Makers of The Metaverse: Nadir Ali Of Inpixon On The Future Of The VR, AR & Mixed Reality Industries

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

This is such an exciting time for metaverse technologies and especially for their business use cases. My advice for someone wanting to start or extend their career in this space–use your imagination.

The Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality & Mixed Reality Industries are so exciting. What is coming around the corner? How will these improve our lives? What are the concerns we should keep an eye out for? Aside from entertainment, how can VR or AR help work or other parts of life? To address this, we had the pleasure of interviewing Nadir Ali.

Nadir Ali is CEO of Inpixon, the Indoor Intelligence company. For over 20 years, in his executive-level roles at Inpixon (formerly Sysorex) he has tapped into the $12 billion industry of indoor positioning and data analytics. Nadir is a leading expert voice in the indoor intelligence and location technology industry.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you tell us a bit about your backstory and how you grew up?

I grew up here in the U.S. My parents immigrated a long time ago, and I went to UC Berkeley where I majored in economics and business. I started off in management consulting while still in college, but growing up it was my father, who was an entrepreneur, who influenced me the most. Thanks to him, I quickly realized that the entrepreneurial route was where I wanted to go. I started my first business after finishing my consulting stint at Deloitte & Touche just a few years after graduation. My first business was in the fashion industry, so it was very different from where I am today. I ended up selling that company and moved into technology when I started working for Sysorex, which was a systems integrator focused on the government market, and also a family business started by my father-in-law.

This was where I really learned about the IT industry and spent a lot of time experiencing how to properly run a business, — the operational side of building a business and scaling it — program management and operations, sales and marketing, partnerships and channels. I was able to work in many different areas of the business and eventually started developing what is now Inpixon and expanding that business.

Because Syrorex was a system integrator company reselling third-party products, one of the first things I learned and decided upon, especially being here in Silicon Valley, was that I wanted Inpixon to own its products. This led to us looking into acquiring companies, and at the time I found data analytics and cybersecurity very interesting. I found a company that did indoor positioning using radio frequency sensors, which we acquired and that was the beginning of the whole Inpixon business plan and strategy.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I’ve been fortunate to have had very strong mentorship from the businesspeople in my life, and they have helped shape my career. The first is my father, Mohammad Ali. He came from very humble beginnings in Pakistan but had a dream at a young age that he was going to be different and change his circumstances. He envisioned moving to America and having five children who were going to attend UC Berkeley. He quickly built his career as a successful entrepreneur in a variety of businesses along the way, moving first to the UK, then to America, where he had five children, and two of them (including myself) decided to attend UC Berkeley. His determination, ambition, ingenuity, and belief in himself has been an inspiration to me all my life.

The second person to whom I am quite grateful is my father-in-law, A. Salam Qureishi. Salam is best known for being the ‘Moneyball guy’ for football. He was a statistician by training who built the first computerized scouting and draft player selection system with the Dallas Cowboys and, subsequently, other NFL teams. He then built a highly successful systems integration business which is where I learned the ropes in the IT world. He provided me with strong business skills and served as an exceptional role model for giving back to society.

It’s nothing new to see the hunger and passion immigrants have to build a better life, but these two men in particular became very successful entrepreneurs, creating hundreds of jobs and millions of dollars in assets, paying their taxes, and living the American dream. I consider myself truly blessed and lucky to have them in my life.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

We are proud to have built a platform that offers what we believe is the best indoor intelligence solution on the market. The indoor location market is highly fragmented. There are many small vendors doing Wi-Fi analytics, maps, the employee app or capturing location data from cameras or other IoT sensors, but no one was providing an integrated solution with all the key components. So that’s what we’ve focused on. We have built or acquired the key technologies and have pulled it into one platform, creating a much higher value proposition for our customers.

Our entire premise of combining the physical and digital world is coming together. There’s a lot of hype around the metaverse and where that’s going next, but whether it’s virtual reality, augmented reality, or mixed reality, it all falls under the extended reality (XR) umbrella. It’s all about shaping immersive experiences for users, and it can be business- or consumer-oriented.

So, whether it’s workplace experiences where we’re talking about using our enterprise app, or hybrid events and the experience you have attending a conference, or industrial workplace experiences in a factory or warehouse, Inpixon is all about indoor intelligence and being able to provide a seamless experience. The experience is ultimately the deliverable.

Currently, we are working with major corporate enterprises and industrial facilities, and now even talking with major cities about smart city initiatives and using those same big data, location-based technologies, apps, maps, and even AR.

These experiences are being delivered by a core set of technology that we own today. That’s been our strategy — to put all of these pieces together to deliver a seamless, single, integrated solution. So we’re taking that to the next level. We started with sensors and then brought together the complementary solutions, but the next step is to elevate that experience with new technologies like augmented reality and to shape your experience as you’re moving through physical spaces.

Ok super. Thank you for all that. Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview. The VR, AR and MR industries seem so exciting right now. What are the 3 things in particular that most excite you about the industry? Can you explain or give an example?

While there are notable consumer benefits, I am most excited about the opportunities for this industry to shape businesses. And, from my perspective, I think it’s more interesting to overlay the virtual world onto the physical world with AR or MR than to replace the real world with a VR experience. As just one example, in the industrial context, whether it’s a factory, warehouse or mine, workers can use AR to gain a next-level understanding of what’s happening in their environment. A manufacturing company employee, in their smart glasses, could not only visualize the location of all assets, equipment and personnel but also “see” inside of a box to know its contents.

