ZDNET: Eyes forward. Hands-Free.

Andy Lowery, Cofounder and CEO of RealWear

ZDNet Catches Up with Andy Lowery, CEO of RealWear in New Podcast

NOTE: This interview with Andy Lowery was recorded by ZDNet and transcribed, edited for clarity.

In this article you will learn:

ZDNET Contributor Tonya Hall caught up with RealWear CEO.  In this video, you will learn.

ZDNET: Eyes forward, Hands Free.  A rugged computer that goes with you, even in the most challenging environments.  

Introduction to RealWear

At the heart of RealWear we are a knowledge transfer company.

Andy Lowery, RealWear CEO


We help in-situ training through the production of this device. What I have is the HMT-1, head-mounted computer, tablet-grade, powered by Android like a lot of tablets that are getting deployed in the industry.

The HMT-1 is worn versus held, so in our case, we use a voice layer to control the device and allow you to navigate through different menus or different applications with your voice.

In this way you can be eyes forward, hands-free, very safe.  It’s an extremely intuitive way to share information either between the machine trying to tell you how its temperature or pressure are doing, or an expert that might be a thousand miles away who wants to coach a young technician through a maintenance procedure and operational procedure.

Andy Lowery, RealWear CEO

ZDNET:  It looks pretty interesting!  Where’s the screen?

ANDY LOWERY: That’s a great question.  So if I’m climbing a tower, I don’t want anything in my front of my face at all.  I want complete situational awareness. But when I get in-situ and I have to do my job, I bring out this guy that looks a little bit like an NFL coach’s Bose microphone — but it’s also a display that appears to be about the size of a 7-inch tablet held at about 25-inches away.   

Underneath my eye I have a little dashboard.

Industry 4.0 Connected Worker Explained

ZD: Explain Industry 4.0 Connected Worker concept, how it merges IoT, XR, and Robotics.

ANDY LOWERY – The idea of Industry 4.0 is an application of our Information Age to industry.  We are moving deeply into the Information Age.  It’s a paradigm of connectivity. Connecting data, machines and people.  Think of that as simply as a Smart Stove that might have data on the temperature of the food or if something is burning and can go up to the cloud with that information.  

You could be completely in a grocery store or not even near the stove and receive an app alert on your phone that says, “Hey, the stove is having problems, and you shut down the stove remotely, so that connectivity is connecting data, the temperature of the stove, the machine, the stove itself, and the person in the grocery store that’s remote monitoring their stove.  

That connectivity triangle is being adopted by industry at whole and at large. Where we fit in is we are that connection hub to the person, data, and machines.

By having this hub that’s very rugged and very safe and very oriented towards an industrial type of the job versus more of a consumer type of a product, we are able to be very very effective in that connectivity with workers or people performing work.

ZDNET:  Designers of industrial technology need to enable the transfer of knowledge from those who have it to those who need it.  Why is that not as easy as it sounds?

ANDY LOWERY:  In my former job I was a business area chief engineer at Raytheon.  We used to always think about an analogy where we may need to make a decision and it’s a yes/ no decision; it may be a decision to RF jam a target, for example. Should we put jamming energy on that target?

That decision to do that is one bit; it’s a 1 or a 0 in a computer, but the data behind making that decision can be terabytes upon terabytes. Everywhere in the world a similar type of thing is prevalent, where you have reams and reams of data.

The people that need to make the decision on the frontline are confused by all this data unless the data can be pared down and delivered in bite-sized chunks.

Andy Lowery, RealWEar

In order to convey that information you need devices. You need Edge devices. You need computers on machines or in our case we put computers on the actual frontline workers.

Save the machines from the computers.   Let’s put the computer on the worker, because every machine needs some kind of interaction with a frontline worker.

Andy Lowery, RealWear

By putting the computer on the person, you flip that paradigm where I don’t have a natural language-oriented machine connected to a steam generator. I have a cloud file or data coming from that machine and being processed on the computer that I’m wearing. It’s a different way of looking at it, but it’s the same type of information transfer that we’re trying to get you, on the frontline, sitting out in front of machines, working out there in various locations or environments.

Why Android and How We Work with Android Developers 

ZDNET: Why did you select Android?

ANDY LOWERY: Android is quickly becoming the world’s most ubiquitous operating platform.

