Jon Arnold, VP of Sales, EMEA, RealWear, Inc. tells PCR about the latest in wearable devices and how RealWear products have been instrumental in defending against the Coronavirus out in the field.
Please tell me a bit more about RealWear?
RealWear provides organisations with the ability to deploy full enterprise digitisation into the most austere and challenging working environments.
The company’s flagship product is the HMT-1, a ruggedised head-mounted wearable Android-class tablet computer that frees a worker’s hands for dangerous jobs. It features a purpose-built form factor, voice-controlled interface and advanced noise cancellation capabilities.
RealWear’s ‘Reality First, Digital Second’ approach enables industrial workers to receive in-situ information and in-the-field training with software and hardware while maintaining full situational awareness.
A growing number of leading global companies have now publicly endorsed and embraced RealWear for empowering and connecting their global workforce together for the first time. Brands like BMW, Shell, Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles UK, Lexus, China’s State Grid, Groupe PSA, Italgas and Colgate-Palmolive have all made public statements.
What technology solutions does the company offer?
RealWear develops hands-free headsets designed from the ground up to address the unique needs of industries ranging from Oil & Gas, Logistics & Transportation, Manufacturing, Healthcare and Automotive. With RealWear, industrial workers can take full advantage of the freedom and efficiencies that come with purpose-built, wearable computing.
Approved for ATEX & IECEx Zone 1 and CSA C1-D1, RealWear’s HMT-1Z1 continues to be the world’s only commercially available head-worn device that presents no ignition risks during routine operations in potentially explosive atmospheres.
Additionally, hundreds of authorised software developers, including Cisco and Microsoft, have built and optimised voice-enabled apps for use on RealWear’s devices. This tidal wave of adoption has created an ecosystem of world-class software partners, resellers and systems integrators.
What markets does this serve?
We are thriving across all industries, including energy, manufacturing, healthcare and automotive – anywhere a worker needs their hands for the job and needs access to a computer to safely connect to their machines, processes and teams. Field services, plant operations–and now accelerated by the pandemic–auditors, inspectors and even business executives are depending on the device for business continuity and resiliency.
Why has the channel started to show a heightened interest in AR?
Customer demand for Augmented Reality (AR) solutions has officially graduated from hype to reality. The technology has also matured considerably. It’s feasible to use AR on a day-to-day basis, reliably and accurately, even in potentially hazardous environments.
The channel is also aware of the progress that has been made with the technology and can see how AR has many applications in the workplace, whether that workplace is a warehouse, an oil rig, a hospital or a conventional office. This is relatively new technology with a simple, easy to explain value proposition and a very compelling return on investment. RealWear offers our partners an effective tool in building a new business campaign.
What role can it play in facilitating transformation across any workplace?
As we mentioned, AR has shifted from being a ‘big idea’ with a bit of hype to today, where it’s taken root. In business, customers are finding new and meaningful applications for it from retail all the way to workers on top of wind turbines. Businesses are beginning to hear about its advantages across a broad spectrum of industries, ranging from training and simulation all the way to leveraging AR for workers in factories; in that scenario, assisted reality enables users to maintain full situational awareness thanks to RealWear’s voice-operated headset. The rise in Industry 4.0 applications and Internet of Things (IoT) that integrate AR will only serve to drive further adoption. The next wave of innovation and new use cases will occur with the widespread roll-out of 5G and further advancements in cloud services, which will accelerate or complement organisations’ digital transformation plans.
How is this useful given the current situation with the global pandemic?
New use cases are literally springing up daily. One particularly good example of the benefits of AR, is from Vestas Wind Systems AS. Since deploying RealWear’s headsets, Vestas was able to continue the ramp up of its new modular product development platform despite its highly skilled workers and engineers to inability to travel.
With its high-resolution camera and noise cancellation functionality, the HMT-1 headsets allowed for second line support in production and testing sites and provided real-time connection to more skilled resources at remote locations.
With the HMT-1, Vestas is also able to address the changing workforce in the wind industry – 30% of which is set to retire in the next 10 years – by deploying the HMT-1 to transfer knowledge and step-by-step technical work instructions to the field.
What specific involvement has the company had during the Coronavirus response?
When the virus began spreading in China, our joint venture RealWear China donated devices to help firstline workers and doctors connect remotely. The rapid response effort was greatly appreciated by Chinese workers and the patients to keep things safe with open lines of communication.
In addition, we amplified promotions that our partners made who offered free remote collaboration software licenses on RealWear devices. It was a team effort and although many of us are small, together we made a big difference.
Beyond COVID19 how is AR helping drive productivity and efficiency?
AR reduces travel time and cost by allowing communications to occur remotely, so a worker gets the right information at the right time. Workers are also able to access guided workflows, which reduces errors, as well as a machine’s IoT data for quicker fixes and preventative maintenance.
Please could you tell me a bit more about the release of Microsoft Teams on RealWear’s HMT-1 and HMT-1z1?
For a couple of years, we worked behind the scenes with Microsoft in a business development effort. Microsoft has its own vision of empowering workers, so our objectives aligned from the start. When it announced the beta (public preview) of Teams in March, the demand was so great that within a few weeks there had been literally thousands of downloads, which continue to drive significant sales opportunities in Europe and beyond. The release has many of the familiar features of a meeting collaboration tool including chat, calls, and meetings. The new release announced in early November includes improved resolution and frame rate for live streaming calls as well as the Join Meetings function – two high demand features. What makes it unique, aside from being voice-controlled, is that the remote expert on the other end of the line sees what the worker sees (point of view) as s/he observes a specific scenario in a factory, for example.
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