15 Jul RealWear: A Force To Be Reckoned With In Enterprise AR
RealWear is a player in the enterprise AR space with a lot of momentum across multiple major enterprises. Over the last 18 months, the company shipped over 15,000 of its HMT systems globally, and can now boast over 1,300 enterprise customers and more than 120 applications. RealWear’s AR devices are designed to work in the field and meet the needs of enterprises in all types of verticals. The company’s strength is its ability to deliver robust hardware and software solutions that help accelerate enterprise business needs that were previously too costly or simply impossible. Other companies exist in this space, like Vuzix, but none can boast the momentum RealWear has at the moment. Let’s take a deeper look at how RealWear, its offerings, and how it has gotten to where it is.
The HMT-1 and HMT 1Z1
RealWear’s HMT portfolio consists of two headsets—the HMT-1 and the HMT 1Z1 Both were developed with Qualcomm as a technology partner and are powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 625 processors. While neither headset has built-in connectivity yet, I expect that subsequent models will have built-in LTE for applications where Wi-Fi and hotspots are unavailable. The headsets boast an 8-10 hour battery life, a fully-hands-free user experience, and a powerful four-microphone array capable of quality noise cancelling. The HMT-1 is the smaller of the two devices with a 3250 mAh battery and a weight of 380 grams, while the HMT-1Z1 has a 3400 mAh battery and weighs 430 grams. Both feature the same WVGA (854×480) resolution, 20-degree field-of-view display. They’re both designed to be digital visual assistants to the real world.
Interestingly, RealWear’s HMT-1 and HMT-1Z1 headsets appear to be complementary devices to Microsoft’s popular Hololens headset. They both serve different purposes in the AR continuum of head-worn devices, and therefore may not be competing directly. Hololens is a big, completely self-contained helmet that is designed to immerse the user completely into the mixed reality world. Meanwhile, RealWear’s headsets function more as visors, capable of staying mostly out of your way until you need them. Less immersive and less intrusive by design, RealWear’s products allow the user to be more focused on the real world than the digital assets.
Big contracts, big funding
Over the last couple years, RealWear secured some very significant contracts with major customers around the world. One of the biggest was announced earlier this year—a contract with UROS in Kazakhstan to enable its deployment of Smart Cities. RealWear is expected to ship 10,000 RealWear HMT-1 and HMT-1Z1 headsets as a part of this deal alone, which is a lot of units for a company of its size. This is a joint deal with Qualcomm, who, as I mentioned earlier, partnered with RealWear on the HMT-1 and HMT-1Z1.
RealWear also recently announced, in conjunction with Ubimax, that it will roll out the RealWear HMT-1 to all 347 BMW and select MINI dealerships in the U.S. that utilize Ubimax’s Frontline software. The potential for these kinds of partnerships to grow for the enterprise space are absolutely huge. Another great example of this is the partnership Microsoft just announced with Airbus to offer the Microsoft Hololens and associated services to Airbus customers to help improve the speed and quality of repairs.
Speaking of Airbus, the company recently said it was able to cut administrative costs by 41% by leveraging RealWear’s HMT-1 with Ubimax software. Additionally, one of the world’s largest semiconductor manufacturers, GlobalFoundries, found that RealWear’s headsets could slash training time from 30 to 50%. Other manufacturers are onboard as well—Colgate rolled out the HMT-1 in 20 manufacturing facilities in 11 different countries and Shell is working with Honeywell to deploy the HMT-1Z1 at 24 sites in 12 different countries. These customers and partnerships speak loudly—the market and the applications for enterprise AR are growing faster than anyone had anticipated. Everyone wants a piece of the action.
RealWear also just announced it has raised an additional $80 million in Series B funding led by Teradyne, a global leader in industrial automation. Other investors include, Bose Corp., Qualcomm Ventures, Kopin Corporation, and JPMorgan Chase & Co. The $80 million is a split between $25 million in debt and $56 million in new equity, and brings the total money raised for RealWear up to $100 million. I believe that investing in enterprise AR and companies like RealWear is a smart decision; the potential of enterprise AR will only grow as companies like RealWear and Microsoft continue to expose the technology to a broader market.
RealWear’s current momentum is an indicator that businesses are starting to realize the utility of enterprise AR in enabling digital transformation. These AR headsets are saving companies money, by improving the quality and speed of training and service. RealWear has the products, the funding, and the contracts to be considered a major player in this space—I’ll continue to watch with interest.