Two augmented reality and wearable device use cases that made me say “Ah-ha!”

The horizontal use cases may be limited, but a relatable vertical use case can be enlightening.

I was at the ET Exchange conference this week. It’s primarily a strategy-level conference about digital transformation, but it has its roots in enterprise mobility, and I spent a lot of time talking to attendees about their approaches to EMM, Windows 10, and other apps. I have a bunch of takeaways to write up in the coming weeks, but for now I wanted to do a quick post on some interesting case studies I heard.

Now that mobility and SaaS have been around for a while, we’ve been thinking about what will bring the next huge change for end user computing—think virtual reality, augmented reality, machine learning, natural language processing, smartwatches and glasses, and IoT.

So far, in a lot of cases we’re finding that we can put new technologies in existing buckets. For example, now that we’re used to a heterogeneous device environment, smartwatches and glasses are just one more thing to add to our EMM/UEM. Machine learning (so far) is just application logic, not a new app format to deliver or secure. (IoT is a whole different story, of course.)

Anyway, while we’ve been looking at these from the IT side, it can be helpful to think about how these fit in on the business side. I’ve been playing with iOS ARKit since it came out, and I’ve worn an Apple Watch for years, but this week, I heard some enterprise-oriented use cases that made me say “Ah-ha!”

The first use case came from a large beverage company that puts coolers, vending machines, and displays in retail stores. They recently started using augmented reality apps running on iPads so that their salespeople can help retail store managers decide where to place the coolers and vending machines in stores. Previously, they would have issues where coolers were placed in awkward locations or block foot traffic, and the beverage company would have to send out people to move them. Once they started using the app to visualize everything beforehand, they reduced the need for those extra trips.

The second use case came from Samsung and a restaurant chain, Buffalo Wings and Rings. They gave Samsung smart watches to servers and other restaurant staff, so that the servers could be notified when the host seated a new party at one of their tables, or when an order was ready. If the servers aren’t able to respond quickly, the notifications can get escalated to somebody that can jump in. I worked at restaurant when I was in high school, and one of the things that I did was run after servers to tell them when they got tables. Sure, I was young, so I could run all day, but I would love to have had a system like this.

I’ve also heard of use cases that seem like stretch, like using virtual reality instead of videos to train new employees because they would get bored and not pay attention to the videos. The novelty might be engaging at first, but I think it would wear off pretty fast, and then it’s still just boring training.

Wrap up

These aren’t horizontal use cases, but it really helps to hear stories that give that “ah-ha” moment. As I mentioned, I’ve been playing with AR apps, but hearing about the real world use cases is encouraging. And for the smartwatch use case, it’s great to be able to relate from personal experience. Certainly we’ll all have a lot more of these moments as these and other new technologies mature.

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