All of the technologies driving AR and VR are only getting better due to advances with technology, as it takes a lot of compute power, energy and miniaturization to be able to deliver all of this. But things are advancing at a rapid pace.

Many of the things that we used to think about in Star Trek or in sci-fi movies are starting to come to reality and that is pretty cool and fun. Plus, they can enrich personal lives and make businesses more successful.

For instance, there are companies working on smart contact lenses, which could minimize the need for glasses or headsets. And at CES early this year, there were many other types of wearables besides glasses. Some examples include vests that have haptics, also known as kinaesthetic communication or 3D touch, and depending on what game you’re playing or what environment you’re looking at, you can feel the heat or the cold. Or, if you’re playing a boxing game, you could potentially feel the punch. Even holograms are going to become more and more realistic and present.

There are many exciting ideas that are going to further evolve this industry and really bring us into this immersive experience.

What are the 3 things that concern you about the VR, AR and MR industries? Can you explain? What can be done to address those concerns?

As with any business, there are data privacy and security issues that you need to worry about. It’s something we deal with every day no matter what technology you are looking at. The continuation of being vigilant and intentional about protecting consumer data and providing the appropriate types of consent or opt-in capabilities as we develop these technologies is very important. One of our main visions for Inpixon has always been to make sure that we’re doing good with indoor data. As this industry evolves, technological advances need to be balanced with regulation to address this concern.

Another concern is with the headsets and glasses. There has been commentary and studies around strains in the neck and head in relation to wearable technology as it can be heavy especially if you’re wearing them for a long period of time. For some people, it can even lead to motion sickness or dizziness, so there are some concerns around this that should be addressed. Vendors are working to improve or even eliminate these risks with new lightweight designs, however, there still needs to be safety precautions and warnings for these devices.

Access is another concern. When something exciting first launches, its costs are higher. Although the costs are coming down for some of these wearables and new technologies, there is a bit of a digital divide that could grow wider. We don’t want that digital divide to widen too much, so how do we address that gap? I think as businesses, governments, and industry, it is important that we keep accessibility to everyone in mind, especially when it comes to education. We want to ensure there is a level playing field with access to emerging technology.

I think the entertainment aspects of VR, AR and MR are apparent. Can you share with our readers how these industries can help us at work?

There is a lot of focus on the consumer side at the moment, however, I’m more excited about the business side. So whether it’s industrial, healthcare, enterprise tech, or even education, the extension of mixed realities has an opportunity to have a major impact here.

I talked earlier about the use cases in factories and warehouses. In the corporate enterprise space, there are also big benefits in not having to pull out your phone or laptop to look up information and media. With AR, the experience can be served up to you, hands-free, in your smart glasses. Personally, I look forward to walking into a meeting with my agenda and talking points presented discreetly in my glasses, or to giving a conference presentation with my AR smart glasses acting as a teleprompter. I can even envision real-time language translations being delivered to my glasses as my international visitor speaks. There really are some incredible and practical use cases that this technology will unleash.

Think about how augmented reality and virtual reality could impact education– it would be the Khan Academy on steroids. Virtual and augmented reality can deliver these real-world experiences to help education–from a high school science project to a virtual class in medical school–the number of ways teachers, professors, and students alike can use this experience to improve education is mind-boggling.

What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about working in your industry? Can you explain what you mean?

There is a lot of confusion about what the technology actually is. One example is people assume AR and VR are the same thing and are used interchangeably, which is not true. One of the bigger myths is that this kind of technology is only for gaming or for consumers — think Pokémon GO. But I believe the business applications are more extensive and have a higher potential for positive life enrichment and economic impact.

And this leads to a third myth–that these technologies will be predominantly provided and controlled by “the Googles, Apples or the Metas” of the world because of development costs. The cost for this technology is dropping quickly and will continue to decrease. There are a growing number of use cases that can be best addressed by medium and smaller businesses. So, AR and VR are not just the reign of the global giants; these solutions will be provided by a wide range of companies and proliferated into our everyday life.

What advice do you give others to Create a Highly Successful Career In The VR, AR or MR Industries?

This is such an exciting time for metaverse technologies and especially for their business use cases. My advice for someone wanting to start or extend their career in this space–use your imagination.

When working on these innovations, stay creative, think outside the box about how this technology can be used to improve people’s lives, and also consider how they can be used to increase safety and security operations in a business.

And most importantly, think about how VR, AR or MR impacts society and all of us in the long run. Be sure to keep privacy and security and safety in mind and ensure whatever you are building addresses those factors. I’m going to reemphasize our Inpixon philosophy of doing good with the data you’re using or the service that you’re providing. This is a core value for us as should be for anyone working in this space.

We are very blessed that very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

I’d love to have a sit down with Tim Cook. I am very impressed with how he carries himself; he is low key and has a modest profile. I admire how he has taken over and grown Apple which was already so successful under Steve Jobs. Apple has so many great products for nearly every industry and across the globe–it is no surprise many consider it the most successful company in the world. It would be great to hear insights and advice from Tim Cook.

Thank you so much for these excellent stories and insights. We wish you continued success on your great work!

Makers of The Metaverse: Nadir Ali Of Inpixon On The Future Of The VR, AR & Mixed Reality… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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