What is Extended Reality (XR)?
It’s the year 2030, and you have a busy day scheduled. You need to check on your production lines in China, visit Mars during your lunch break, and attend a business meeting in Brazil – all from the comfort of your office in New York.
While it might sound far-fetched now, this future might be within our grasp thanks to advancements in Extended Reality (XR). Today’s infographic from Raconteur illustrates the growth of XR technology, and its potential to transform business across industries.
Understanding Extended Reality
To understand Extended Reality (XR), we’ll begin by defining three of its main components: virtual, augmented, and mixed reality.
Virtual Reality (VR) applications use headsets to fully immerse users in a computer-simulated reality. These headsets generate realistic sounds and images, engaging all five senses to create an interactive virtual world.
Augmented Reality (AR) is not a new reality, but a layer on top of your existing one. Rather than immersing users, AR relies on a device – usually the camera in your phone or tablet – to overlay digital graphics and sounds into a real-world environment. Pokémon Go and Snapchat filters are commonplace examples of this kind of technology.
Mixed Reality (MR) lies somewhere in between VR and AR. It blends real and virtual worlds to create complex environments where physical and digital elements can interact in real time. Like AR, it overlays synthetic content in a real-world environment; and like VR, this content is interactive, and users can manipulate the digital objects in their physical space.
With their Spectator View, Microsoft has used MR as a complement to their HoloLens AR product. The Spectator View app offers users a third-party perspective of a HoloLens user and their AR content in real time.
Extended Reality (XR) is the umbrella term used for VR, AR, and MR, as well as all future realities such technology might bring. XR covers the full spectrum of real and virtual environments.
The use of an umbrella term speaks to the future of XR as a fundamental shift in the way people interact with media. In the future, instead of saying “I’m using AR to attend a business meeting” – it will just be another day at the office. People will interact with the real and virtual worlds in seamless ways, without mention of extended reality’s distinct categories and their underpinning technology.
To use an umbrella term is to recognize the intersection of these technologies, and the many ways they will work together to disrupt our everyday tasks.
XR for Business
Extended reality is changing the landscape in a number of industries. It’s expected to grow eightfold, reaching an estimated market size of more than $209 billion by 2022.
A glance at current use cases shows the potential for XR across industries:
XR brings immersive experiences to the entertainment world, and offers consumers an opportunity to virtually experience live music and sporting events from the comfort of their VR headset. While a majority of market share leans heavily towards entertainment, it’s not the only one gearing up for a virtual expansion.
Virtual realities have opened new ways for brands to engage with consumers, offering immersive ways to interact with new products.
Extended reality opens new avenues for training and education. People who work in high-risk conditions – like chemists and pilots – can train in safety from a more conventional classroom setting. Medical students, meanwhile, can get hands-on practice on virtual patients.
- Real Estate
Property managers can streamline the rental process by allowing potential tenants to view properties virtually, while architects and interior designers can leverage XR to bring their designs to life.
- Remote Work
XR removes distance barriers, allowing remote employees to seamlessly access data from anywhere in the world.
Extended reality is not without its challenges. The spread of data presents a new layer of vulnerability for cyber attacks, while the high cost of implementation is a barrier to entry for many companies.
But even these challenges can’t slow the progress of XR, and the question remains: how will businesses define reality five years from now?
The World’s Tech Giants, Ranked by Brand Value
Tech giants and e-commerce brands are thriving—and running circles around less pandemic-proof brands.
The World’s Tech Giants, Ranked by Brand Value
The pandemic has businesses everywhere on the ropes, with many firms filing for bankruptcy since lockdowns began. Despite the uncertainty, tech giants and major digital retail brands are still thriving—and some are running circles around those that are less pandemic-proof.
Using data from Kantar and Bloomberg, a recent brand report released by BrandZ shows which tech companies are proving their worth to consumers during COVID-19 chaos. With data covering almost 4 million consumers, BrandZ also reveals that the tech sector leads the world’s 100 most valued brands in terms of financial power and consumer sentiment.
