November 10, 2015
We recently interviewed Garry Orsolini, Technology Director at Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) and leader of the team responsible for creating the HPE MyRoom /VRG application platform for wearable technology. Garry and his team are pioneers in the enterprise wearables space. When Google Glass came out with its Explorer Edition, Garry was one of the first to tinker with the novel technology, seizing upon its capabilities to better serve HP’s enterprise customers. In fact, Garry’s interest in connecting people with technology goes back to the early days of his career at HP, as you’ll read below. At the present time, HPE has a very early-to-market, complete and secure enterprise wearable tech solution, which supports a wide range of wearable and mobility devices, and which also serves as a true inspiration and benchmark in this nascent space in which we are all invested. Please enjoy reading the interview.
BrainXchange (Q): To begin, how about you provide us with a little background on yourself and your career?
Garry Orsolini (A): Well, I graduated with a B.A. in Philosophy but could not find anyone who wanted to hire a resident philosopher so I became a VISTA (Volunteers In Service To America) volunteer and worked as a paralegal in Yakima, Washington. That was the best decision I ever made because I met my wife Kim there, a fellow VISTA volunteer. Returning to Sacramento to get my MS MIS degree in 1979 corresponded with another fortuitous event – HP purchasing 500+ acres in Roseville. HP called the University offering a Programmer Analyst summer internship and the Dean found me. Somehow, I’ve managed to parlay that internship into 35 years with HP. And, as most people know, we’ve just recently on Nov 1 introduced our new company, Hewlett-Packard Enterprises (HPE).
Q: What do you do at HPE?
A: I manage worldwide engineering teams responsible for providing HPE’s technical learning infrastructure (HW & SW). Our teams provide customers with a virtual “hands-on” learning environment where they can get instructor-led technical training – without the need to travel. We have been perfecting our solution for over 20 years. Using technology to “Move Work Not People” has been our mantra since we launched our first initiative, “Distributed Collaborative Work Groups” in 1993 and published our first article ‘Multimedia Mania’ in 1994.
Q: How did you first learn about wearable technology?
A: Like many others, wearables became interesting when I first read about Google Glass and also when I got my hands on the Myo (ThalmicLabs) gesture control armband. As background, our enterprise printer group [editor’s note: now part of HPI] approached us three years ago and asked if we could help them improve their remote customer support for their large-scale Indigo printers. We adapted our HPE MyRoom collaboration solution (introduced in 1999 as a SaaS service) to enable the remote Indigo subject matter expert (SME) to take control of the printer console and assist the customer. Using MyRoom VoIP and a web camera on a flex arm connected to the printer console, the SME could interact with the customer to help resolve issues more quickly. When Google Glass became available in the Explorer program, the IHSP PrintCare group reached out to us in mid-2014 and asked a provocative question: “If we send you a pair of Glass, can you make it work with MyRoom?” Always looking for opportunities to meet customer needs, we said yes, and that was the start of Visual Remote Guidance (VRG).
Since then, VRG has evolved to connect the latest in wearable technology; we currently support 8 devices. All connected securely via the cloud to the enterprise. VRG provides real-time, multi-way, full collaboration between wearables and MyRoom participants who might be using Windows, Mac, Linux, or Android phones or tablets. So our solution connects mobility, wearables, and also traditional computer systems.
Q: What type of business benefits are you seeing with the use of wearables?
A: Working with IHSP, we identified early that there was a real opportunity to dramatically improve the way remote service delivery could be provided to customers. Our initial pilots asked the customer to put on Glass and say “OK Glass, Call HP Support” rather than placing a traditional phone call. Via the wearable and VRG, customers are connected to a PrintCare SME in approximately 10 seconds. The results showed an 80% improvement in the first metric that we have identified as a key performance indicator (KPI), which is: reduce the time to respond to a customer support call.
Secondly, the ability to collaborate with full multimedia (audio and video) and white boarding with annotations significantly reduces the time it takes to arrive at a common understanding of the issue. That’s the second KPI.
And the third KPI area which benefits significantly from the use of wearables is the capability to record the entire support session for your product engineering teams to review. Watching and hearing real support calls is one of the best ways to learn how to improve your products.
Q: Which customers/industries are you finding are most interested in your wearable solution?
A: We are seeing a lot of interest in our VRG solution across many verticals, including automotive, medical- and healthcare-related, aeronautics, and most any company with a product where remote service is beneficial. In our interactions with these organizations, it appears the majority are anxious to rationalize the use of wearables in their company. They are looking at how to harness these amazing technologies so that they can deliver true value, and a solid ROI to the business.
