Integrate Augmented Reality with Internet of Things for unmatched business value

In the coming years, AR-IoT will become the face of development in all spheres and create immense business value for companies globally

Updated: Dec 27, 2016 09:30:08 AM UTC
Photo: Shutterstock

Introducing Augmented Reality
Imagine you are a visitor to a historical city like Delhi or any of the popular tourist destinations in the world. You want to do the tour of the city at your own pace and flexibility and, let us say, in a car. Now imagine that during the journey, your smartphone or tablet with a camera, connected to car’s GPS, gives you live descriptions of the vicinity. Depending on your choice, you either get the audio visual of the locality you are in or you can zoom on to more inner specifics about the monument you are passing by. The detailing is only limited by what your interests are. You can choose a monument or building or a statue or for that matter even a shop or a restaurant.

Augmented reality can make your tourist experience a lot more complete and help you make more real-time and personal choices as you go through the city. You can for instance zoom into a mall you are passing by and see what type of shops and restaurants are there. The quality of audio visual can be tailored to specific price and convenience points. Not only does this provide travellers with useful and valuable information, it makes the journey much more interesting, thereby making it more enjoyable.

Welcome to the world of Augmented Reality (AR). This kind of experience is within the realms of possibilities today, thanks to the AR technology, when integrated with a smart device or a device connected to the internet. In the case of the above journey, that smart device is the connected car. AR today has blurred the lines between what’s real and what’s computer-generated by modifying what we touch and feel.

The Endless Possibilities
AR has the ability to make our physical reality more responsive. In other words, it will make our surroundings digitised and interactive, thereby creating a possibility to overlay the artificial world around us on the real world. Take for instance the newly-launched smartphone game, ‘Pokémon GO’ that has created a hype worldwide. Similarly, in case of enterprises, augmented reality offers many smart applications for companies, such as those in the manufacturing world.

The automotive industry has been using AR technology for quite some time now to reduce errors, improve quality or even accelerate assembly process to the benefit of its customers.

In case of industrial manufacturers, AR can be a very useful tool for effective after-sales. Companies can devise AR-enabled interactive manuals for training field workforce. More experienced workforce can coach and train the newer recruits effectively by enhancing physical machines with pictures and videos depicting the working of machines and other details.

Many such examples can be traced in the healthcare, education, air & space, travel, real estate and other sectors as well. It definitely promises endless possibilities, many of which are under development.

Integrating Augmented Reality with the Internet of Things: Manufacturers take notice
Augmented reality has the potential to be a huge leap in the way we view the world—way more than what the advent of personal computers and smartphones ever did. But what will be the implications of integrating such a technology in the world of Internet of Things (IoT)?

The future lies in the integration of AR technology with the IoT ecosystem in a way that it creates business value not only for organisations but also for their customers.

The integration offers immense opportunity for industries to explore the potential and create viable business value propositions for the customer ecosystem. So, be it quicker and more efficient repair and maintenance of products during after-sales service or delighting the customers at point of sale by offering instant customisation and design services for a new super-bike they are about to order, the possibilities are endless.

The integrated technology will open up various possibilities towards smart manufacturing and transform plant, process and after market operations across various manufacturing industries, such as automotive & aerospace, industrial manufacturing, or consumer electronics & products. Internet of Things, automated technologies such as robotics and augmented reality will embed intelligence, analytics, and predictive maintenance to make the devices and machines talk to each other, opening up various possibilities.

Take for instance, the global manufacturing major Caterpillar Inc. Caterpillar effectively leverages AR to really ‘augment’ its field service engineers and make them much more effective. The engineers can use an AR glass or a smartphone to get virtual step-by-step live instructions on how to perform machine repair and other maintenance tasks effectively1. At the same time, the IoT can make the machines smarter, embedding sensors and intelligence that can monitor and generate data so that meaningful action can be taken on time in order to prevent any downtime. So IoT, coupled with AR has the potential to significantly enhance the overall aftersales manufacturing customer experience.

In the coming years, the integrated AR-IoT technology would become the face of development in all spheres and create immense business value for companies globally. The research firm MarketsandMarkets estimates the global Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) market to be valued at $151 billion by 20202. The key drivers to the adoption of IIoT include the need to identify potential failures in machines to avoid downtimes, predictive maintenance, real time analytics, and creating newer business models and revenue streams.

What remains to be seen is how ‘big businesses’ are going to tap its potential in an integrated way that would soon become a necessity for growth and development amidst the fast-changing digitalisation landscape.

1.    Caterpillar Innovation News: A Whole New Reality
2.    MarketsandMarkets: Industrial IoT Market by Technology, Software, & Geography - Global Forecast to 2020)

- By GH Rao, President and Global Head of Engineering and R&D Services at HCL Technologies

The thoughts and opinions shared here are of the author.

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