The Augmented Reality (AR) market continued to create value in many market segments in 2019. We did see struggles in the smart glass market as Magic Leap failed to meet unrealistic expectations and a number of AR companies collapsed including Meta, ODG, Blippar, and Daqri. However, we did see AR take hold in a few markets including product promotion and remote expertise.
The Remote Expertise segment of the Augmented Reality market performed extremely well in 2019 in two big segments: technical support and field service. The idea of remote expertise is simple. You have a problem and need help. The expert who can help you solve the problem is somewhere else.
Augmented Reality has been applied to Remote Expertise to allow subject matter experts to project their knowledge and skill to a remote colleague or customer requiring assistance. The technology merges the two live video streams into a single environment. This allows the expert to be virtually present and interact in real-time to help resolve a problem.
The simplicity of remote expertise makes it incredibly powerful for problem solving. Why has Remote Expertise been so successful in producing value for service organizations? I see five reasons why Remote Expertise has resulted in so many successful AR deployments:
- Enabling Technologies are readily available. Over 3 billion people own smartphones. Remote expertise works on all of those existing iOS and Android phones as well as desktops, laptops, Windows tablets, and smart glasses. Promising smart glasses are beginning to emerge, but while we wait for lightweight, comfortable, binocular smart glasses with an all-day battery life, we can rely on the mobile devices already in our pockets. Analysts recognize that a mobile-first strategy around AR makes sense to reduce cost and friction of deployment. The broad availability of mobile devices provides a primed infrastructure for remote expertise.
- Low cost of deployment. Unlike the digital AR market which involves the costly development of digital AR content, Remote Expertise requires no content development. Remote Expertise keeps the human in the loop and your experts already have the experience required to solve problems in the field. Deployments using existing smart devices result in no capital investment and low friction to engage with field techs and customers.
- Fits within existing workflows. Remote Expertise does not require changes to your existing technical support and field service workflows. Customers that call in can receive support from a remote expert as a simple improvement to existing voice calls. Field techs can access expertise from anywhere in the world with the tools already in use. The Field Service Management, Call Center, or Customer Relationship Management tools you already use support issue-oriented workflows which can easily accommodate a new remote expertise channel in the existing omni-channel workflow. The people and processes you are already using accommodate remote expertise seamlessly.
- Rapid Return on Investment. Key service problems such as the aging workforce, the shortage of field technologists, the growing demand for uptime, and the Uberization of service demand that problems be solved more efficiently and quickly than ever. Remote Expertise helps address all these problems. The careers of aging experts can be extended by getting your most skilled field techs off the road to support the less experienced, next generation. As you reduce second trips and solve some problems without a dispatch, you can serve customers with fewer field techs – helping with the labor shortage. You can support less experienced techs in the field and provide on-the-job training with remote experts (monetizing techs sooner with shorter training cycles). Uptime can be dramatically improved in many cases. Time to problem resolution can be reduced and innovative service programs can generate new revenue streams. Because the rollout of remote expertise can be done with your existing tools, processes, and people, you can begin to produce value in the first weeks and produce a positive ROI within the first months.
- Easy Adoption. Everyone is into video calls these days! Gen X uses video in just about every context and baby boomers are using video calls to chat with their grandchildren. Remote Expertise is an extension to video calls so it is comfortable and familiar to just about everyone. Remote expertise can reduce the adoption friction even further with browser-based calls so users don’t even have to download an app. Gestures in merged reality are a natural way to guide someone through problem resolution. Our smartphones have become an extension of our arms, so the learning curve can be short and the value creation can be immediate.
If you are looking to make an investment in Augmented Reality, Remote Expertise is an excellent option. Remote Expertise is a practical tool that can deliver value quickly to transform many areas of service delivery. The technology has been proven by early adopters and we saw many influential organizations deploy Remote Expertise in 2019. The market is accelerating in 2020 as competitive pressures require that companies deliver higher quality service to their customers.
Gary York is CEO of Help Lightning and an enthusiast of Augmented Reality and emerging technologies.