Q: Do you plan to use smart wearables in any other ways in the future?
A: Well, service delivery is one of the largest areas where ROI is easily identified and the number of ways our customers are envision using VRG is rapidly expanding. In the medical area, we see VRG providing remote healthcare to more individuals and also enabling first responders to provide rapid assistance with remote expertise supporting them. And in a number of sectors, there are myriad safety requirements where enterprises are mandated to ensure the safety of their employees. So you can imagine how secure, cloud-connected wearables will come into play here. The cool thing about all these devices is that they are rapidly evolving and with VRG, we are providing a way for our customers to pilot our solution and see first-hand how it works and how it can benefit their business.
In just the last month, our team grabbed two of the latest head-worn, smart glass wearables and successfully tested with them with VRG. We see the evolution of wearables exploding, but you need a reliable, secure way of connecting these devices back into the enterprise so that you can act on the data/information exchange and take appropriate next steps. That’s where our HPE MyRoom with VRG comes in: we provide the application platform which connects the wearables with the network, and makes everything work together.
Q: What are the key components for successful deployment of wearable technology in the enterprise?
A: I think there are a number of critical success factors and I’ll frame it as a formula: smart wearables + QoS network + secure cloud middleware + CRM integration + management of change = ^ROI.
HPE has a lot to contribute in a number of these areas. For reliable QoS Wi-Fi connectivity, we have the complete suite of Aruba networking products and services. VRG is our proven secure cloud middleware. For management of change and to provide the entire solution, we have Technology Services consulting that is assisting customers through pilot implementations and full enterprise deployments. Additionally, MyRoom and VRG are integrated with SalesForce.com via REST APIs. This enables the needed scalability that enterprises need to successfully integrate wearables into existing IT and business processes.
Q: Describe your ideal smart glasses device. The current models may be good enough, but what would make them truly spectacular in your eyes?
A: That’s a great question because we have eight different pairs of smart glasses that work with VRG and they all have their pros and enhancement needs. What’s interesting is that because of where Google started in the consumer space, they set the bar high for smart glass ergonomics. Many of the subsequent wearables perform better and can be easier to use, but they have yet to match or exceed the simple and light touch of Glass. The challenge is to get the processing and A/V power of your phone near your eyes, keeping it cooled, light, balanced, powered, self-contained, optimally network connected, and of course, looking stylish. The current generation of wearables is adequate for companies that want to get started and ahead of the inevitable wave that is building. And I’ve seen some of the next generation of devices coming, and they are really exciting.
The thing to keep in mind, also, is that the “ideal” wearable device for one type of user in one setting might be completely different from what another user needs, and finds to be “ideal” in another setting. It’s going to depend on the use case – the task that the user is trying to accomplish, the environment that it’s being used in, and also on the preferences of the user. For most organizations, the “right answer” is going to be a combination of different device brands and types. Also, it will be a combination of wearables with mobility devices and more traditional computer systems. There is a fit for all of them.
Q: Have you explored any other wearable tech products?
A: Let’s see… I recently had a conversation with a company that makes smart screen contact lenses, which is very interesting. The lens contains a display screen which needs to connect to another device for power, sound, and Wi-Fi or Bluetooth connectivity. The company that makes them has considered different business models. One of the questions to consider is will they be readily adopted. One of the answers in my humble opinion, is ‘yes’, by the adventurous who would love the power to see information without looking at their phone or tablet, and so forth. Obviously, there are many discussion topics and potential issues with this technology, but “to the brave” and you know the rest of that phrase.
I also have the Myo armband. You put it on your arm, its sensors detect your muscle activity as you move, and can perform different functions accordingly. Smart bands with such sensors can send signals via Bluetooth or Wi-Fi to another device.
The newest device we just received this month is a SmartWatch that runs full Android and we were very pleased when we installed HPE MyRoom from the Playstore on it. It provides full collaboration capabilities, has a camera for synchronous video conferencing and great AEC audio. The best part: it sells for under $200.
Q: What does the future hold for wearables?
A: The future, always a great question to ponder. I like Alan Kay’s words: “The best way to predict the future is to invent it.” Creative people continue to come up with very innovative and cool wearable devices. However, we need to make them relevant in the enterprise and demonstrate a solid ROI, or they’ll just wear away.