Here’s how the top 20 tech brands from the report stack up:
|Rank||Company||Brand Value (2020)||Change (%)|
|#1||🇺🇸 Apple||$352 billion||+14%|
|#2||🇺🇸 Microsoft||$327 billion||+30%|
|#4||🇨🇳 Tencent||$151 billion||+15%|
|#6||🇺🇸 IBM||$84 billion||-3%|
|#7||🇩🇪 SAP||$58 billion||0%|
|#9||🇺🇸 Accenture||$41 billion||+6%|
|#10||🇺🇸 Intel||$37 billion||+17%|
|#11||🇺🇸 Adobe||$36 billion||+29%|
|#12||🇰🇷 Samsung||$33 billion||+7%|
|#13||🇺🇸 Salesforce||$30 billion||+13%|
|#15||🇨🇳 Huawei||$29 billion||+9%|
|#16||🇺🇸 Oracle||$27 billion||+2%|
|#17||🇺🇸 Cisco||$26 billion||-9%|
|#18||🇺🇸 Dell||$18 billion||-2%|
|#19||🇨🇳 Xiaomi||$17 billion||-16%|
|#20||🇨🇳 Baidu||$15 billion||-29%|
Out of the top five tech brands, Microsoft made the biggest moves with 30% brand value growth. Other big movers in the top 20 were Instagram (owned by Facebook), Adobe, and LinkedIn (owned by Microsoft), rising 47%, 29%, and 31%, respectively.
Broken down by nation, U.S. brands are dominating tech’s heavy hitters, claiming 14 of the world’s top 20 tech brands. Chinese brands round out much of the remaining top 20, including tech entertainment and social media giant Tencent, which rose 15% in brand value since 2019.
Big Tech’s Heavyweights
Tech’s top brands are raking in billions of dollars, capturing consumer mindshare, captivating people, and comforting them during volatile months. Apple, Microsoft, Google, Tencent, and Facebook—tech’s leading contingent—have made those moves look easy during what are rough times for many world brands.
While most tech brands in the upper half of the top 20 saw significant increases in brand value, only Facebook and IBM were in decline from 2019, at -7% and -3% respectively. The biggest loss in tech’s top 20 came from China’s Baidu, which fell by -29% in 2020.
Waning consumer trust, thanks in part to the perceived misuse of personal data, is a gap that tech’s popularity alone won’t fill forever. (Following the Cambridge Analytica scandal, nearly 25% of Facebook account holders reported being “extremely” or “very” concerned about their personal data.)
Coming in at eighth place, Facebook-owned Instagram gained 47% in brand value—a huge percentage, but less than the whopping 95% growth it had in 2019.
On the whole, digital apps have been faring well during the pandemic, especially those built for entertainment, shopping, social connection, and delivery.
These brands had anticipated, even invented, the online-offline dynamics of modern life that became indispensable for survival during the lockdown homebound weeks of avoiding the contagion.
— BrandZ 2020 Global Top 100 Report
Top Brands, by Category
While the brand value growth rates of tech giants aren’t entirely immune to the effects of COVID-19, the likes of Apple, Microsoft, and Google are growing steadily, surpassed only by e-commerce leader Amazon.
With data collected into April 2020, BrandZ’s report on the world’s top 100 brands reflects multiple shifting needs and consumer concerns at a categorical scale.
While consumer affinity for e-commerce and social media brands has increased, fast food and beer brands took a hit, despite reports of increased alcohol consumption and food delivery during lockdown. It would seem then, that consumers have been valuing their tools and means of consumption.
Of the report’s 14 brand categories, only six increased in value, mostly by less than 5%. Of the top risers, six were tech brands and six were mainly e-commerce.
Other upwardly mobile brands were those in the apparel and personal care categories. Much like retail, those categories had an increasing reliance on technology to deliver their products.
The above chart shows overall categorical changes for 2020 led by retail, tech, and insurance. In the opposite corner, energy, and bank brands took the biggest hits.
Rolling with the Punches
The economic impacts of COVID-19 are undeniable. Even still, BrandZ’s top 100 brands marked a steady increase of 6% in value in 2020, compared to 7% the previous year.
