With careful planning, the public sector can deploy augmented reality to improve operations and deliver services to citizens when it matters most, according to industry experts.
AR overlays digital information or visual enhancements onto a person’s real-world field of vision. For example, the yellow first-down line superimposed on the football field during televised NFL games is augmented reality. Today, virtual information is overlayed onto smartphones, tablets, head-mount displays, smart glasses, airplane and vehicle windshields, and even on patients’ bodies.
The technology has the potential to enhance a variety of government tasks, including building inspections, fleet maintenance, planning and risk assessment, security, search and rescue, and training. However, agencies must create the IT platforms and data management capabilities required to make AR work. For example, real-time data visualization on AR-equipped goggles hinges on advanced analytics and data management capabilities, says Mark White, chief technology officer for Deloitte Consulting’s Global Consulting Technology division.
Tapping the Power of Wearable Technology
David Fletcher, chief technology officer for Utah, views AR and wearable technology as a natural extension of an evolving mobile world. Utah.gov this year launched the first transit tracking application for Google Glass, UT OnTime, that lets residents track public transit data in real time and receive SMS notifications when a bus or train is nearby. A map helps them find public transportation stops and routes.
Utah already had a mobile version of the UT OnTime app, so the IT team tapped the same back-end infrastructure. “We just had to create a new front end for the wearable device, which was easy to do with Google Glass,” Fletcher says.
Fletcher envisions several government uses for AR. For instance, many state agencies use mobile devices for planning and risk assessment, where it’s useful to incorporate photographs of the interior dimensions of a facility. Other areas include fleet maintenance, where technicians with wearable glasses could read barcodes and order machine parts, and inspection of buildings or Utah’s petroleum facilities. Even small unmanned aerial vehicles could be dispatched to areas ravaged by disaster and send back video to emergency workers using wearable devices.
Using AR to Improve Safety
According to a Deloitte report, “Augmented Government: Transforming government services through augmented reality,” AR can improve security screening at travel hubs, border crossings and public events: “For example, contextual checklists overlaid on security officers’ vision could help standardize operations and make it possible for officers monitoring large areas to share and re-create 3D visuals and capture images in real time.”
Moving forward, the public sector needs some good pilot studies that demonstrate how AR can improve a range of tasks. “We all would like to see augmented reality extend beyond the tools or catalysts for existing processes and be a core element of new ecosystems being created,” such as cloud computing, UAVs, and geospatial and predictive analytics, says Alan Holden, a senior consultant with Deloitte and an author of the AR report.