Deploying a new reality

Jon Arnold, vice president of sales for EMEA at RealWear, explains why MSPs and resellers should consider embracing augmented reality

For many, augmented reality (AR) is seen as a technology that is set to grow in prominence, and arguably it is one that is now more eagerly anticipated than virtual reality (VR) in terms of its real-world capabilities. For those not familiar with the technology, AR takes the existing world and overlays digital information on top of it. Essentially it augments a user’s perception of their environment, unlike VR which is a simulation of reality. Nowadays, many smartphones have inbuilt AR-capable software, along with other handheld and wearable devices that offer AR support such as head-mounted displays or smart glasses.

There is a broad range of levels along the extended reality (XR) spectrum, beginning with assisted reality which is the closest thing to the physical world but allows a screen positioned in a user’s field of view, then moving to augmented reality with a digital overlay onto the physical world, followed by mixed reality, which moves across AR and VR, and then into virtual reality, a full digital simulation.

AR is often misconceived to be in somewhat of an infancy stage as a technology. Like many other technologies, there will of course be further innovation, advancements and developments to come. The technology has very much moved out of the “early adopter” phase, with a growing list of industries starting to recognise the value of AR. We are now starting to see use cases in a multitude of applications, from leaders in energy, manufacturing and the automotive industries toinsurance, aerospace and the healthcare sectors, to name a few, deploying the technology.

For resellers and managed service providers (MSPs) considering adding AR to their portfolio, there are a number of reasons to embrace the technology category. AR is at the forefront of cutting-edge technology that is being utilised in industry, and it is set to grow to $72.7 billion in the next three years, with 88 per cent of mid-sized companies already using AR in some capacity. By getting ahead of the game by offering AR now, resellers and MSPs can ensure that they are ready when mass adoption hits. Not only will they be in a position to meet demand, but they will also be familiar with the technology at a time when more customers plan to deploy it in their enterprise.

Resellers and MSPs shouldn’t solely be looking at the transactional resale value of AR hardware as the key metric of success. There are a number of support services that should be wrapped around the AR offering, such as providing training for end-users and custom-built apps, developed to address particular use cases. Configuration services are also part of the AR package, putting resellers and MSPs in a position to deliver the hardware pre-configured for the end-user, so that they simply turn it on, and it works on the company Wi-Fi, out of the box. It is not uncommon for companies to opt for tailormade AR apps and software, which presents another revenue opportunity for the channel.

Resellers should also consider which hardware to offer. For industrial use cases, enterprise wearables that can be operated hands-free via a user’s voice are the best solution as this means that users maintain full situational awareness. In other scenarios, an end-user may opt for AR software to operate on hand-held devices, such as tablets for instance. In this scenario, offering AR software support presents an opportunity for those users who may already have the hardware in place.

To make sure that opportunities are widely available and that there is increased incentive to adopt AR as an offering, it’s important for AR technology vendors to ensure that when onboarding new partners, they provide them with all of the necessary tools for them to be successful. Training needs to be in place for how best to use the technology and materials need to be made readily available.

A solid distribution network is also vital, and speed of deployment is key, while ensuring that stock is kept local and available to the partner in their local currency is essential. Without the right distribution network, vendors will not be able to scale to meet growing end users needs.

AR presents the channel with an exciting and credible opportunity to target either existing customers, or new ones. Resellers and MSPs just need to arm themselves with the knowledge, experience and know how to effectively deploy and maintain these solutions for their customer base.

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