Our latest Above the Cloud podcast features a conversation with Mike Boland, a longtime local digital commerce industry analyst who currently wears (at least) two hats. He is the lead analyst at Street Fight. And he runs his own advisory firm focused on the spatial computing industry, which is what most of us call augmented reality/virtual reality, or XR.

Our conversation focused almost exclusively on the AR piece of the puzzle, since that is where the immediate business model is forming, particularly as it relates to our primary concern, which is local businesses. AR is one of those technologies that fall in and out of favor, as other technologies emerge to capture our attention. Yet quietly the infrastructure is being put into place to allow for more everyday applications for AR, some of which could apply to small businesses, in particular, service businesses and some retailers.

This conversation is a great opportunity for those who want to catch up on where AR is on its path to becoming a true business application. Mike is a thorough analyst who has immersed himself in the details of AR and has developed a practical and well thought out point of view on where it’s heading.

According to Mike, the coolest thing happening to AR is how uncool it is becoming.

“We are moving past the gaming and social settings and into things that are less sexy, higher frequency uses cases that solve everyday problems,” Mike tells us.

The movement into the mundane will likely make AR more relevant to small business.

“AR will fly or die based on how everyday consumers use it,” Mike said. And the uses cases can’t just be kinda cool. “It has to be a couple of orders of magnitude better than what came before it.”

Five Things We Learned from this Podcast
  • There are about a billion AR-ready smartphones out there in consumers’ hands today.
  • ARtillery Intelligence forecasts AR revenues will reach $14 billion by 2022, from just north of a billion today. Much of the revenue today comes from micro-transactions like in-app purchases. Increasingly, SnapChat AR lenses are driving revenue growth. Mike tells us that Snap generated $236 million of the $400 million in AR lens revenue in 2018.
  • Google and Apple are helping to democratize the AR world with the recent launch of their respective AR developer kits. This is making it much easier for smaller shops to build and ship AR applications.
  • 5G will have a profound impact on the continued development of AR by enabling far more precise location targeting. AR can’t emerge as a breakthrough application without the precision that 5G enables.
  • For small businesses, visual search will be the transformative application for local retail businesses, assuming they are stocking national consumer brands. Bespoke products (crafts, locally sourced food items, etc.) will have the same challenges they have today in enabling real-time inventory management. For service businesses, AR could enable remote service calls, allowing service businesses to guide consumers through simple repairs while saving outcalls for the most complex jobs. This has the potential to drive their efficiency and yield way up. A version of this is already happening at the enterprise level.

You can listen to the full podcast here:

This episode of Above the Cloud was sponsored by LOCALOGY ENGAGE: SaaS/SMB. It’s not too late to attend the event that is all about building software that small businesses will actually use. AWeber, Fundbox, EverCommerce, Google, LegalZoom, LinkedIn, Microsoft, Paychex, Upserve and Zapier are among the leading SMB software brands represented at this event. Join us June 3-4 in Washington DC. 

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