London, UK and Christchurch, New Zealand: 22 June 2012: Mobile Augmented Reality software that will enhance the ability of courier and postal companies to make more 'first time' deliveries is being developed by the University of Canterbury’s HIT Lab NZ (Human Interface Technology Laboratory New Zealand) under the Ministry of Science and Innovation’s (MSI) Technology Transfer Voucher initiative.
HIT Lab NZ is working with Blackbay, a software company that specialises in the development and implementation of real time enterprise mobility solutions and services for postal, supply chain and field service operations.
Professor Mark Billinghurst, Director of HIT Lab NZ, commented that this R&D project is the first undertaken by the university under this scheme where MSI will match each dollar invested by the businesses, so long as the research is completed by an accredited organisation.
"Initially we put together a demonstration model for Blackbay to show at last years’ Post Expo based on mobile Augmented Reality (AR) software that we had developed after the Christchurch earthquakes. It was extremely well received so the next step was to integrate the AR technology into Blackbay’s existing products, and that is what we are working on now," said Billinghurst.
"By adding the functionality being developed by HIT Lab NZ to our solution we will be able to address the biggest challenge within the courier marketplace, which is, how to achieve first time on time delivery and eliminate the significant operational cost associated with having to revisit locations or return items to depots or postal offices for further delivery," explained Nigel Doust, Blackbay's CEO.
Augmented Reality is where virtual information can be overlaid on a live camera view of the world. HIT Lab NZ is basing its work on a mobile AR software library originally developed as a way of seeing and remembering what damaged or demolished buildings looked like on a particular site before the Christchurch earthquakes.
"In recent years the availability of smart phones with camera, GPS and compass sensors has meant that mobile devices can deliver several layers of information at the same time. When you integrate this with social media, the sophistication, speed and accuracy of many traditional activities can be greatly enhanced," Billington added.
The University has four students and staff working on the project, which they are looking to demonstrate at the Postal Expo in Brussels later this year, with a commercial release in early 2013. This will be the first time that mobile AR technology has been deployed in a courier application.
The augmented reality application enables the courier arriving at premises to view the location within the building where a delivery or collection is to be made. The application displays a photograph of exactly where the package should be left or collected from as well as providing a layout of the building so that the carrier can quickly and easily find the correct location.
"By incorporating social media software a message can be automatically sent to those awaiting a courier collection or delivery, immediately the vehicle is within a certain radius of the building," explained Billington.
"Just a small increase in the percentage of first time delivery success across a courier business offers major costs savings. By using AR technology as part of our solution, Blackbay believes it can significantly increase its market share," said Doust. "AR will play a big role in continuing to establish our reputation as a technology leader. The integration of this leading edge technology will be the spearhead of our expansion into our markets in Europe and the United States."
Blackbay is a market leader in the rapidly growing enterprise mobility market. Established 17 years ago, it has over 100 employees, 74 of them based in New Zealand with annual revenue of over $15 million dollars.
"We made the very exciting decision to engage with the HIT Lab NZ for two reasons. Firstly, it is located in Christchurch, New Zealand, as is the Blackbay Product Development team which makes collaboration very easy. Secondly, Professor Mark Billinghurst is a noted leader in the field of AR and has carved out an impressive reputation in this area. He is a key contributor to the ARToolkit software library which underpins many of the existing AR innovation implementations. Blackbay is very fortunate to be associated with his work," concluded Doust.
About the University of Canterbury’s HIT Lab
The Human Interface Technology Laboratory New Zealand (HIT Lab NZ) is developing and commercialising technology that improves human computer interaction and by doing so unlocks the power of human intelligence. HIT Lab NZ conducts research with new emerging technologies such as Augmented Reality, Next Generation Video Conferencing, Immersive Visualization and Human-Robot Interaction. Interaction Design techniques are used to adapt these technologies to the needs of end users and solve real world problems. The end goal is to improve the user experience with technology. For more information visit http://www.hitlabnz.org
Blackbay delivers real-time enterprise mobility solutions enabling service and productivity improvements to postal, field service and supply chain operations. The company has significant experience in the enterprise mobility market delivering mobile data solutions for over 16 years to a growing list of premium clients. Its core activity is mobile software application development, offering organisations significant return on investment based upon reduced costs, increased sales and improved productivity and service levels.
Blackbay, who received funding from Albion Ventures (http://www.albion-
For more information visit: http://www.blackbay.com/
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