How Augmented Reality (AR) Technology May “Disrupt” SMBs

Woman using a virtual reality headset
  • November 29, 2016
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Every year Gartner, one of the world’s largest technology research companies, unveils predictions of developments in information technology for the coming year and the next decade. In its “Top Strategic Predictions for 2017 and Beyond” report, the advisory firm identified 10 instances of “Digital Business Innovation” that researchers believe will create “disruptive effects” and have “wide-ranging impact on people and technology.”

“At the core of future outcomes in the notion of digital disruption,” says Daryl Plummer, a managing vice president and Gartner fellow. “Which has moved from an infrequent inconvenience to a consistent stream of change.”

Here is one of Gartner’s predictions that we believe may “disrupt” small to mid-size businesses (SMBs) the most:

“By 2020, 100 million consumers will shop in augmented reality.”

Unlike Virtual Reality (VR), which creates a totally artificial environment for users, Augmented Reality (AR) integrates digital information with the user’s physical environment in real time. AR has been around for more than 20 years. Football fans, for example, have been experiencing AR in the form of the yellow “first-down” line that appears on-screen during televised games. Baseball fans have seen AR in the form of the graphically generated “strike zone” displayed during replays of pitches. A more recent example of AR is the popular “Pokemon Go” mobile game.

Gartner believes businesses of all shapes and sizes will begin layering digital information in the form of text, images, video and/or audio on top of the physical world in their stores and workshops. Retail applications seem obvious, as buyers virtually place items from a showroom into their home, yard, work place or other physical space. But there are many business-to-business possibilities, too. Imagine architects and construction workers walking through job sites as tablet apps layer images of actual blueprints over the structure. Or healthcare technicians reviewing images from an MRI mapped across an actual body.

Of course, much of this new technology will run as software on mobile devices already ubiquitous in organizations. So, to a degree implementing AR apps will soon be business as usual. But like the Internet of Things (IoT), AR surely will create plenty of new issues and challenges to manage, too. And as usual, it will fall to SMB leaders to put the “smart” into smart devices and configure them in ways that deliver value to their businesses and their customers. And more and more Managed Services Providers (MSPs) are helping SMBs with this strategic evolution by providing operational support beyond “saving expense and cutting costs.” Here are three ways:

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