Better Together: The Power of IoT and AR for Enterprises
Leading companies in the world are evaluating or executing an IoT strategy, and increasingly also evaluating the impact of AR on the enterprise. If either are part of your enterprise strategy, you should be thinking about maximizing the potential value of both with a single IoT and AR strategy.
The power of the IoT is everywhere. Maybe you have apps on your phone that you use to select music sources on your Bose speaker, or request Uber on a night out. IoT is transforming the physical world by bringing new capabilities and insights to our fingertips. Embedded with sensors and connectivity, the ‘things’ in the internet of things help achieve new possibilities by turning data they gather and transmit from the physical world to the digital into actionable insights. But at the end of the day, these insights are trapped – within a screen, an app, or a dashboard while we experience the world in rich 3D color and sound. With all the buzz around the power of the IoT, ‘there’s an app for that’ has now become an encumbrance rather than an empowerment.
AR, is emerging as another powerful technology to capitalize on the increasing volumes of data. AR superimposes data and information from the digital world back into our physical environment to experience it in a single, combined context. Within this single context humans can leverage the data and insights from the digital world while taking action in the physical. AR is the critical interface to enable humans to capitalize on vast amounts of information and insights available by connecting those insights to the physical world in which decisions and actions are made. To achieve this, AR requires data and insights which are contextually relevant to the user’s immediate physical surroundings to enhance their experience.
So we have IoT that generates enormous volumes of data about the physical world, and AR that superimposes digital information on a human’s view of the physical world. Not since the 1980’s Reeses’ Peanut Butter Cups TV commercials when it was uncovered that chocolate and peanut butter are "two great tastes that taste great together" has a better match been made. IoT generates real-time context-enhancing digital insights while AR superimposes them back into our surroundings.
For example, factory workers now rely on information from connected assets to perform their own functions. But often this information is interacted with separately through an HMI that requires workers to move back and forth between digital and physical experiences. With AR, physical and digital interfaces are combined into a single experience to inform human action in real-time, maximizing the usability and value from these new data and insights. Complementary and interconnected, each bridges the gap between the physical and digital worlds in ways that enhance the value of each.
For some, this synergy is quickly becoming a competitive advantage and for others, an impossible task involving costly development and systems integration. To avoid finding yourself in the latter group, consider these best practices:
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle: AR initiatives require 3D content and contextually relevant data to deliver business value. Reduce development efforts by reusing existing IoT data, product documentation, and CAD and PLM files to develop these experiences. Recycle business processes, talent, and content from your IoT initiative to drive killer AR experiences with minimal effort.
Physicalize the Digital World: Today many IoT initiatives digitize the physical world with text and numbers. This adds a layer of abstraction for workers trying to make sense of this data. Look to Digital Twin initiatives to recreate a physical object in the digital world in its whole, leveraging CAD, PLM, and other existing documentation to enable simulation and analysis in real-time. Not only will this make dashboards more user friendly for desk workers, but these Digital Twins can directly inform AR experiences for field-workers to take action.
Don’t Lift Above Shoulder Height: Computer vision and spatial positioning of content is hard. Integrating back-end IoT infrastructure with AR apps in real-time is even harder. Rather than build from scratch, look to your technology partners for platforms and solutions that make IoT and AR experiences seamless and scalable. The digital business of the future operates with a fully connected ecosystem or digital thread, unified by their technology systems.
Many companies are approaching these technologies in isolation with different teams and systems sailing on their own winds. But as companies begin to approach these technologies together and explore their relationship to one another, they will quickly realize how naturally they enhance each other. The combination of IoT and AR represents the greatest opportunity for each to meet their true potential.
Jonathan Lang is Principal Analyst for PTC’s Thought Leadership group. He is an accomplished technology market analyst, providing advisory to the full ecosystem - investors, enterprises, and vendors - on the impact of emerging technologies and digital transformation. Jonathan enjoys the outdoors and spends his weekends backpacking, rock climbing, and gardening.