The Future of the Financial Sector Infused With Augmented Reality

For many, augmented reality technology rings bells in people’s minds, screaming “immersive gaming, entertainment and smart devices”. Its application today extends to effectively all industries and across all business operations. This is largely accepted to be true of the financial sector- who more than any, demand effective, data-crunching power combined with human interpretation.

The financial sector, whilst turbulent, is by no means shrinking and AR, VR and MR is the next logical step in the process of stringing together finance and technology. Fintech has transformed massively since the heyday of the handheld calculator and ATM in 1967. AR is set to transfigure both consumer and business finance technology and as a result, spin the entire sector on its head.

Before we take a look at the applications of AR in the financial sector, let’s gather some understanding of what augmented reality means.

In short, AR is precisely what it sounds like. Think of the term ‘augmented’ to mean ‘enhance’ or ‘make greater’. The technology changes, enhances and adds digital elements to the real world. In effect, AR generates an interactive experience of a real-world environment whereby objects that exist in the real world are enhanced by computer-generated information.

Current Applications of AR in the Financial Sector

Despite there being some time before AR can truly take a hold of the financial industry, it has undeniably made some exciting developments through some of the following applications.

Visualising data and making decisions

Visualising mass data is a challenge across all financial institutions. As the amount of data grows, so too does the need to rapidly grasp complex trends and emerging patterns. AR has stepped in to bridge the gap between machine data analysis and human understanding. Augmented Reality data visualisation can help financial analysts understand complex data streams to make decisions quickly.

Salesforce has been a dominant player in their ability to enter with ARaaS- Augmented Reality as a Service to enable data visualisation within finance. Their data analysis tool is based on the relatively low cost Oculus Rift headset which allows users to enter into an immersive 3D augmented environment to interact with data streams intuitively.

Salesforce won’t be alone, since many other tech visualisation tools are on the rise. Citibank’s holographic workstation runs on the Microsoft HoloLens platform and extends information based computing into mixed reality by integrating: a 2D screen space, 3D holographic docking space, voice input and trading floor phone systems.

Data visualisation was taken a step further when Fidelity Labs- a part of Fidelity Investments, took advantage of the technology behind Oculus Rift. They effectively generated a virtual city by turning stock portfolios into a virtual 3D city called ‘StockCity’. Investors can enter and immerse themselves in the data.

Enhanced communication in finance

The industry largely depends on the relationship between individuals and institutions. The validity of the traditional bank branch is being questioned by some who wonder whether AR will replace it. Wells Fargo has built an AR system to allow individuals to interact with the bank teller’s in a virtualized space laid over reality.

Will the convenience of being able to carry out interactions with bank tellers remotely overcome customers reluctance to trust and embrace this new technology? Wells Fargo is determined to bring the community together, offering gamification- featuring AR games and puzzles.

Further communication using AR in finance has been demonstrated by Polish finance company Comarch, using a mixture of the wearable devices and the Oculus headset. They’ve created the ultimate AR ecosystem for small businesses and investors to stay connected over smart watches, phones and tablets. Mass data can be displayed and visualised in meetings via the headset. This can be done remotely. Meaning, the nature of financial industry meetings and communication can be changed forever.

Enhanced communication in finance

Most commonly used apps in Great Britain. Source: (Statista)

That’s not to mention the importance of communication between individual consumers and financial institutions. Interestingly, most consumers are predominantly concerned with their financial management through technology. The statistic above illustrates that banking and financial apps are commonly used and only placed below news and weather apps. There’s healthy scope for fintech app developers to utilise the efficiency of AR for consumer-based communication channels.

The Future of the Financial sector Infused with Augmented Reality

Financial institutions should not be in competition with the tech world. Rather, they owe it to each other to merge and embrace what one offers. For the financial sector to flourish in an increasingly digitised and interconnected world, embracing consumer-friendly AR is just as important as adopting AR on the trading floor and between institutions.

Individual consumers are far more likely to embrace new AR technology, if it’s already in their pocket. The ubiquity of smartphones means that consumers will download and use AR-driven experiences in the masses. This effect is most dominant across millennials- who are indeed the next generation of financial consumers and sector developers.

Further, millennials are more likely to turn to Google, PayPal and Apple for new financial products , rather than their banks. Indeed, 33% of millennials expect to manage their finances without the presence of a traditional brick and mortgage bank (CNBC).

What does this say of the future of AR payment systems and banking management tools? For a start, it would appear that more efficient AR payment options would be warmly welcomed. Visa Europe, with Bilppar has developed an app to allow people to buy clothes directly from the rack- or even a person. Users simply hold up their mobile device at the item and the app will identify the item and display purchasing options through their prepaid pre-registered debit or credit card. It’s practically Shazam for fashion.

As for a more deep and immersive financial AR experience, the opportunities are endless. Consider cryptocurrency- an invisible and intangible unit of value. Now imagine all the ways in which superimposed digital information over your smart device can bring this currency to life. For example, AR can be developed to visualise a virtual crypto safe in a secure place of your home- just as you’d keep your IRL safe. In short, the future of the financial sector infused with augmented reality looks bright.

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