7 steps for a successful assisted reality pilot with smart glasses

There is a real art to successfully conducting pilots, and relatively new technologies like assisted reality can make it even harder to get it right. In recent years, we’ve completed our fair share of pilots with smart glasses. Some weren’t a success, others turned into worldwide implementations. Based on internal surveys with our employees, it quickly became clear that the successful pilots had certain things in common. From all these experiences, we created the 7 steps for a successful assisted reality pilot.

7 steps for a succesful assisted reality pilot on smart glasses

Identify a use case: start small

As a first step, you’ll have to find a use case. Yes, assisted reality can be great, but it still depends on what you’re going to use it for. Technology is a means, not an end. Assisted reality for the sake of assisted reality will not make anyone happy. Today, smart glasses are primarily used for remote assistance, workflow assistance and picking/kitting. You should sit down and carefully analyze the current state of your operations. Could this particular process be improved, would it benefit from introducing wearables and would a failure during a pilot disrupt your daily activities? Did you answer yes to all three? Congrats, you’ve identified your use case!

When selecting a use case, try to set realistic expectations. We’ve seen companies try to do everything at once or start with the most complex procedure or with something they haven’t really figured out themselves. All three scenarios will very soon lead to frustration. When introducing new technology, it’s important to foster buy-in and enthusiasm as soon as possible. A small first success sets you on the right track, whereas doing everything at once disperses your effort and introduces too many stakeholders into a small project. If your first encounter with a technology is a negative one, you’ll probably shift the blame to the technology instead of the complex nature of the process.

Software and hardware: think big

You’ve identified a problem and a use case. Now it’s time to explore the market and see which solutions are out there. Assess all potential software vendors carefully. Don’t only take into account what they offer for this single use case, but also what they could mean to your company on a larger scale. Does it solve your problem? Can they support a complete deployment and does their product have the features to take it to the next level? How quickly can they offer a first solution? These are all questions that you should ask yourself at some point.

Smart glasses: Vuzix M300, Iristick.Z1, Glass Enterprise and Realwear-HMT1

You should also scrutinize your devices and hardware vendors. First thing to decide upon is which type of mobile device to use: tablet, smart phone or smart glasses. For every type of device, there’s a lot out there on the market. Every brand of smart glasses for instance has its strengths and weaknesses and would make more or less sense for a particular use case.

Identify the most important KPIs

Once everyone has signed off on the use case and the suppliers, you can set metrics. When the pilot nears its end, you’ll have to present the key findings to senior management and, hopefully, make a case for an implementation. Telling them you “think things have changed for the better” probably won’t cut it. Numbers are essential if you want to convince people. It’s equally important to track KPIs prior to the start of the pilot. Your pilot numbers will only stand out if you can compare them to the original situation.

What benefits can you realistically expect from assisted reality? This will vary from pilot to pilot and our clients have reported a wide range of benefits: In assembly, you might be interested in time savings, faster learning times for new employees or error reduction. In quality control and preventative maintenance, the full traceability, immediate digitization of data and improved communication between departments could be your gamechangers.

Appoint a dedicated project leader

You know what you’re going to do, with whom you’ll be doing it and how you’ll measure success. Now it’s time to appoint your project head. Leadership is important in every single project. If no one is in charge of the project, you can be certain that nothing will happen. This leader is the point of contact internally as well as externally. He or she keeps the project moving in the right direction. This isn’t necessarily – and in most instances will not actually be – the person who took the lead in the first three steps. The project leader should be close enough to the operations to be involved on a daily basis. Take a step back and assess which engineer or manager would be the right person for the job. 

Set up a timeline with explicit milestones

Prior to the official kick-off of the pilot, set up a timeline with all relevant stakeholders and make goals and milestones explicit. Even after conscientiously completing the first 4 steps, you’ll quickly realize that many questions remain unanswered. Broaden your scope and include all stakeholders. These are not only your suppliers and your project leader, but also representatives from IT, operators and maybe even HR departments. How much time do you and your partners need for preparation? When will you hold a first test? When are you planning to go live? What support is needed from whom? Will you connect the smart glasses with a guest or corporate network?

Remember that the timeline is not a one-way commitment. You also have skin in the game. Which internal obstacles do you need to conquer to ensure that your software and hardware partner can meet their goals? Which security restrictions need to be sorted out?

Try, fail, improve, repeat

You’ll fail the first time you go live. Or the second time. It might not be spectacular, it might be something in the details, but you should fail eventually. Common knowledge holds that you’ll learn the most from failures. And it’s true. Don’t try to make things perfect before going live, create something good, try, improve and repeat.

Using smart glasses in AGCO Jackson

Iterations are very important in a software pilot. The question is how fast do your suppliers allow you to re-iterate? Can you make improvements yourself or do you have to wait for them to make changes to the code? Lengthy iteration cycles risk draining the life from your AR pilot. With Proceedix, we leave everything in the hands of the customer. They define the work instructions and can deploy it in a matter of seconds. It keeps your foot on the gas pedal and guarantees the quickest results.

Prepare for scale-up

An AR pilot isn’t just testing a use case and validating software, it’s also preparing a full-scale implementation. As soon as you feel that the pilot is moving in the right direction, you should plan a full roll-out. This means discussing and analyzing integrations and requesting license fees. Before the end of the AR pilot, it should be crystal clear to you what you would need for a full implementation in terms of budgeting, human resources and IT support. Merge these findings together with the identified KPIs and general conclusion. You’ll then be able to fully defend your pilot and take it to the next level.