With SAP Fiori, Lumira, UI5 and more, SAP has presented numerous solutions enabling tablet and smartphone-based business process mapping. But will these solutions still be usable when the next mobile computing revolution starts and smartphones are replaced by data glasses and smartwatches? Does the IT landscape have to be rebuilt, or can the IT modernization investments still be used?
Smartphones are a step forward in the world of digital mobility. But they’re also just an intermediate step. Users need to use their hands and concentrate when using them. Wearable computing is different because the user isn’t actually occupied with using the computer; instead, they’re carrying out a computer-aided activity in the real world. Scanning barcodes or typing out item numbers doesn’t form part of a real business process – it’s about outgoing goods or posting the correct inventory level.
Technological further developments allow us to increasingly focus on the core tasks. Hands-free solutions such as smartglasses are thus the logical next step. After all, if employees are automatically and directly shown information relevant to a business process without having to pick up a mobile terminal device beforehand, this doesn’t just save time; at the same time, it leaves them with both hands free to do something else.
We must, therefore, ask ourselves whether we will be able to use the investments made in mobile IT architecture for the next step towards wearable computing.
The mobile architecture solutions from SAP are UI-independent and can be used for wearable computing too. This is because SAP uses open technologies in the implementation of the oData standard. oData – i.e. REST and JSON – are used by the wearable devices too. Google, Netflix and Twitter use the same methods, which guarantees wide adaptation.
The implementation of wearable computing can be clarified with SAP resources in a reference architecture.
The reference architecture shown is a service-oriented IT landscape that uses existing data and functions. Services are reused in an encapsulated manner, user-centric functions are provided, and the UI and the existing IT landscape are decoupled.
The SAP Gateway is still used for central service provision and data processing purposes. Business processes are orchestrated by SAP BPM, and technical interfaces are linked by SAP Process Integration. SAP HANA acts as a big data hub in the architecture and enables the swift provision of even complex, linked data.
With this architecture scheme, wearable computing can be integrated in the existing SAP landscape and, in this regard, reuse existing components and the business processes and methods already shown.
In the specific implementation process, data glasses use a native Android app, which uses the oData services provided by the SAP Gateway. These are the exact same services used by existing Fiori apps. The SAP Gateway is still responsible for making SAP ERP functions and data usable.
All of the authorization and data processing functions provided by the SAP Fiori Launchpad can still be used. In this case, the fact that SAP is now using open standards is beneficial, as only the UI5 apps have to be replaced with more recent technologies. The infrastructure created can be retained.
There are more issues needing solved in addition to the technical data connection. For instance, we need to clarify how the user interface is to be designed for password and username transmission. It must also be made clear to what extent IT policies have to be adapted to enable facial and speech recognition.
There are already a number of companies dealing with these issues and already developing appropriate new concepts and solutions. Ultimately, the new technologies offer industries such as logistics, the automotive sector or healthcare a wealth of benefits relating to enhanced efficiency and greater user acceptance, and they must be promoted.
After all, a system that displays the exact information needed at a specific moment in time without any need for manually typed commands is far more attractive than a system that only shows the required data once the user has clicked umpteen times and entered a multitude of information.