UtilityAR, which has offices in Dublin and London, was started by Patrick Liddy, Seadna Smallwood and Aidan McDonnell in 2018.

Smartglasses are getting smarter and augmented reality specs are finally approaching their prime – and lots of start-ups are beginning to lean towards this space.

One Irish start-up – UtilityAR – moved quickly at the beginning of 2018 when it became clear that augmented reality glasses were about to become a real thing.

The company, which has offices in Dublin and London, was started by Patrick Liddy, Seadna Smallwood and Aidan McDonnell.

Patrick and Aidan previously built a start-up that helped industry use energy more efficiently, which was acquired by an American multinational in 2014. Seadna joined them as the technical lead for the project having worked in some of the largest industries in Ireland and the UK.

“To date workers who work with their hands have minimal engagement with digital tools as the form factor was never appropriate”

The three founders previously worked in roles where they supported technicians who installed electrical monitoring and control equipment and provided them with procedures to describe the work required to be done. So when augmented reality glasses burst onto the scene, the three immediately believed that they had the right tools for the job.

Augmented reality glasses are digital glasses with transparent glass which project digital information onto the glass so the wearer can see some digital information overlaid on the real world. They also have a forward-facing camera so they can shoot video and recognise objects.

“When the glasses began to become readily available, we knew it was time to make a move,” said Patrick Liddy, co-founder of UtilityAR.

“We aim to help a worker to get their job done. To date workers who work with their hands have minimal engagement with digital tools as the form factor was never appropriate.

“We believe that in years to come augmented reality glasses will be worn by the majority of such workers to provide them with hands-free and contextually appropriate access to the information they need when they need it.”

By wearing the glasses, workers will have access to information when met with a problem

The UtilityAR team have built software that is tailored to work on any type of augmented reality glasses and it allows workers to make remote adviser video calls to their colleague whereby the colleague can see what they are seeing (through the forward-facing camera on the glasses) and mark-up their vision to help them fix whatever problem they encounter.

“They can also use our software to follow step by step procedures while hands-free, whereby they can see images or short video clips on each step to show them how to complete it correctly. The glasses can automatically recognise an asset, ensure the worker is at the correct one, and then show them the appropriate information they need to do their work,” added Mr Liddy.

Looking to the future, UtiltyAR is hoping to raise a substantial funding round later this year to help the company grow significantly as the company’s multinational customers are demanding the business to be scaled so they can deploy their software across their international businesses.

“Ireland is a great place to start an enterprise-focused start-up as we have many of the largest enterprises in the world with a presence here”

Now working on his second Irish start-up company, Mr Liddy believes the start-up ecosystem here in Ireland is as good as anywhere around the work, however when it comes to scaling, there is still room for improvement. 

“Ireland is a great place to start an enterprise focused start-up as we have many of the largest enterprises in the world with a presence here. It means that we have easy access to people who understand the issues they face and can point you in the right direction.

“That said, it isn’t a great place to scale a business, as the headquarters for those businesses are elsewhere. You need to get out and meet customers. With the nature of travel being changed for everyone, it will be interesting to see how that changes over the coming years.”

Finishing with a piece of advice for aspiring entrepreneurs looking to move into this space, Mr Liddy said; In this business, time and money are very related. The old adage that it will take twice as long and cost three times as much is very true. Do think a lot about that before you start.”

UtilityAR was included in Enterprise Ireland’s 2019 class of high potential start-ups. 

By Stephen Larkin

Published: 8 June, 2020

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