We are pleased to have another great article in one of Australia’s premier business publications – The Australian’s The Deal magazine – highlighting the growing market of wearable technology, and showcasing b2cloud as the leaders in this area of development.
MELBOURNE-BASED Josh Guest has been developing applications for Google Glass for the past nine months.
- Glenda Korporaal, The Australian, April 17, 2014 12:00AM
Working with partner Luke Smorgon from offices in the Melbourne suburb of Armadale, the two founders of app developer b2cloud are among a handful of Australians involved in the Google Explorer program to develop possible uses for the product.
Others include Sydney-based Rob Manson and partner Alex Young, whose app development company, buildAR, specialises in developing business applications using augmented reality — computer-generated, three-dimensional “reality” for products including virtual reality headset Oculus Rift.
Meanwhile, Brisbane-based Hugh Geiger, founder of Ollo Mobile, has been spending the past few months in the US to raise funds for his around-the-neck monitor for seniors, called the CloudPhone 3G, which he plans to release later this year. The CloudPhone, which Geiger describes as being part of a “smart-care system for seniors”, could also be released in the US if discussions with US phone company Sprint come to fruition.
Working at the forefront of the technology curve, they see wearable technology as the next big thing after the revolutionary smartphone.
Like others who are developing potential applications for Google Glass, Guest is wary of naming clients looking at potential applications for a product that still has no official release date either in the US or Australia, but Telstra is one of them. Founded four years ago, as an app developer, the company has worked for clients such as law firm Minter Ellison, Virgin Mobile and health insurance group Bupa.
“There are two ways to look at Google Glass,” says Guest, b2cloud’s managing director, who has become a regular wearer of the Glass. “There is a consumer application and then there is the business application. We are focusing on the business applications.”
Guest says logistics are a potential area of use for Google Glass or similar products. A worker in a warehouse wearing the Glass, for example, could choose a box to move as directed by their computer-linked headgear, have the product scanned and then moved to its required destination. Using wearable technology allows the person to have their hands free while they work and still receive data, phone calls and information. It also allows the wearer to take photographs or to connect with a person in another location who can potentially see what the worker is doing, almost through their eyes.
It also has potential for people working in remote areas to allow someone based at another location, say head office, to see exactly what the worker is seeing. “It provides hands-free computing,” says Guest. “The technology is no longer getting in the way. There are some really serious business applications we are going to see. This could revolutionise logistics and warehousing. This is definitely going to happen.
In a short time, consumers will have it in their hands and will expect to connect with it.”
Guest, who was named one of the top-10 Australian entrepreneurs to watch this year by website Smart Company, estimates that developing applications for wearable technology will generate more than 30 per cent of the company’s annual revenue of about $1.5 million this year.
BuildAR co-founder Alex Young says the combination of wearable technology such as Google Glass or Oculus Rift with augmented reality applications has potential in the workplace and in other areas such as education and training.
“We are working with Google Glass to create a training and simulation environment which is like a virtual world,” she says. “Everyone has been quiet at the moment about what they are working on. Things are going into stealth mode until it becomes a public platform. But we have had lots of interest in Australia in the education and training sector.”
Young and partner Rob Manson have been generating interest in the potential of wearable technology, from Google Glass to wristbands, through meet-up groups in Sydney and Canberra.
After putting news of their first meet-up in February on social media, they received more than 100 applications to attend but they confine their monthly groups to a maximum of 40.
“We have had a huge amount of interest. People are curious about the explosion of wearables in the market,” Young says. “People in Australia are very much at the exploration phase at the moment, seeing how it will fit into their business.”
Young began working on developing software for learning systems and then moved to Optus, where she was involved in the user experience team for interactive television. In 2007, she and Manson decided to set up their own business.
“We could see that the food of devices with these predicted technologies was starting to become a reality,” she says. “There is a greater sense of connectedness, of being ‘always on’, being closer to the network. We really wanted to help people to be able to play in that space.”
BuildAR has recently launched a Kickstarter crowd-funding program to raise funds to help develop their augmented reality ideas into more commercial applications.
In the future, Young sees wearable technologies becoming smaller and less noticeable and integrated into people’s clothing.
“Wearable technology is the next big thing,” she says. “Wearable devices are going to get smaller and become invisible over time. They are going to interact more and more with sensors that are embedded in the environment around us.”
Geiger’s wearable tech product is focused on providing help for seniors. After a great-aunt fell in the shower and broke her hip, Geiger decided to develop a product that would allow the family to keep in touch with her. He and his colleagues have been developing the CloudPhone in Brisbane for the past two years. It is a device to be worn around the neck with a voice-activated 3G phone connection.
“It will work anywhere, not just in the house or the home,” he says. “It is voice controlled, so the person wearing it can instruct it to call someone. But it also monitors a person’s fitness.
We can provide a dashboard so you can see how physically active you are and compare it to others.
We want to make it useful for managing the health of the wearer as well.”
Geiger says the CloudPhone will sell for about $249 retail with a $30-a-month phone plan. “The response has been really positive,” he says. “We have had a lot of support from aged-care and from senior health organisations. We want to bring the family together and make it easier for families to be involved in supporting older people.”
Geiger says the limitations of battery life are currently hampering the greater development of wearable technology. He wants the CloudPhone to have 10 days’ battery life, which means it will initially be bigger than he would like.
Geiger and his Ollo Mobile colleagues were invited to an accelerator meeting in Kansas City last month, which focused on the use of mobile phone technology for the healthcare industry.
The group met the chief executive of Sprint, Dan Hesse, in Kansas City and is hoping for a longer-term connection with the company.
“Sprint have opened their doors to us and are supporting our development by making resources available,” says Geiger. “They are really keen to drive mobile health. And we are really at the forefront of what these things can do.”