The need for digitization and keeping workers connected has reached the industrial markets where workflow complexity, knowledge retention and share, and the financial impact from downtime and other inefficiencies are particularly severe.
ABI Research predicts the industrial market will quicken its adoption of Augmented Reality (AR) smart glasses and mobile devices to enable workers in any location and minimize costly inefficiencies.
This will generate an industrial augmented reality market value of US$70 billion by 2025.
Eric Abbruzzese, augmented and virtual reality research director at ABI Research, said COVID-19 may not have create the need for digitization, but it certainly accelerated it.
“As a high-value element of digitization, augmented reality adds a visual element to a data-heavy system that can sometimes devalue the human worker. AR brings the worker back into the equation and creates a synergistic relationship between worker and IT/OT systems where each component benefits from the other,” he continued.
That synergy is responsible for the impressive growth rate of AR in industrial. ABI Research estimates over 15 million smart glasses devices will be used in industrial workflows found in manufacturing, transportation/automotive, AEC, energy & utilities, and logistics.
Companies like Atheer, Librestream, PTC, ScopeAR, and Teamviewer leverage platform strengths across AR and industrial to integrate and deliver high-value applications like remote assistance, training, and knowledge capture.
While much AR usage today is on mobile devices, smart glasses play a pivotal role in industrial where hands-free data access can be a requirement. Microsoft, RealWear, and Vuzix have carved out comfortable hardware positions in the industrial space.
Implementers such as ABB, Honeywell, Siemens, and Volkswagen Group have been investing in AR through both in-house development and partnerships to deliver on those high-value use cases.
The KPIs for industrial only further highlight how beneficial AR can be. Downtime is one of the most severe KPIs in terms of lost productivity and revenue. In the automotive industry, for example, US$30,000 per minute of unplanned downtime is possible—large automakers can average one vehicle produced per minute.
AR can help reduce unplanned downtime through more efficient maintenance with analytics, error-reducing task guidance and verification and, when necessary, remote expertise.
AR can also reduce planned downtime through similar means. The impact of an ageing workforce—a more nebulous but equally important metric—can also be reduced through the knowledge capture capabilities of AR.
Industrial environments create a perfect storm of variables and needs for augmented reality to address and fill.
Abbruzzese noted that high complexity leads to severe downtime and cost inefficiency, which AR can lessen. He added that training and knowledge share are critical due to that complexity, and AR can enhance training efficacy and retention while also being used to capture, share, and view that knowledge.
“Integration into important platforms like IoT, PLM, ERP, and WMS enables a two-way benefit, where AR can improve those systems and those systems feed data to improve AR. All components working together can be a challenge, but the return grows exponentially,” concluded Abbruzzese.