How a Crappy Consumer Product Started Saving Time, money and, in some cases, lives
The Enterprise Wearable Technology Summit started off on the right foot. Thanks to the quick acting, always accommodating team at Lux Research, I was able to nab a last-minute invitation to see the biggest, brightest and most widely adopted solutions in the wearable space at 2017's close. This story takes place in Boston but begins a few years back and roughly 3000 miles west.
Google Glass started off in 2013 as a colossal launch followed by an equally as rapid, equally as colossal failure. Alphabet's moonshot seeking organization X - the same entity most recently publicized for deploying balloon powered internet over a distressed Puerto Rico - had convinced themselves that "AR was THE consumer platform of the future". Shoppers were going to engage with products in new ways; dogs would walk themselves; cars would read signs for us; blah blah blah. The only problem? They forgot to ask the consumers what they thought about the proposition. But what began as a mega flop from an otherwise unscathed heavyweight in the Valley tech scene has slowly reemerged as one of the most exciting technology platforms in all of the manufacturing space. Google Glass, a modern day Phoenix.
Given that I am a relative newcomer to the uses of AR & VR technology in the enterprise, I truly couldn't have asked for a better learning opportunity than was presented by Zach Bloomgarden and the BRAINxCHANGE team, coordinators of the EWTS. During the course of the two day conference, mega industrial players like DHL, John Deere, BASF, Cisco, GE, and Siemens presented their experiences, successes and even some failures as related to these novel technologies.
Meanwhile, the demands of these mega firms were met with exciting presentations from a handful of entrepreneurial firms helping accelerate this once nascent technology into the mainstream. A trail once lonesomely blazed by Google's most far-fetched idealist is now being set upon by hardware and software firms from around the globe. (Google, the ultimate source of FOMO for tech heads?) . Upskill, Proceedix, Realware, Vuzix, Bartec and a host of other upstarts took stage to showcase their latest developments. Ne'er to pitch without discussing what large corporates could do better to enable their "game changing" technology, they also divulged some of the challenges facing industry before adoption at scale is possible. Words and phrases like Bluetooth, solution integration, data transfer, process optimization, Six Sigma and full stack offering, the most beloved buzzphrase of all techies, flew around like Expelliarmus* spells at a Harry Potter convention.
*This isn't to say the learning was any less valuable, though as a slight aside, firms both big and small should heavily consider ditching the consultant speak for good old fashioned English. Attending a tech conference is always easier when one doesn't need to hire someone from Deloitte as a translator.
My primary objective in attending the conference was to learn more about the wins and losses experienced by companies with similar use cases to Evonik. (It is always easier to convince the boss when you can flaunt the "look what so and so is doing" card!) To that end we've begun exploring potential use cases for the technology. In doing so, as tends to be the case with any novel exploration, I've identified three primary pillars of resistance.
- Lack of integration with legacy systems and existing workflows
- Lack of intrinsic safety considerations for dangerous environments
On a positive note, many of the hardware vendors in attendance were all over this topic, promising 1Q2018 releases of their "IS certified headgear". Well, 2018 is here RealWear, ODG, Vuzix and Google Glass, so we are looking for you to deliver soon.
- Lack of willingness to test / adopt novel technologies