According to ABI Research, the total augmented reality market is estimated to reach over $100 billion by 2024, at an average CAGR of 75 percent. The research firm says, “The mainstay early adoption verticals like Manufacturing, Logistics, and Energy are still showing impressive growth, while newer verticals like healthcare, media & entertainment, and retail/commerce/marketing are the fastest growing.”
Personally, AR is one of the technologies I find most exciting and compelling for service organizations because I can so easily visualize the problems it can solve. In other words, its value proposition is clear to me (and countless others). Take the talent gap, for instance, and think about how AR can help organizations to more quickly and efficiently train and support limited resources. Consider the value of remote resolution, and how AR can be used either internally or with customers to reduce the need for truck rolls in many cases or, at minimum, ensure better preparation when a tech arrives on site. Even knowledge management – being able to capture the information exchange in the AR sessions and catalog that as shared knowledge is incredibly valuable.
While I’ve talked with numerous service leaders having success with AR within their respective organizations, what has surfaced is the reality that there are a few shared hurdles that need to be overcome in order to attain ROI and reap the full rewards of AR. Here are four common hurdles that those I’ve interviewed have experienced and would caution you to expect and preparer for as you implement AR:
Older workforce resistance. The reality is, any new tool can be met with skepticism and hesitance by those workers set in their way. But I’d say a tool like AR has a buzz about it that can emphasize these emotions in some of your older workers. Those I’ve interviewed have reported some significant challenges with getting older workers on board with using AR. Overcoming this hurdle comes down to three things – having a proactive change management strategy in place, encouraging an open dialogue with these workers as they become familiar with the tool, and ensuring you have measures in place to hold your workers accountable for using the technology.
Connectivity issues. This is a hurdle I am sure is being addressed by those providing AR technology, but a recurring issue among the folks that have adopted the technology is experiencing connectivity problems. This ranges from not being able to initiate sessions to sessions being interrupted, but the end result is that it can be a very frustrating experience for the employees (and customers, if you are using this technology with your customers) and contributes to the adoption issues discussed above. I’d recommend you test, retest, and keep testing connectivity during your trial and pilot to ensure that the solution works to your expectations.
Battery life issues. Some of the folks I’ve talked with are using AR for very short trouble-shooting chats (three to five minutes) and others for longer support calls (20 to 25 minutes). Those that are using AR for longer durations have reported that the sessions kill the battery life of their mobile devices. This will present varying degrees of issue depending on how many opportunities your technicians have to charge their device throughout the day, but again is something you should test and bring up to your AR provider if you’re researching or evaluating this technology.
Wearables need work. Most of the companies I’ve spoken with about AR are using a smartphone or tablet for sessions, while many are interested in or considering moving to wearable devices. One of the service leaders I interviewed had tested different wearables and explained that while the AR solution works quite seamlessly on a smartphone, it isn’t as smooth on the wearables – that there’s still some work that needs done for the application to have the same impact on a wearable as it does a smartphone. I am certain progress is being made with this daily, but it’s important to identify the preferred device for your use case is and test it thoroughly.
Despite these hurdles, the value of AR in field service is clear, and that is echoed by those I’ve discussed challenges with. All the people I’ve spoken to about AR use feel it is worthwhile despite some of the stumbling blocks. It is always worthwhile, though, to discuss both sides of the coin when it comes to technology – the value it will provide, but the fact that it is never a seamless journey. If you are looking to deploy AR, these issues are worth investigating and discussing during your evaluation.