This pandemic has offered up era-defining change, with tech and e-commerce seizing the day. But in a climate where nothing can be taken for granted, brands large and small are still taking their knocks.
For now, the brands that are embraced by consumers will be those that can apply a salve to the blows that 2020 keeps delivering.
Connected Workers: How Digital Transformation is Shaping Industry’s Future
This graphic explores the role connected workers play in achieving successful digital transformation and identifying new growth opportnities.
Connected Workers: Shaping the Future of Industry
Digital transformation has upended businesses on a global scale, and no industry is immune from its powerful effects.
New technologies and enhancing customer experience are key drivers for companies investing in digital transformation, but the most important reason for prioritizing this shift is that it will allow them to leverage entirely new opportunities for growth.
However, with the speed of digital transformation accelerating at a furious pace, companies need to quickly adapt their working environment to keep up. This graphic from mCloud unearths the origins of the connected worker, and explores the potential applications of connected devices across industries.
The Rise of the Connected Worker
The mass adoption of smart devices has sparked a new wave of remote work. This type of working arrangement is estimated to inject $441 billion into the global economy every year, and save 2.5 million metric tonnes of CO2 by 2029—the equivalent of 1,280 flights between New York and London.
However, flexible or remote working looks different depending on the industry. For example, in the context of business services such as engineering or manufacturing, employees who carry out different tasks remotely using digital technologies are known as connected workers.
The term is not a one-size-fits-all, as there are many different types of connected workers with different roles, such as operators, field workers, engineers, and even executives. But regardless of an individual’s title, every connected worker plays a crucial role in achieving digital transformation.
Real Time Data, Real Time Benefits
When workers are connected to assets in real time, they can make better, more informed decisions—ultimately becoming a more efficient workforce overall. As a result, industries could unlock a wealth of benefits, such as:
- Reducing human error
- Increasing productivity
- Reducing dangerous incidents
- Saving time and money
- Monitoring assets 24/7
While connected workers can enhance the potential of industries, the tools they use to achieve these benefits are crucial to their success.
Connected Worker Technologies
A connected device has the ability to connect with other devices and systems through the internet. The connected worker device market is set for rapid growth over the next two decades, reaching $4.3 billion by 2039. Industries such as oil and gas, chemical production, and construction lead the way in the adoption of connected worker technologies, which include:
- Platforms: Hardware or software that uses artificial intelligence and data to allow engineers to create bespoke applications and control manufacturing processes remotely.
- Interfaces: Technologies such as 3D digital twins enable peer-to-peer information sharing. They also create an immersive reflection of surroundings that would have otherwise been inaccessible by workers, such as wind turbine blades.
- Smart sensors and IoT devices: Sensors that monitor assets provide a more holistic overview of industrial processes in real time and prevent dangerous incidents.
- Cloud and edge computing: Using the cloud allows workers to communicate with each other and manage shared data more efficiently.
Over time, connected devices are getting smarter and expanding their capabilities. Moreover, devices such as wearables are becoming more discreet than ever, and can even be embedded into personal protective equipment to gather data while remaining unobtrusive.
Real World Applications
With seemingly endless potential, these devices have the ability to provide game changing solutions to ongoing challenges across dozens of industries.
- Building Maintenance and Management
Facility managers can access real time information and connect with maintenance workers on site to resolve issues quickly. Building personnel can also access documentation and remote help through connected technologies.
- Task Management
Operators in industrial settings such as mining can control activities in remote locations. They can also enable field personnel to connect with experts in other locations.
- Communications Platform
Cloud-based communication platforms can provide healthcare practitioners with a tool to connect with the patient, the patient’s family and emergency care personnel.
By harnessing the power of artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things, and analytics, connected workers can continue to revolutionize businesses and industries across the globe.
Towards a More Connected Future
As companies navigate the challenges of COVID-19, implementing connected worker technologies and creating a data-driven work environment may quickly become an increasingly important priority.
Not only is digital transformation important for leveraging new growth opportunities to scale, it may be crucial for determining the future of certain businesses and industries.
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