We made a couple of bets as a company. Smart Glasses being a viable form factor for many commercial scenarios was a big one. Another, equal in importance in many respects, is a bet that data generated by machines of all types can be harnessed to open up new scenarios and ways of doing things.
There are lots of types of machine data out there – the ones I am most enthusiastic about can be broadly described as sensors. Sensors are the things that measure what is happening in the environment and are powerful sources of information for new types of real-time applications.
In particular, applications can be now be made:
Contextual. The smartphone MEMs in your pocket or on your Smart Glasses can provide rich information about user location and orientation. Now an application can be tailored not just to who the user is, but where they are, what conditions they are in, and even make intelligent guesses about what they are doing right at the moment.
Aware. Cheap networking capabilities have enabled companies to connect machines and equipment of all types into their corporate infrastructure. Tracking assets with RFID, monitoring surveillance cameras, processing remote telematics, and capturing data streams generated from embedded controllers create new sorts of information. Business applications can use it to apply policies, correlate events and trigger responses in real-time based on what is actually happening on the ground.
Businesses are asking us how to use this context and real-time awareness to improve their core operations and processes. The first way is basic sensor data collection – create a Big Data on-ramp to enrich analytic models and reports with new insights. While many companies have sophisticated models based on data pulled from their transaction systems or web traffic, very few have effectively captured operational or environmental data.
The next is automation – turn one-way telemetry data spigots into a two way event-driven device control network. Increasing numbers of devices come with embedded chips and controllers, and there is industry traction in defining standard communication protocols and data format. With the right communication and control layer, they become smart machines and can be managed differently than before.
Third, connecting people into the bigger system – send alerts, transactions, workflows and status to people with speed and precision. Too often important operational work, be it on the factory floor, warehouse, in the field, or hospital is done in batch mode. A predefined schedule of tasks, pulling away periodically to check for emails/voice mails or messages, difficult responses to exception conditions, and lacking/missing maintenance or proactive work are all symptoms of people who are working in a system with a slow or missing feedback loop. With real-time, contextual (and hands-free) data access people become seamless part of the overall system, solving these chronic problems.
Skylight has been designed with such a view in mind. Sensors attached to machines and humans create an information fabric that describes what is going on in the real-world, right now. When people talk about augmented reality, it is this reality bit that is the most essential building block.