Designing Smart Connected Products Using Augmented Reality

Keeping up with the shifts and changes in technology can be a challenge, even for the savviest of tech geeks. Last week we assembled a crew of experts for our hangout “Designing Smart Connected Products in the Age of Augmented Reality,” who helped us as a community better understand the design challenges surrounding the integration of Augmented Reality and IoT.

Our experts included:

Stanley Black & Decker – Dave Braverman, Sr. Digital Product Manager (@davebraverman)

GE – Sam Murley, Digital Acceleration Leader (@sammurley)

IBM – Ryan Boyles, Sr. Social Media Strategist at IBM for Watson Internet of Things (@therab)

Before we delved deep into the technological capabilities surrounding AR and IoT, we knew we had to answer one burning question.

What IS Augmented Reality?

The term has been around since the early 1980s, but its applications and everyday use are only just becoming a reality. When posed with the question, how might you define Augmented Reality, Ryan of IBM had this to say, “AR is the ability to superimpose images over a camera view of the world; where virtual reality is more about constructing a completely virtual model of the world that would interact in a different way.”

So, to start with, AR is a technology that allows us to fully merge the real world, with a world that we can imagine. Dave of Stanley Black & Decker added, “There’s a real world and a virtual world. AR is anything in between. It’s placing virtual objects into the real world or it could be placing real world objects into a virtual world, depending on how much is virtualized. Anything in between a virtual world and a completely physical world we live in today is the intermix of those.”

This merger of digital with physical is what excites so many of us in the IoT space. It provides us innovators with new opportunities to disrupt industries that are, well, in dire need of disruption.

Innovating in the B2B Sector: AR Is the Winner

Just which industries are in need of disruptive innovation? Glad you asked because our panelists had a lot to say about which industries will benefit most from designing with AR and IoT.

Ryan of IBM pointed out that DAQRI helmets that are made for industrial workers to use in the field, help those in the aeronautics industry and oil manage field operations in new and insightful ways. Other panelists noted that it’ll be drones that helps pave the way in helping large scale B2B industries like telecom. Ryan talked about scenarios where workers in the field can utilize drones with their AR devices to help see problems in remote places. The results are not only safer conditions for workers, but a more efficient workforce that can solve problems remotely.

Beyond becoming a more efficient workplace, AR will also provide businesses with the opportunities to better train their workers. As Dave of Stanley Black & Decker said “Training and service will be big with AR. There are training manuals of old. Then phones. Now with AR you can literally see the world through the eyes of the customer in the field so you can diagnose and repair quickly. Talk about uptime.”

The bottomline? For those designing with AR in mind, you will have the  opportunity to create more efficient operating systems, which will in turn benefit customers.

More efficiency, better ROI, and happier customer, now who doesn’t want that?

How AR will Influence B2C

Does this mean that Augmented Reality will only impact the B2B sector? Not at all, in fact, our panelists were excited about the opportunities AR presents for consumers. And how could they not be? Given that our webinar happened just days after Apple’s announcement of their newest iPhone 8.

Our panelists saw the world of screens truly changing for the consumers, where all of sudden windshields will seamlessly integrate with navigation apps and more.

With Apple’s announcement of the newest iPhone 8, our panelists saw the opportunity for new customer experiences in AR and IoT to be created within apps. For designers, this means creating meaningful customer experiences that are thoughtfully designed. Graphic designers can no longer simply “tack on” to their existing knowledge base. Rather, designers must become well versed in understanding the technical abilities of AR and design accordingly.

The Ethics: Security and Big Data

With Augmented Reality innovations becoming more common on both the manufacturing line and at home, our panelists were quick to challenge and question the ethics of data collection techniques.

For example, faces or documentation may be captured that is beyond the goal intended for the use of AR or that product. As questions about the types of “passive data” that can be collected by devices become more frequent, companies must put into place policies and procedures to address these issues.

GE has taken multiple steps to help ensure that every member of their team understands the security implications of AR and big data. Sam of GE shared, “GE has a global policy for wearables and for each product we have a roadmap and FAQ’s about what ‘this’ is, what is being captured and why, and the intended use. We also create a one page ‘Do’s and Don’ts’ tool document…” Sam added though that “flexibility does need to be given for local decision-making since not everything is one size fits all”.

Who is ready for AR?

So many of our webinar attendees were looking to understand just how and when to integrate Augmented Reality capabilities into their systems.

The first step in getting started with an AR project, according to Sam of GE is to understand the productivity opportunity the project presents as well as the opportunity for risk reduction. He notes, “If we find both, it is the sweet spot for us. We then use a ‘business model canvas’ process which basically asks questions like potential ROI, key metrics, how things are done today, how to plan to proceed with AR, target information and more. If we can’t answer at least half of these questions, then we go back to the drawing board.”

Ultimately though, all panelists agreed that the key to entering into the AR space is first identifying and understanding your user problem. Solving for the user’s need is paramount and should come before technology.

Still scared? Don’t be! In the words of our panelist Sam from GE, “It’s a great time to get started. The technology (hardware and software) is mature enough now — assuming you have a good use case. Don’t wait…there are productivity and safety gains that can be realized using this technology today.”

For more on Designing Smart Connected Products Using Augmented Reality” view the full hangout.


Gretchen Hoffman

Posted By: 

Gretchen Hoffman

VP Marketing