Andrea Minonne (Senior Research Analyst, Customer Insights & Analysis)
Erica Spinoni (Research Analyst, European Software)

The use of smart glasses for business purposes has dramatically accelerated over the past few years in Europe, and the COVID-19 outbreak has fueled the trend.

In 2020, people and businesses have had to adopt new habits and come up with new ways to live with COVID-19. This means trying to minimize the impact on their lifestyle but also guaranteeing business continuity in the era of social distancing, lockdowns, and quarantines. Social distancing has revolutionized office spaces, human interactions, shopping habits, customer care provision, and service support. But how are companies overcoming the restrictions on human contacts while complying with social distancing obligations to keep their businesses running?

Better Humans, Better Enterprises, Better Societies

Augmented humanity (AH) technologies have the power to benefit not only businesses, by simplifying their processes, but also society, by connecting remote realities.

Consider the case of a faulty asset that needs immediate fixing in the era of social distancing. There are two scenarios. One would be stopping the machine while waiting for the expert to travel to the premises, disrupting processes and creating possible financial losses. The second scenario would involve deploying AH technologies, such as AR smart glasses, that enable the organization to get quick and real-time support from the technician.

AH solutions offer a number of benefits, for business and society:

  • For business, companies providing support for asset maintenance and repair can cut the costs of sending technicians onsite. Companies with an asset failure can reduce asset downtime and fix time, as real-time assistance is provided.
  • For society, sparing technicians the need to make long-distance journeys lowers carbon emissions, reduces organizations’ carbon footprint, and enables them to achieve their social responsibility objectives. Companies are not only “greener,” but the use of smart glasses and AR also enables them to comply with social distancing measures, especially at a time when movement is restricted by regional tiers.

In addition, not having to travel and not having face-to-face interactions helps to contain the spread of the virus, which in turn reduces the risk of employees getting sick.

Real-Life Case: Epson’s Moverio Smart Glasses

Epson’s Moverio smart glasses connect onsite staff with remote technicians, enabling visual and verbal guidance to fix technical issues, support repair work and maintenance, and assist onsite training.

The Moverio AR display provides a live detailed video feed that can be reviewed and annotated over the user’s field of view by the remote expert. This enables the wearer to receive instructions in real time, including onscreen annotations, documents, and user guides, while working hands-free.

Moverio AR smart glasses are also being offered as a value add as part of service contracts, with manufacturers of advanced machine equipment supplying the glasses to their customers to enhance their on-call remote servicing and repair offering:

  • Siemens uses the smart glasses in remote troubleshooting, training, and quality control, and to exchange real-time information to get support from technicians.
  • Saargummi SG (NEO) uses the smart glasses as a “virtual remote control” for training and step-by-step problem solving, using AR to share knowledge and increase productivity.
  • Comexi is using the smart glasses to transform its customer support. It used to provide aftersales assistance and customer care through phone calls and emails, but with the adoption of smart glasses it can now provide full remote assistance to customers. The real-time troubleshooting through smart glasses has created added value and has become a key differentiator for its aftersales service.

Analyst Opinion

COVID-19 has clearly had an impact on the IT market, but some technologies have remained fairly resilient thanks to their ability to bring positive outcomes to business and society. Many start-ups, as well as leading tech providers, are offering smart glasses embedding AR, AI, and thermal imaging features to spot potential COVID-19 positive individuals. This can help to assess social distancing compliance, monitor patients, and conduct hands-free virtual training within hospitals.

As a response to business continuity needs, European companies are augmenting their employee capabilities through cutting-edge technologies such as AR and smart glasses to enable remote teamwork, remote assistance, and support. Not only do they enable adherence to social distancing, but they also help companies to meet some of their digital-agenda priorities, such as supply chain digitization, self-healing asset augmentation, and real-time customer support.

Benefits go beyond just the business. The same companies that are deploying AH techs are also more likely to meet their sustainability targets, such as cutting carbon emissions and reducing their environmental footprint, if their technicians are traveling less.

Looking ahead, use cases such as AR and smart-glass-enabled remote assistance will become the new normal. These technologies will accelerate innovation but also speed up processes and improve enterprise efficiency and agility. Interest in the solutions is strong and AH is only at the beginning of the exponential growth that it will see in the years ahead.

According to IDC’s Worldwide Augmented and Virtual Reality Spending Guide, European companies will spend almost $9 billion on AR by 2024. There is a wide range of use cases, such as industrial maintenance, emergency response, and logistics and package delivery management. In the next five years, we will see the emergence of AR solutions also for use cases around assisted surgery, anatomy diagnostics, and retail showcasing.

 

For more information on IDC’s augmented humanity research, please get in touch with Andrea Minonne, senior research analyst and European lead for the Augmented Humanity Launchpad at IDC’s Customer Insights and Analysis.

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