TREND REPORT: Engaging with augmented reality now and in the future
The concept of Augmented Reality (AR) has existed for many years now – and commentators have remained rigidly sceptical about whether it will truly materialise in our everyday lives. However, exponential advances in the processing power of smartphones, and the ever-increasing use of location-based services based on GPS, have thrust AR back into the limelight in recent months.
Organisations are now looking seriously at how they can adopt AR – in terms of customer engagement, product/service delivery, and back office optimisation. Many believe that AR may in fact be the key to a better digital future: giving us more immersive ways to work, play, learn and collaborate.
Essentially, AR describes the way in which a device (such as a smartphone camera, wearables like Google Glasses, or a videogame motion sensor) uses an application to “see” the real world around us, and overlay augmented features onto that view. These augmented features are aimed at adding value to the user’s experience of their physical environment.
Therefore, one could be looking at Table Mountain through an AR application, and see facts about the species of plants, or the height of the mountain, or see what it would look like if illuminated at night-time, for instance. Alternatively, one could be standing in a department store, and see what an item of clothing would look like if you were wearing it (without actually putting it on).
These may be simplistic examples just to whet the appetite, however, possibilities of AR are quite literally limitless.
In the next three to five years we expect to see AR becoming a mainstream technology concept – blending the physical world and the digital realm in fascinating new ways. We predict there will be three primary areas in which we will initially engage with AR:
The way we consume information
Imagine going to a library or museum and being able to have a “conversation” with key people throughout history, or instantly transform the world around to you resemble a bygone era.
The fields of product development, marketing and customer engagement
Overlaying new digital services into retail environments opens up a host of new possibilities for organisations to tailor products to their consumers.
Back office/operational functions within the organisation
Companies are already finding ways to use AR in their supply chain, logistics and warehousing environments. Find out, for example, if a particular unit is missing from a shelf, for instance.
However, before reaching this utopian world of enhanced reality, a number of big challenges need to be solved. Already there is a proliferation of different AR applications (apps), different development platforms and Operating Systems (OS), and even many different physical devices.
Will the future of AR be seen through high-tech wearable lenses, or through the ubiquitous smartphone, or some form of projection system, or indeed something entirely new? Most likely, different forms of AR will develop for these various form factors.
It’s also worth considering that, until now, we have regarded AR as a primarily ‘visual’ concept. In time, this will likely broaden to encompass audio and even tap into other senses.
For organisations, gaining early-mover advantage will mean finding ways to leverage the various forms of AR to achieve goals such as:
- Improve productivity and simplify processes,
- Provide more useful, more ‘hands-on’ experiences, and
- Enable real-time access to rich data.
Companies making the most of AR will find new ways to visualise problems and their solutions. They will find smart ways to connect AR applications with colliding technology domains like the Internet of Things (I0T), and Big Data.
AR opens the doors to so many exciting possibilities and may, over time, have a massive influence on the way organisations position themselves. As the field continues to gather momentum, the early entrants will be in a unique position to help sculpt the future reality in which we will live and work.
Siemens: Providing the First Industrial 5G Router
Across a number of industry sectors, there’s a growing need for both local wireless connectivity and remote access to machines and plants. In both of these cases, communication is, more often than not, over a long distance. Public wireless data networks can be used to enable this connectivity, both nationally and internationally, which makes the new 5G network mainframe an absolutely vital element of remote access and remote servicing solutions as we move into the interconnected age.
Siemens Enables 5G IIoT
The eagerly awaited Scalance MUM856-1, Siemens’ very first industrial 5G router, is officially available to organisations. The device has the ability to connect all local industrial applications to the public 5G, 4G (LTE), and 3G (UMTS) mobile wireless networks ─ allowing companies to embrace the long-awaited Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT).
The router can be used to remotely monitor and service plants, machines, as well as control elements and other industrial devices via a public 5G network ─ flexibly and with high data rates. Something that has been in incredibly high demand after being teased by the leading network providers for years.
Scalance MUM856-1 at a Glance
- Scalance MUM856-1 connects local industrial applications to public 5G, 4G, and 3G mobile wireless networks
- The router supports future-oriented applications such as remote access via public 5G networks or the connection of mobile devices such as automated guided vehicles in industry
- A robust version in IP65 housing for use outside the control cabinet
- Prototypes of Siemens 5G infrastructure for private networks already in use at several sites
“To ensure the powerful connection of Ethernet-based subnetworks and automation devices, the Scalance MUM856-1 supports Release 15 of the 5G standard. The device offers high bandwidths of up to 1000 Mbps for the downlink and up to 500 Mbps for the uplink – providing high data rates for data-intensive applications such as the remote implementation of firmware updates. Thanks to IPv6 support, the devices can also be implemented in modern communication networks.
Various security functions are included to monitor data traffic and protect against unauthorised access: for example, an integrated firewall and authentication of communication devices and encryption of data transmission via VPN. If there is no available 5G network, the device switches automatically to 4G or 3G networks. The first release version of the router has an EU radio license; other versions with different licenses are in preparation. With the Sinema Remote Connect management platform for VPN connections, users can access remote plants or machines easily and securely – even if they are integrated in other networks. The software also offers easy management and autoconfiguration of the devices,” Siemens said.
Preparing for a 5G-oriented Future
Siemens has announced that the new router can also be integrated into private 5G networks. This means that the Scalance MUM856-1 is, essentially, future-proofed when it comes to 5G adaptability; it supports future-oriented applications, including ‘mobile robots in manufacturing, autonomous vehicles in logistics or augmented reality applications for service technicians.’
And, for use on sites where conditions are a little harsher, Siemens has given the router robust IP65 housing ─ it’s “dust tight”, waterproof, and immersion-proofed.
The first release version of the router has an EU radio license; other versions with different licenses are in preparation. “With the Sinema Remote Connect management platform for VPN connections, users can access remote plants or machines easily and securely – even if they are integrated in other networks. The software also offers easy management and auto-configuration of the devices,” Siemens added.