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March 12, 2012

Travel, navigational assistance and more using mobile augmented reality

Augmented reality (AR) is an area that has been attracting much interest and hype, but has it really delivered? We at Infosys have been actively looking at market trends and we believe that mobile AR is a key area to watch out for. Smart phones are becoming quite ubiquitous today and being equipped with digital camera, GPS, compass, gyroscope etc. they make an ideal device for bringing mobile AR applications to the masses.

We at Infosys are seeing that one of the most promising areas of application of mobile AR is navigation and travel based applications - this area is seeing an increasing adoption by customers. This growth is being triggered by an optimum combination of smart phone hardware and software, which is now available at an affordable price for tech savvy consumers. Especially during travel, people are looking at ways to quickly obtain specific information regarding directions, food and drink, places to see, reviews, entertainment, ATMs etc. Using mobile AR, by pointing their smart phones at a particular direction, travelers can view the relevant details overlaid on the live camera video stream and obtain information instantly. Further, buildings, streets, restaurants etc. can be immediately identified.  Though maps are helpful to obtain directions, they are not as intuitive or user friendly as overlaid information. It is like the difference of someone pointing out to a place or direction while describing it verses explaining the same using a map. Some examples of mobile AR travel applications are Wikitude World Browser, Lonely Planet AR Travel Guides and Trip Advisor Virtual Tour (for iPad).  Apart from these, there are applications available to assist navigating to a specified destination such as Wikitude Drive and TapNav for use in cars/vehicle. There is an interesting car safety application called iOnRoad, which when the smart phone is attached to the vehicle windscreen uses the live camera feed to detect distance from other vehicles, lane departures etc. and provides real time alerts accordingly.

For the enterprise as well as educational institutions, one of the promising applications of mobile AR technology is campus tours. This could be a boon for new joinees and visitors to the campus, who can simply point their smart phones in any direction to get details of buildings, cafeterias and other facilities. Further, when there is an event the mobile AR application can be used to display the event schedules, venues, speakers and much more. At Infosys we have developed a campus tour solution and have enabled it for some of our campuses. Here is a sample screen shot:


This application can be extended for manufacturing units where factory buildings and equipment can be identified as well as their status displayed using mobile AR, which can help staff on the field. At this point, it seems that mobile AR is coming of age and this is the right time for firms to invest in this area.

March 5, 2012

The future of retail banking with Microsoft Surface

Microsoft Surface is getting a big facelift with the commercial launch of the 2.0 version developed in collaboration with Samsung. Here is a quick listing of what's new. We at Infosys having worked with customers in the past on the earlier Surface platform are all excited about this. Especially the thinner design that supports vertically mounting and the lower cost of this new version expands the scope of potential business applications. One particular domain that is showing much promise is retail banking.

Microsoft Surface can help generate customer interest in financial products, increase sales and reduce processing cycle time. We are exploring Surface being used at retail banking branches both as a self-service kiosk as well as a discussion tool for customers with banking sales representatives. The bank can issue credit or debit cards featuring identity tags using which customers can identify themselves by placing these on the Surface table. Alternatively identification can be achieved by placing their cell-phones, which might need a preinstalled application that communicates with Surface via Bluetooth. Similarly banking sales representatives can have identity cards with these tags to identify themselves and manage information using Surface.

As a customer self-service kiosk solution, we are looking at Surface to provide details of accounts, financial products like loans and credit cards, assist in monetary planning for retirement or children's education, logging service requests etc. As a discussion tool, while deciding on a loan, a banking sales representative can bring up interactive visualizations of loan amount, installments, tenure etc. to help the customer choose the right combination. On similar lines, a comparison between benefits of different types of accounts such as fixed deposits, recurring deposits etc. over different periods can be graphically displayed. We are considering alternative approaches for transferring the desired information to the customer such as using Bluetooth to the customer's cell phone or emailed directly from Surface. If the customer confirms a transaction, details could be transmitted to the appropriate system for further processing.

Banks have already started taking steps towards adopting Microsoft Surface. Deutsche Bank has been leveraging Microsoft Surface as a customer advisory tool at its futuristic bank branch at Berlin. The Royal Bank of Canada is using Surface as a tool to attract new customers (among other uses) where tagged brochures are mailed to potential customers to encourage them to visit the branch, place the brochure on the surface and if they are lucky, win a prize. Barclays bank at London has been using Microsoft Service for interactively displaying benefits of their products and is targeted towards existing and potential premier customers. Given these trends, it appears that adoption of Microsoft Surface by retail banking branches is set to steadily increase in the days to come.  There is much competition between banks nowadays and Microsoft Surface can be a differentiator to attract more customers.

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