolled out an impressive suite of mobile apps / pilot projects to gauge customers’ comfort level with XR, including Lowe’s Vision, In-Store Navigation, and View in Your Space.

Lowe’s is trying to solve the classic pain points of home improvement shopping by giving customers the ability to see with the eyes of a contractor or interior designer, determine whether products fit in their space, virtually tile a bathroom, operate a power tool, and more. By focusing on customer problems, Lowe’s has made some of the strongest cases for consumer AR and VR to date. The retailer’s steady flow of practical immersive experiences even landed it at the top of a list of most innovative companies in AR/VR by Fast Company!


With each employee-generated idea, KLM not only gains a potentially transformative technology solution but also primes its workers for the change to digital—there’s no need to convince employees to use solutions they helped conceive of. And with each application, Lowe’s refines the XR tools that future consumers will use to visualize spaces and learn new skills; ideally positioning itself to scale when the time comes, build customer loyalty and future-proof its business from online competition.

 

The Enterprise Wearable Technology Summit (EWTS) is an annual conference dedicated to the use of wearable technology for business and industrial applications. As the leading event for enterprise wearables, EWTS is where enterprises go to innovate with the latest in wearable tech, including heads-up displays, AR/VR/MR, body- and wrist-worn devices, and even exoskeletons. The 5th annual EWTS will be held October 9-10, 2018 at The Fairmont in Austin, TX. For more details, please visit the conference website.


Augmented World Expo (AWE), the world’s #1 AR+VR conference and expo, comes to Munich, Germany on October 18-19, 2018. CXOs, designers, developers, futurists, analysts, investors and top press will gather at the MOC Exhibition Center to learn, inspire, partner and experience first-hand the most exciting industry of our times. Tickets now available at www.aweeu.com.

 

Image source: Lowe’s via Road to VR