Apple, Samsung and Snapchat: a tipping point for AR wearables
As rumours surrounding Apple’s new augmented reality (AR) glasses solidify into a timeline, revealed at an internal presentation to employees at the company’s Cupertino campus, that will see it release an AR headset in 2022 and a pair of AR glasses the following year.
The AR market has been steadily growing over the past half decade, being valued at $16.8bn this year. However, consumer wearable applications have been more or less restricted to the gaming space so far and, while AR has opened up significant opportunities for value creation regarding maintenance, training and analytics in the commercial space, mass adoption hasn’t been achieved yet. Experts believe however, that this adoption point is imminent; the global AR and virtual reality (VR) market is predicted to expand significantly in the next few years - exceeding $160bn in 2023.
In the same way that the iPod electrified the mp3 player market, as the largest player in the wearables space, Apple’s decision that it’s time to get into the AR game could be a very significant domino in the cascade towards that $160bn market size.
Apple has reportedly been working on AR glasses for a while now, and the reported reason behind the relatively distant release of its own glasses is not the technology itself, but the speed of the network it runs on.
The iPhone wasn’t the first smartphone, the iPod wasn’t the first mp3 player, and the Apple Watch wasn’t the first smart watch. Apple isn’t a company that takes the first step into a new market, but the one that more often than not redefines that market and boosts consumer adoption to unprecedented levels. Sure, it’s late to the AR and VR game, but maybe that isn’t a bad thing.
Google’s ill-fated Glass project launched way back in 2014, to a somewhat mixed reception; Microsoft recently released the second version of its Hololens headset which, at $3,500, will probably only find a home in the commercial sector - or with the US military; Google even quit on its VR and AR hardware ambitions this week, making its Cardboard headsets open source; and Snap, the company behind the popular social media app Snapchat, launched its third attempt at a popular set of AR glasses today. Priced at $380, the Snap Spectacles 3 have been referred to as having “unpredictable and uncontrollable AR effects.” The major issue is that video and images taken on the glasses’ 60-fps, 1216 x 1216 pixels resolution cameras then needs to be exported via Bluetooth to Snapchat’s app - and then exported to a camera roll if you don’t want to post it to Snapchat - where it is then uploaded to Snapchat’s servers, scanned and re-downloaded to the user’s device to apply filters. The process reportedly takes about 35 seconds over superfast wifi, and significantly longer on a mobile connection.
The added clunkiness of uploading and downloading from cloud servers in order to process AR video may be one of the key elements behind Apple’s decision to delay its entry into the AR market. In July, the company paid $1bn for Intel’s smartphone modem business, acquiring a swathe of patents, equipment and more than 2,200 employees, all with significant expertise in 5G.
Apple is ostensibly using the purchase to power its first generation of 5G iPhones, but 5G connectivity - along with increased edge computing power - is clearly an essential ingredient to its success in bringing out a strong AR offering.
Apple isn’t alone in thinking that the AR market may be approaching a tipping point. Last month it was reported that South Korean tech giant Samsung has also filed a patent for its own AR headset that will include “individual projection screens for each eye, two cameras, and what appears to be either a small speaker or an area filled with venting holes.”
While we may be a few years away from a pair of AR glasses that are affordable, or at least do enough to justify the price, the applications for commercial and consumer use are getting clearer all the time and, if 5G and edge computing make them run fast enough, that $160bn market size might start looking a little conservative. After all, smartphone sales last year comfortably topped $520bn.
Is Cloud Computing Environmentally Friendly?
Cloud adoption was well underway before the coronavirus pandemic hit but it has definitely accelerated more organisations to make a move.
Research from NetApp has found that a large majority of users (86%) felt the cloud has become essential to their business and many of them saw it as playing a greater role in their storage strategies. Some 87% viewed storing data in the cloud as easier than other methods.
Flexera, revealed that almost all organisations are using at least one cloud with 99% of respondents saying they are using at least one public or private cloud. 97% of respondents utilise at least one public cloud, while 80% have at least one private cloud. 78% of respondents are using hybrid cloud.
By pursuing a green approach, Accenture analysis suggests migrations to the public cloud can reduce global carbon (CO2) emissions by 59 million tons of CO2 per year. This represents a 5.9% reduction in total IT emissions and equates to taking 22 million cars off the road.
A greener cloud
Selecting a carbon-thoughtful provider is the first step towards a sustainable cloud-first journey. Cloud providers set different corporate commitments towards sustainability, which in turn determine how they plan, build, power, operate, and retire their data centres.
The Google Cloud platform has committed to operating its data centres carbon-free 24/7 by 2030, rather than rely on annual direct energy matches. In 2020, Google became the first company to achieve a zero lifetime net carbon footprint, meaning the company has eliminated its entire legacy operational carbon emissions. According to Google, their data centers are twice as energy-efficient as a typical data centre, and they now deliver seven times more computing power for the same amount of electrical power than they did six years ago.
Microsoft has committed to shifting its data centres to 100% supply of renewable energy by 2025 through power purchase agreements (PPAs). The company has launched its ambition to be carbon negative by 2030 and by 2050 to remove all carbon emitted by the company since 1975. Microsoft Azure’s customers can access a carbon calculator that tracks emissions associated with their own workload on the cloud.
A new forecast from International Data Corporation (IDC) shows that the continued adoption of cloud computing could prevent the emission of more than 1 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) from 2021 through 2024.
"The idea of 'green IT' has been around now for years, but the direct impact of hyperscale computing can have on CO2 emissions is getting increased notice from customers, regulators, and investors and it's starting to factor into buying decisions," said Cushing Anderson, programme vice president at IDC. "For some, going 'carbon neutral' will be achieved using carbon offsets, but designing datacentres from the ground up to be carbon neutral will be the real measure of contribution. And for advanced cloud providers, matching workloads with renewable energy availability will further accelerate their sustainability goals."
Accenture analysis shows that customising applications to be cloud-native can stretch carbon emission reduction to 98%. Customisation requires designing applications to take full advantage of on-demand computing, higher asset utilisation rates, and dynamic allocation of computing resources. Cloud computing is also a way of reducing the use of resources such as paper, electricity, packing materials, and much more.
For companies striving to cut carbon emissions and to become more sustainable, cloud computing is definitely an option. Taking the steps to choose the right providers and making the businesses more efficient is key to having the wanted end result.