In the US it lags. but overseas, Android is moving quickly. We had to be a global company. We are very deep into the business frameworks in China.  We have taken a lot of work into Europe and in the United States.  We had to have a platform that had some amount of ubiquity across the planet. We are trying to leverage what’s going on right now as far as Digital Transformation, and a lot of the applications nowadays are being built on Android.

If we were to go with Apple (iOS), it’s very proprietary and closed, so we are not able to manipulate that software. Apple keeps that locked tight in house. If we were going to go with Microsoft platform, I had limitations on some of the mobile technology because Microsoft has been a little less prevalent with the Qualcomm types of board support packages that are supporting the operating system for Windows 10.

We had to select something that was mobile in its orientation, being quickly adopted globally in industry.  We chose Android. To say we can’t use Microsoft operating system in the future is not true. We could absolutely design a future device or this device with Microsoft. We chose to start with Android.

ZDNET: How does RealWear work with Android developers?

ANDY LOWERY: We have a whole ecosystem of various application partners.  We look at our business like a lot of other platform-based businesses. 

For every dollar we make we’d like to see the ecosystem collect $9 of profit. 

Andy Lowery, Cofounder and CEO of RealWear

We do that by a very robust integration program.  If you’re an application programmer who knows how to work on Android that’s all the information you really need to know in order to use our device or to develop applications on the device.  So early on we gave early access to key partners like Honeywell, Librestream, and Intoware.

We are a very much Apple meets industry model in a wearable format. 

Andy Lowery, Cofounder and CEO of RealWear

These are our application ecosystem partners driving value in the space. We do the OS or the layer that sits on top of Android that does the voice control, and our ecosystems provide the application and sometimes the cloud services that actually support the overall solution at they are deploying.

Protecting the User

ZDNET: Security, hacking, that’s constantly a concern.  This is being used in sensitive and complicated situations.  How are you protecting the technology and the user?

ANDY LOWERY:  It’s interesting and a great question.  I come in the world of Raytheon. I was the business area chief engineer over electronic warfare which contained the sub-function of cyber.  I’m very familiar with security systems and protocols. Truth be told, Android has come a long way. Android early days had many security vulnerabilities.

By making an open system like Google chose to do, they had an open system that was plagued with backdoors and holes and ways they could get attacked; whereas, proprietary systems have more control. We’re all the way up to Android 8.1 and the security on that version of Android is robust. The Department of Defense (DoD) currently uses Samsung phones on a number of different applications.

What we’re finding is most customers are trusting Android especially 8.1 and higher.  

RealWear’s Philosophy on Augmented Reality

ZDNET: What do you see as the next big breakthrough in Augmented Reality?

I started my journey of AR by being a cofounder of DAQRI.

DAQRI started out as an AR-specific company. We were going to put AR in industry and we were going to change human-machine interfaces.  We were going to do that in an immersive way. What I found is that at DAQRI there were a lot of applications in the maintenance, repair, and operational side of the overall equation, in locations or environments that were much too dangerous to put an immersive system in a digital layer.

In training applications and safe manufacturing locations, Microsoft HoloLens is a fantastic product.

But when you’re climbing up a telephone pole or you’re out at sea on an oil platform in the North Atlantic, [HoloLens] is not such a great device

It’s not waterproof, not robust and not rugged.  Most importantly, it allows you to maintain full situational awareness.  

What we’ve done with RealWear is to lead with safety first. Eyes forward, hands free.  How do we convey that information and applications that maintains situational awareness and safety?

Andy Lowery, Cofounder and CEO of RealWear

Our target audience is maintenance, repair and operators on the frontline in dangerous industrial situations. The products are different than AR at HoloLens, but we feel over time we will go more immersive.  But we will maintain the safety aspect and fall back on safety.

I was talking to John Waldron (President and CEO, Safety and Productivity Solutions) about 6 months ago about this.  Honeywell has a very interesting philosophy.  They showed me a Cartesian coordinate with safety on the y-axis and productivity on the x-axis. He drew a curve and he said, Honeywell never does anything that doesn’t move the curve outward in both dimensions.   

That’s also RealWear’s philosophy.

So as we move into more immersive systems or even more prosumer systems (indoor use, outdoor use, hospitals, etc) we will always maintain the idea that until the technology is ready and can be safe and basically eliminate sort of a user interface and the feeling of having something blocking between you and the real world, we will continue to step slowly into the overall immersive augmented reality market.   

But I do believe it’s going to be that. It’s going to be much more immersive and integrated with reality as the technology improves.

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