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Deutsche Telekom and Zeiss form smart glasses joint venture

Steve Rogerson
February 20, 2018

Deutsche Telekom has formed a joint venture with German optical company Zeiss to develop smart glasses using technology first demonstrated at last year’s Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.
Each company holds a 50 per cent stake in Tooz Technologies, a joint venture created to bundle the development projects. The new company is headquartered in the USA and in the city of Aalen, Germany.
Managed jointly, Tooz Technologies has assumed strategic and operational responsibility for the further evolution of the optical technology invented by Zeiss, and the delay-free connectivity provided by Deutsch Telekom, factors critical for the success of marketable smart glasses. This technology will be licensed to manufacturers of smart glasses.
To understand customer requirements for these smart glasses, in the past months both companies have developed specific applications together with more than 40 partners from industry, commerce and science as part of a developer programme.
"The diverse and economically promising development projects have confirmed for us that there will be a market for smart glasses as well as for business and end consumers," said Christian Stangier, senior vice president at Deutsche Telekom. "These scenarios range from logistics and maintenance to fitness and health applications."
As part of this partnership, Zeiss is making available its optical system for a fully integrated, light pair of glasses that can be manufactured in a variety of designs as well as its years of experience with imaging systems worn close to the eye. The optics have already been used in the developer programme and will be evolved in the coming months by building on complementary technologies such as microdisplays and electronics.
"The goal is a pair of smart glasses acceptable to industry and consumers that is unobtrusive, suitable for day-to-day applications and offers the user tangible added value," said Ulrich Simon, head of corporate research and technology at Zeiss.
Smart Glasses could prove an asset whenever someone needs both their hands free while still having access to images, data and communications.
"This could be in logistics, but also during surgery,” said Simon. “The doctor will need numerous, individually selected pieces of information while still concentrating completely on what is happening in the OR. In retail, smart glasses will enable personalised shopping experiences as well as day-to-day applications: for example, navigation functions and social media will be available without needing to reach for your smartphone."
Good connectivity is crucial for the market success of smart glasses. Thanks to edge computing, it may be possible to transfer the necessary technology from the glasses to the cloud. To ensure that the glasses' functions work instantaneously, short network reaction times are a must. This will require servers that are as close as possible for sending and receiving data. The computing power will reside not in the glasses themselves, but in the cloud, making them smaller, lighter and less hot, and extending the battery life, increasing the number of potential applications.
"If we want to experience real-time applications in the future, then we need cloud connectivity that is available everywhere,” said Stangier. “This is the only way to guarantee a high-speed reaction time. We are convinced that smart glasses will play a major role in the years ahead. Edge computing is a key step to achieving this breakthrough for smart glasses."
Simon added: "Much like many developers, start-ups and other companies, we want to achieve a better understanding of how smart glasses will function in a complex ecosystem."