AR’s ability to enhance workers’ safety and protect equipment addresses the priority on safety emphasized by the energy and utilities sector. After factoring capital expenditure and operating expense for implementing AR, return on investment is still expected to be positive and quick for these applications using AR.
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Energy and Utilities Leads Augmented Reality Use Cases
Energy and utilities, coming after logistics and manufacturing, make up the top three verticals in terms of augmented reality (AR) glasses shipments and total value chain revenues. Total AR market revenues for the energy and utilities industry are expected to grow from US$164 million (2017) to reach US$18 billion by 2022, with platform and licensing and smart glasses hardware making up the majority of shipments. ABI Research estimates that global smart glasses shipments will reach 226,000 in 2017, and energy and utilities accounts for 17% of global shipments.
AR’s ability to enhance workers’ safety and protect equipment addresses the priority on safety emphasized by the energy and utilities sector. A handful of energy and utilities companies, such as NextEra Energy, Toms River Municipal Utilities Authority, etc. are actively deploying AR in a few cases to enhance field workers’ capabilities. For more information, please refer to the ABI Research market data Augmented and Mixed Reality Devices and Enterprise Verticals (MD-ARMR-101).
Safety Is Primary Consideration
AR can offer better visualization of how the final construction would look before the start of a construction, such as deployment of the poles, wires, lines, anchors, etc. Through visualization, AR can prevent errors when making line locations on concrete, asphalt, or lawns, which will bring potential savings and an increase in efficiencies. With AR, technicians on job sites can view real-time information, access complete documentations, and receive instructions from remote experts that also alleviate the shortage of skilled workers to some extent. While keeping both hands free for repairs, field workers can visually see the positions of facilities and complex components, which reduces accidents or utilities breakdowns. Other use cases, including equipment inspection, leak identification, preventive maintenance, storm restoration, quality monitoring and control, and consumer value-added services, can all be enabled through AR and MR, and are already being trialed and tested. After factoring capital expenditure (CAPEX) and operating expense (OPEX) for implementing AR, return on investment (ROI) is still expected to be positive and quick for these applications using AR.
It Is Vital to Nurture AR Ecosystem
To fully enjoy the benefits, ABI Research believes that several key features for hardware must be addressed, as well as content and platform development. AR devices for the energy and utilities sector are more likely to be required to have safety and general certification. This may drive up hardware prices because safety certification is time-consuming and costly. The workplace for the energy industry has potential hazards such as explosive dust or flammable gas, so durable and dependable design is a must for workers who are exposed to environments like this. The screen of smart glasses should have wide-field view and be big enough to read information and view AR content in all types of scenarios, regardless of the indoor or outdoor lighting conditions. For predictive maintenance, field workers need to wear glasses for a long time, thus wearability and flexibility is important. What’s more, continuous wireless connection with portable devices is important to make sure that the required data is always available when completing the task, especially when workers are in remote locations. Specialized antenna capable of making the most of a weak signal are demanded to guarantee continuous interaction.
Platform and content-related investment will command a significant portion of market value. Hardware players are developing first-party platforms for creation, distribution, and usage as well. Device types and intended use cases will determine the content offers for enterprise applications, as well as creation methods and publishing options. A user interface that is user friendly and easy to use is very important for the acceptance of AR applications. It is quite a challenging task at the moment to have these solutions securely integrated into an existing enterprise system and be able to leverage 3D and digital data from the existing system. In a complex and large-scale enterprise integration, a universal platform that standardizes content and other components will be important for the development of the whole ecosystem. Furthermore, AR hardware and software functional requirement guidelines will further the development of the whole AR ecosystem. For more information, please read the ABI Research report AR in Energy & Utilities.