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Very Much Reality...

Joe Harris


Augmented Reality

There was a glut of press attention given recently to a free Android and iPhone application called "Chestburster" which allowed users to see a 3D ‘alien’ type creature emerge and come to life when viewing a particular static image along with gory sound effects. This image could be downloaded from their website and placed; for example, on a t-shirt / computer screen or as a printed image.

Whilst this was very much a niche ‘toy’ to demonstrate the possibilities it is a powerful reminder that augmented reality (AR) is very much here and all of the tools required to utilise it are available now.

AR uses static ‘trigger’ images or location data such as GPS to overlay virtual content on top of the real world. This virtual overlay can then be interacted with based on user input if they so wish.

To bring people up to speed and help explain the possibilities we can look to Google as a good example of usage.

Apple have been developing wearable systems (iShades?) to provide AR functions since 2008 or earlier.

Google have been working for just as long on "Project Glass" which is in effect a pair of clear glasses which overlays 3D virtual images and data onto a real 3D landscape.

In a basic form it would effectively allow you to have a ‘Streetview’ style view of streets as you walk around in an area or for the purposes of directions. This could theoretically extend to whilst driving and can indicate locations of landmarks or retail outlets etc…

Go a step further if you would and imagine looking at a retail outlets signage and suddenly it comes to life listing the current special offers and promotions.

With this being Google of course the content of such promotions can be specifically targeted for your demographic or interests. They can even remind you of that item which you looked at before but didn’t buy at the time for which they can offer you a unique one off discount….

Billboards will just be blank canvasses in future, a man and woman walking down the road may see a different moving advertisement each or may even see a different advert if together than they would each see apart. Those in a vehicle would see the same billboard specific perhaps to the type of vehicle they are driving or their plans for that evening.

This is aside from any seamless integration of social networking applications, checking in to locations, advising stores or restaurants of your details as you enter the premises… “Hello Mr. Smith, it’s good to see you again, did you enjoy the steak last week?”

You can begin to see what could be achieved through careful application of this additional layer of reality when usage becomes common.


So you may rightfully ask ‘What does this mean to us in the Electronic Security Industry though Joe?’

Whilst it is arguably the retail and entertainment sectors that will see the most dramatic impact from this technology it still allows our industry many ways of capitalising on the technology to deliver our services more effectively and efficiently.

Some examples could be as follows:

  • Training

Whilst there is no replacement for full on training it would be a powerful tool to allow engineers to see a video demonstration or a list of specifications when viewing a signalling device or alarm panel. A link can be given to contact the manufacturer or ARC or maybe to documentation or a replacement parts lists.

Circuitry can be overlaid with plans and inputs and outputs labelled to millimetre accuracy in clear text and full colour with active links to enable context based content.

This training can also be extended to security system users to explain how to reset an alarm or to help them understand how to omit a detector or zone or other such issues.

  • Marketing

It can be difficult sometimes to convey an important message in the short length of time in which you hold captive a persons attention whilst they read a brochure or advertisement.

Through AR you have an opportunity to showcase your products and services in a manner that is relevant to the end user. Complex issues can be more effectively delivered through media playback or animated images or diagrams triggered by static images on a website or leaflet for example.

  • Day to day usage

Aside from training and graphical overlays it may be that suppliers can start to think more diversely in their approach. Why have a keypad on the wall at all if a virtual keypad could display upon approach for verified users carrying an authenticated fob or similar?

Why not allow engineers to receive feedback from detector positioning and any masking to allow an overlay showing precisely where the detection covers within an environment during the installation of equipment? This data could even be used as a form of Kinect style visual overlay of a scene to provide ARCs with an image of the specific activity that led to an alarm activation so as to allow them to make an informed decision on a relevant handling procedure.

  • Bell Boxes

These already provide a form of advertising for Electronic Security companies but what if the same devices could trigger advertisements in full even with geographic based promotions?

Imagine a virtual billboard on every home which can be constantly updated remotely if you wish?

Promotional offers could be provided simply on the basis of having viewed an existing installation and then making an enquiry or you could even elect to provide some form of promotion for specific properties which generate enquiries based on their location.


I have only scratched the surface of some of the possibilities that could potentially be achieved.

With a little imagination I am sure that each of you could find a way to use this technology to your advantage and I would ask that you begin to consider how you could go about utilising it to full effect in your own business by making it a reality before it becomes ubiquitous.

The final word goes to T.S.Eliot...

Human kind

Cannot bear very much reality.

Time past and time future

What might have been and what has been

Point to one end, which is always present


Recommended Comments

Gus mentioned using keypads for advertising many years ago on here.

I think that many in the industry can use this and more to reduce initial cost to the end user.

However i dont think currently its a starter. The problem with using a security based appliance as an advertising front end is the lack of time spent with it. IF we were to catch up and be at the forefront of automation, energy saving etc then the security system 'could' be the portal used to access this infomation. Unfortunatly the industry is still managed by the old school and do not understand there is any need for revolution. Joe, can you get your crowd back into the BSIA and get yourself on a committee or 2?

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I want a big shark to leap out of the bell box just like jaws in back to the future. Is this doable ?

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Hah - Yes it is MrHappy ;)

To test it out yourself take a peek at Aurasma Lite on iphone or Android for a quick test of what can be done directly from a phone to set this type of thing up.

This can be based on specific graphics or specific geolocation. I think they have a 3D shark you can use as a test ;)

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Early indications from Apple and Samsung are that they intend to utilise AR in the next 12 months to provide 'meta data' primarily, such as help, guides and additional information to allow a more uncluttered main display without this extra information.

It seems like this will be a popular route for integrating this type of technology.

How will this fit in with your products and service offerings?

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