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5G will enable new possibilities for the mobile workforce

How AI, AR and VR will boost productivity beyond the traditional office

A woman wearing a VR headset while people stand around her

Artificial intelligence (AI) along with augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) hold great potential to transform the way businesses and their teams work.

The arrival of 5G mobility comes at a time when these technologies are coming into their own. Greater bandwidth capacity and ultra-low latency, available with 5G connectivity, will enable these technologies to be deployed untethered, putting them closer to where mobile employees work while on the go. This creates a wave of new possibilities for productivity and performance gains in the mobile workforce.

Here are simple definitions to help differentiate AR, VR and AI.

Augmented reality enables the user to overlay computer graphics onto their view of their immediate environment, typically with a mobile device.

Virtual reality can create a fully immersive experience in a computer-generated world. A headset and sometimes other wearable technology are required. 

Artificial Intelligence is the ability of a computing system to simulate the thought processes of humans, including reasoning, problem solving, learning, using language and more.

Most new mobile devices entering the workforce today, including Google's Pixel phones, Apple's iPhones and Huawei's Mate line, are equipped with AI sophisticated enough to use AR and VR technologies on the go. Some companies, like IKEA and Sephora, are already leveraging this technology in the consumer markets to engage customers. The Ikea Place app lets customers shop for furniture and place it in there home or office before they purchase through the power of augmented reality. Similarly, Sephora offers customers a variety of augmented reality experiences to test everything from cosmetics, to clothes and even their virtual scent program.

Here are three use cases for AR and VR in the mobile workforce and how they can boost productivity and efficiency with the coming of 5G mobility. 

AR as a decision-making tool

Making information accessible from anywhere is a key aspect of mobile team productivity. But for many businesses, data can be complex, and simply making it available without explanation creates more indecision than paths forward.

Business decisions often rely on group buy-in or approval to move forward. As a result, teams find themselves booked into frequent meetings to build consensus, which can be time consuming and negatively impact productivity. Video conferencing and screensharing technologies have helped significantly, but AR enabled by 5G mobility has the potential to add a new level of visualization to meetings.

For example, imagine a sales rep trying to explain to her colleagues and managers how a new product display will fit into existing store shelves across multiple locations. Sharing a photo or video of a single location and talking through options may help, but it leaves room for misunderstanding and limits the opportunity for collaboration.

An AR application powered with 5G connectivity will allow the same sales rep to overlay a live view of the product display captured on her mobile device in the retail space and share it with her colleagues in real time. Everyone on the team can immediately be on the same page, discuss and resolve potential issues and reduce or eliminate the need for costly in-person visits to physical locations.

Collaboration in the physical and digital worlds

Fifth-generation mobile connectivity will take the above example even further. Imagine taking the mechanics of web-based conferencing (like video and screen sharing) and expand it into a three-dimensional experience that integrates the physical world with computer- and voice-generated visuals.

Platforms like Spatial make it possible to transform your physical space into an interactive meeting room. Connecting from many mobile devices along with AI technologies like Google Glass or Microsoft HoloLens, remote employees can interact and collaborate with colleagues as if they were in the same room. They can also share information, notes and images through their mobile devices and pull that media into the augmented reality, collaborating in a virtual boardroom. This technology should eventually take mobile collaboration to a new level, effectively collapsing the physical distance between remote workers and the office by bringing them face-to-face in a virtual world.

VR as a training and safety tool

Maintaining efficient teams that work outside the traditional office can be difficult when you consider varied working styles, locations and devices. To maintain a high level of performance and ensure company standards are met, some are using VR simulation to train employees before they go out into the field.

One company continuing to increase its use of VR for training purposes is UPS. Without the need to pull trucks off the road and designate them for training purposes, the delivery company can train its drivers for operational safety, company delivery policies and ensure every employee is equipped to meet company standards before they hit the road. With UPS’s driver safety training, students are immersed in a realistic streetscape and learn how to identify potential hazards on the road like pedestrians and oncoming traffic.

Enabled by 5G mobility, VR and AR solutions will not only make work from anywhere easier; they also have the potential to improve the effectiveness of mobile teams.