by Spencer Gisser | 04/25/2019
Qualcomm Technologies, Inc., RealWear, and UROS announced plans to provide 10,000 RealWear HMT-1 and HMT-1Z1 devices to front line industrial workers in Kazakhstan. UROS, a Finnish technology company focusing on connectivity solutions across industrial, natural resource and smart city segments. Per the agreement, UROS, will deploy RealWear HMT-1 and HMT 1Z1 devices to workers in Kazakhstan. It is not particularly clear who specifically in Kazakhstan will be using the devices with the announcements making only loose references to “Digital Transformation” initiatives underway in the country. However, VDC has confirmed that this is a real order with commitments to fulfill the 10K units by the end of 2019.
Make no mistake – at 10K units – this is a major deal for the industrial wearable market and more specifically the smart glass/heads up display/AR solution segment. As evidenced by Google (Glass), ODG and Meta this is an extremely tough market to crack, plagued by technical, ergonomic design, user safety and general user acceptance issues. In all fairness to RealWear, they would not classify themselves as a smart glass and/or AR company describe their solution as a “ruggedized head-mounted wearable Android tablet computer”. What RealWear has recognized almost from inception was a clear understanding of who its target market was….and wasn’t. The distinction between enterprise/B2B and consumer is an obvious one. But event beyond that, RealWearwas laser focused on address the need of the remote mobile knowledge worker for whom worker safety, hands free operations and real-time access to digital content and services is paramount. While this might limit the overall opportunity it also provide the team a key filter to minimize distractions. Moreover, and more so than others, the team has been able to identify and articulate the primary applications suitable for this class of device TODAY, further simplifying their go to market. Focusing on remote assist and knowledge transfer provided the key hooks upon which to later build applications that are more sophisticated. While certainly not trivial or simple, RealWear has avoided the trap of attempting to fast forward technology that is not ready for prime time. Where RealWear has innovated is around voice integration and noise cancellation technology.
So what about AR and more immersive mixed reality solutions? While these have been slower to develop due to technology performance limitations, the upside potential remains. From a purely B2B perspective, Microsoft and its recently upgraded HoloLens stand out. The HoloLens 2 is the first of Microsoft’s smart glasses to be realistically deployable for frontline workers. The original HoloLens had the best tracking system of any smart glasses provider, a foundational capability that is crucial for some use cases such as shipboard navigation. Although the first HoloLens was widely considered an ergonomic failure, the HoloLens 2 is more comfortable and can be worn for a longer period of time (although not an entire shift). The HoloLens 2 is priced at approximately $3,500, nearly $1,500 lower than the list price for the original HoloLens. This dramatic difference is still far above what many organizations would be willing to pay for smart glasses technology, but it makes the HoloLens 2 available for real-world deployment.In November 2018, Microsoft won a $479M contract to supply the U.S. Army with a version of the HoloLens augmented reality headset. The U.S. Army could purchase up to 100,000 of these devices through this contract.
We are now beginning to witness adoption of head-worn mobile solutions at scale in the enterprise. Improvements in price, technology, and ergonomics have reduced the leading barriers to adoption for this form factor enough for the private sector to begin investing. From a purely hardware perspective we see RealWear and Microsoft leading this wave with their well-designed and differentiated devices and focused target market efforts.
View the 2019 Enterprise Mobility & Connected Devices Research Outline to learn more.