Augmented Reality: The Next Digital Utility for Business


When Apple releases its new iOS and next-generation iPhone8 and iPhoneX, it will debut with them its new augmented reality platform ARKit, which – like the original iPhone – will radically change daily life. Apple’s ARKit and Google’s AR platform ARCore promise to commoditize AR capabilities, bringing them to life for well over two billion iPhone and Android users around the world.

Will these AR capabilities really change your life? Think about this. When was the last time you saw an NFL football game and didn’t see the yellow first-down marker superimposed on the television screen in the right location on the field regardless of camera angle? In fact, if you’re like me, you find yourself wondering why the players can’t see it because it’s a part of your reality. And who hasn’t heard of Pokèmon GO? Taking advantage of its own AR platform and your mobile device, Pokèmon GO saw a meteoric rise in app downloads and daily average usage. In fact, just months after its release, it had more installs and greater daily usage than both Instagram and Twitter, according to data provided by SimilarWeb.

Still not convinced AR will change your life? Let’s take a walk down memory lane. When Steve Jobs announced the first iPhone just ten years ago, it converged the camera, video, music, texting, cell service and touch screen functionality into a single platform. For those of us old enough to buy one, life was altered forever from that moment on! What had been accomplished with three or more separate devices could now be accomplished with a single device that quickly made itself indispensable.

Since then, both Apple and Google have made strides that have turned mobile phones into critical tools for daily life. Business travelers like myself couldn’t function without them. We connect real-time with clients, family and colleagues. We check email, share experiences through pictures and words on social media platforms and conduct millions of dollars in commerce every year all through mobile devices.

And now here comes AR on your mobile device. Mark my words, our lives are about to change dramatically again. For most of us, an hour does not go by without checking email, texts, Facebook, Twitter or Snapchat. Soon I expect we also will measure our interaction with AR applications on an hourly basis.

With predictions as high as 6.1 billion smartphone users by 2020, it’s easy to imagine almost every person around the globe will soon be impacted by AR. And let’s not forget – though mobile devices will be the primary platform to propel AR’s commoditization and daily use – they are not the only way people will interact with this digital technology. AR works with digital glasses or visors – and even with the windshield of a car.

Applications for AR are truly limitless. Think of a virtual concierge that can lead you through a crowded convention center to your destination. Or consider how it might help you buy that new couch for your living room. Ikea has announced it will release an app built using ARKit that will allow its customers to virtually place couches and other furniture in their own homes. AR will turn how-to videos for working on a car or do-it-yourself projects like building a deck into visual instructions with a site-specific overlay right on top of your job site.

Sound complex? Both Apple and Google are making it easier to work with their AR platforms, powering applications that go beyond basic visual overlay and enable much broader capabilities – and at a relatively low cost. Both platforms seek to commoditize AR and visual queuing, allowing applications to recognize if you or something in your field of view respond to certain elements of change. Combined with touch, telemetry, depth perception, accelerometry, local-coordinate positioning, two-dimensional geometry and other environmental element-recognition functionality, the smartphone applications running on these AR platforms will put highly technical capabilities into the hands of the public at mass scale for the first time at mass scale.

According to long-time industry pundit Kevin Hart, Apple’s biggest hardware enhancements for the iPhone are the A11 processor and the OLED screen. Hart says the combination of these two enhancements will “unleash greater realism of digital content super-imposed over our real-world environment while increasing continuity of experiences and geospatial augmented reality.” Hart is CEO of Aireal, a leading geospatial AR platform and solutions provider that has brought solutions to sports, entertainment, automotive and architecture industries over the past several years.

The question, then, is not what can AR do, but what can AR do for your business? Imagine being able to perform logistics assessments in an empty warehouse where AR can overlay virtual inventory and shelving at a new location. Optimizing the space and layouts prior to landing heavy equipment, fixtures and inventory can eliminate productivity losses and save time and money. Imagine AR assisting doctors in the operating room and helping nurses locate veins to start an IV line. Nearly every industry has applications today.

How can AR benefit you or your customers? Does your business have an AR Strategy? 

ISG Digital Services advisors can bring you the insights, creativity and practical applications of AR or other digital technologies to build or enhance your digital strategy. Have an idea or a question about AR, I’d love to hear them. Contact me directly.

About the author

Todd Dreger is a Partner and the Chief Marketing and Strategy Officer at ISG. A business strategist and turnaround expert, Todd has more than 20 years of internal and external sourcing experience that spans all aspects of information technology and business processes. His perspective has been shaped by stints as a sourcing procurer, service provider and advisor. He develops creative yet practical strategies and solutions that preserve a corporation’s culture while navigating challenging economic conditions. He has served clients in India, Israel, Eastern Europe and Central, North and South America. Todd has a bachelor’s degree in strategic management from the University of North Texas and an MBA from the University of Texas at Dallas.