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Augmented government: Transforming our view of public-service delivery

Mar. 31, 2014 - 10:20AM   |  

A new Transportation Security Administration officer arrives at the security checkpoint on her first day. As travelers begin to file past her, she quickly recalls the varying screening procedures and the lengthy protocols her new job required her to commit to memory. One mistake, and the consequences could be severe.

After a few hours, she turns on her smart goggles and suddenly sees a checklist of procedures overlaid in her field of vision, reminding her of each step in the security process. And when a traveler speaking another language reaches the checkpoint, a voice-to-text translation application conveniently activates to assist the agent in guiding the traveler through the checkpoint.

This is not a fictitious scene from “Iron Man” or “Minority Report.” Rather, it is a reimagining of what airport security could look like using capabilities that already exist today. As wearable mobile capabilities have become more powerful and miniaturized, augmented reality (AR) — the overlay of data onto real-time vision — has emerged as an increasingly viable tool for making instant, complex decisions more quickly and effectively.

Augmented government

Commercial industries have used AR for decades, with evidence of prototypes and integration of manufacturing-oriented AR gear dating to the early 1990s. And advances in smart mobile technologies are driving predictions of rapid AR market growth from $181 million in 2011 to nearly $5.2 billion by 2016.

AR capabilities today include education and training, data capture and enhancement, and virtual collaboration. The wide range of potential AR applications available on platforms such as Google Glass has led the Harvard Business Review to predict that AR will have a near-future impact on everything: advertising, location services, health care, relationships and the very nature of knowledge.

But while many agree that AR will likely take on an increasingly important role in how companies interact with consumers, Deloitte’s report Augmented Government is one of the first pieces that examines how AR could be used strategically to improve how the government interacts with citizens. For example, could AR be used to decrease the cost and increase the effectiveness of training border patrol agents; keeping travelers safer through the use of facial recognition and procedural checklists; or supporting disaster-relief efforts by providing rescue workers with critical geospatial information?

As AR capabilities evolve and are more frequently used in everyday situations, federal agencies have an opportunity to improve how they fulfill their mission.. But today only a few agencies have even begun to tap the full potential of AR, and many are still learning how to build intuitive mobile apps and the required enabling infrastructure. Communication between systems and data sets is often expensive and siloed, and many agencies are just beginning to envision business scenarios beyond today’s processes.

While agencies vary widely in their readiness to implement AR capabilities, it’s imperative that forward-thinking federal leaders begin to assess the readiness of their organization for changes that widespread use of AR can bring. This may only be possible if they understand how AR can be used, and how these capabilities can be combined to transform their operations and deliver improved services to citizens.■

Christian Doolin and Alan Holden are senior consultants with Deloitte Consulting LLP.

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