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The warehouse and manufacturing vertical, along with field services, represent one quarter of the wearable devices shipped to enterprise end users in 2016. With device hardware improvements from companies like Epson, Microsoft, ODG, and Vuzix, ABI Research forecasts shipments to these segments will more than triple to top 35 million units in 2021.
“Many occupations require specialized equipment, such as scrubs for medical professionals working in urgent care or protective eyewear for engineers in manufacturing; there’s no reason why these shouldn’t be connected,” says Ryan Martin, Senior Analyst at ABI Research. “The fundamental difference between the consumer and enterprise contexts is that the current cohort of consumer wearables center on the marginal and subjective value of convenience, while in the enterprise, they’re viewed as a tool.”
Enterprise wearables must be designed for use by different personnel. This includes factors like fit, portability, and battery life, as well as the need for an authentication mechanism to provision access to internal system information.
Warehouse workers, for instance, traditionally relied on a combination of handheld scanners and paper picklists to execute the fulfillment process, estimated to account for as much as 55% of total warehouse operating expense. The goal with wearables is to replace these legacy solutions with digital eyewear—whether assessing equipment, measuring status, or performing troubleshooting—in a virtualized and sensor network-enabled AR environment.
Device-agnostic, cross-platform collaboration solutions from companies like APX Labs, Parsable (formerly Wearable Intelligence before an early-2016 name change), and Pristine will have some staying power. But as determinants of success surrounding new and emerging connected device categories, such as wearables, continue to shift—focusing less on the device ecosystem (Android, iOS) and more on the ecosystem of devices (IoT, IoE)—it will also be critical that companies cultivate a capacity to connect the digital and physical worlds, as well as the content and content creation tools to support the transition.
“Scalable, remote collaboration drives better service at lower cost,” concludes Martin. “Wearables make IoT data not only actionable but also efficient when used in multi-device IoT ecosystems.”