Friday, 15 August 2014

LG G Watch Review for Enterprise Applications

We've recently been testing the new LG G Watch to enhance some of our mobile applications for JD Edwards. This device is just another example of how much benefit can be gained from utilising consumer devices for enterprise applications. The distinct advantage that the consumer market provides is the high level of competition and huge sales volumes that means that the latest technologies are available at very low cost.

Our first impressions when taking the LG G Watch out of the box is that it has the look to make the cross over from consumer to industrial device. One of the issues with a lot of consumer devices is that they try to be as much a fashion accessory as they are a practical piece of equipment. This is fine for the consume market but can be a deterrent when it comes to businesses considering them as a part of a mobile solution. While it by no means has an industrial look, the LG G Watch is certainly plain enough to be inconspicuous and is small enough to be comfortably worn all day. We would certainly suggest that it is a far better design in appearance and practicality than either the Samsung Gear range or the soon to be release Motorola 360.

As far as performance goes there's really only two things that we need to worry about which is how does the screen perform in different conditions and what sort of life does the battery give.

Firstly to the screen. We had no issues at all with the 280 x 280 pixel square screen on the LG. We were able to design user interfaces for a few different applications to easily fit and with the right selection of colors and contrast there were no problems reading the screen quickly or in full sunlight. The fact that Android has been designed to work with a broad range of screen resolutions for a long time means that the process of creating screen layouts for the Android Wear devices is no different to any other Android device.

Now the battery life. The LG G Watch comes with a 400mAh battery that according to the LG website should last you a full day on a single charge. In our business a full day is considered somewhere between 8 to 12 hours and our experience is that while you can get a full day out of the device, you certainly won't get 8 hours of use out of it and a more realistic number would be only a few hours of continuous use. For the majority of situations where we would look to make use of the device this would probably be a bit of a deal breaker. You would like need to be able to at least top up the battery during the day rather than just at the end of each day. There's certainly nothing scientific about these observations and it is just from our experience while testing the device with our applications.

One of the well documented considerations when designing mobile apps is to ensure that the application has clear functions and intuitive for users to operate. With wearable devices this takes on a even more significant importance. We spent a few hours discussing how the LG G Watch could enhance some of our existing applications. Ultimately it came down to identifying very specific use cases within the applications and designing clean and simple components to meet those requirements. What that meant is that as soon as the use case had an if statement somewhere, processing moved back to the primary mobile device.

So what scenarios did we end up testing? Well the first was using the the LG G Watch as part of a warehouse picking application. The primary goal when we started was to test out how the device would go with voice picking and ultimately our results were mixed. The first issue we had to overcome is the fact that the voice recognition algorithms are really designed for natural language so if the identifiers for the items being picked are lot or serial numbers that are mixture of letters and numbers then life became a bit difficult. Add in some other random characters and it became a whole lot harder. The second main issue we had was the nature of the microphones on these devices means that they are not good at cancelling out background noise and therefore recognition of the speech can be all but impossible in some situations. 

The final issue we had was occasionally the voice recognition would stop working all together and just throw an error that it was unable to reach to the Google Cloud for processing. One of the great improvements with Android 4 for our applications was the fact that decoding of voice to text was completely locally on the device rather by a server somewhere out on the ether. We're not sure why the watch was unable to contact the servers for processing as the mobile device the watch was paired with had connectivity but either way, we'd like to see the processing handled by the device the watch is paired do the processing rather than servers out in the cloud.

Ultimately we do believe that voice picking is possible with the LG G Watch but only in situations where the list of possible items being picked is fairly small and the environment doesn't have a significant amount of background noise. With a list that is small enough it is possible to put in place some fuzzy matching logic to make the solution workable.

The next application we attacked was a quality management solution and we effectively used the watch to provide step by step instructions to the user. So basically go to this location, find this lot, take this many samples, confirm on the watch that you have taken the samples and then move on to the next location. We found this sort of use case to be well suited to the watch as we the users didn't need to access the primary mobile device at all and had both hands free to perform their functions. The information they required could easily be presented on the watch and the user interactions required to drive the application were simple.

So in summary we feel that devices like the LG G Watch provide an excellent opportunity to get even more productivity and efficiency gains out of mobile applications in an enterprise environment at a very low cost. Developing for the devices is simple and their integration with Android mobiles and tablets has been well implemented. Hopefully an opportunity will present itself in the near future to put some of these devices to use in anger.

If you have any questions about our experiences with the LG G Watch or want to know how Rinami can assist you with delivering mobile solutions into your business, please contact us.

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