After a tumultuous 2020, the need for digitization and keeping workers connected became crystal clear for many, says tech market advisory firm ABI Research.

The firm adds that “this is true in all industries, but especially for industrial markets where workflow complexity, knowledge retention and share, and the financial impact from downtime and other inefficiencies are particularly severe.”

New findings from ABI reveal that 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 increasing adoption will generate an industrial augmented reality market value of US$70 billion by 2025.

“COVID-19 did not create the need for digitization, but it certainly accelerated it,” says Eric Abbruzzese, ABI's augmented and virtual reality research director. “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."

That synergy is responsible for the impressive growth rate of AR in industrial, a release states. 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.

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.

ABI says that the Key Performance Indicators (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.

“AR can also 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 aging 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, it says.

“High complexity leads to severe downtime and cost inefficiency, which AR can lessen,” Abbruzzese says. “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.”

The findings are from ABI Research's AR in Industrial Applications.