whatUsing AR effectively is no simple matter. As with any innovative technology, new benefits come with new challenges. Before embedding an AR solution in your business, it’s important to consider four questions:

1. What research should you complete before adopting an AR solution?

A good answer nearly always starts with good questions. To deploy an AR solution effectively, you need to understand why you’re using it. Educate yourself and your team on what AR technology is, what problem you’re trying to solve and in what specific and measurable ways this technology can mitigate the problem.

First, you should identify and analyze a problem within your business. Maybe a routine activity within your workflow is suffering from inadequate communication, under trained staff or fiddly information delivery. Are you perhaps relying on outdated or difficult-to-use instruction manuals?

With this research in mind, you should evaluate the potential for AR technology to mitigate high importance factors and solve the problem. Crucially, this research should take into account the financial feasibility of investing in an AR solution. It’s unlikely to be worth attempting to embed AR into simple, everyday tasks, where staff don’t require advanced training. Whereas complicated activities within your business often require staff to undergo retraining. If they’re high-risk tasks, it might also be that it’s absolutely essential for your staff to avoid making mistakes. AR can reduce error rates and reduce the time and money needed to help them reskill.

The next stage is to validate your use of AR technology through small scale tests of your proposed solution. These tests help troubleshoot potential issues before committing to larger scale investment and provide quantifiable evidence of the technology’s usefulness to senior management.

2. How can AR drive profitability and improve productivity?

AR’s ability to supply accurate, easy-to-use and contextual information makes it useful for supplying real time guidance to employees while on-the-job.

Within the logistics industry, AR is already improving the efficiency of stock picking and movement within warehouses. There are multiple actions associated with this job: identify the item, calculate an optimal route, and then physically transport it. AR is being used to streamline this process by automatically logging the item and displaying the most efficient route in the user’s view. This has a positive impact on the worker’s productivity and the company’s bottom line in several ways. First, it removes the possibility of the employee taking an inaccurate or inefficient path towards their target, increasing their work speed and reducing error rates. By taking responsibility for calculating directions within the warehouse, it also reduces the user’s mental load, lowering stress levels and improving focus. Importantly, all of this is achieved while leaving the employee’s hands free to scan and package products.

3. How can you interact with your AR device and application?

AR accommodates new kinds of user input like voice commands, gestures, and gaze. If your organization requires staff to work within a limited space, it’s impractical to use an AR app requiring complex gestural controls. Voice commands would be a more efficient input system. If a task takes a long time to complete, you should consider whether it’s comfortable for a user to wear AR glasses for the duration of their work, or whether they should only use AR for the most complex parts of their job.

If your users find AR wearables uncomfortable or even technologically intimidating, it’s possible to view AR through a mobile device as a more familiar, more comfortable and less intrusive option for your staff.

4. Integrating AR into your existing ecosystem

Too many organizations consider AR solutions in a silo. However, without connecting to your business systems that it can pull and record data from/to, it is unlikely to be a long-lasting effective solution. As part of this process, you will need to collaborate with your IT department to ensure the AR hardware and software is compliant with your internal security regulations.

Let’s look at the car mechanic example again: As an isolated solution, the AR system helps them to fix cars more quickly and with fewer errors. When connected to the company’s database of car parts, it could provide the mechanic with more detailed information about individual parts they’re examining, including stock levels and performance ratings, providing useful extra context and further speeding up their ability to identify and fix faults.

Clearly, AR can play a pivotal role in boosting employee productivity and company profitability. But its ability to improve how we perform a task is dependent on careful planning and informed decision making - from the initial research stages to deployment.

The path towards adopting AR isn’t always uniform and each company has their own unique journey. PwC can help you navigate the complexities of augmented reality technology, guiding you to discover, devise, develop and deploy AR solutions for your business.

By Jeremy Dalton, Head of VR/AR, PwC UK & Mark Sage, Executive Director, AR for Enterprise Alliance
This article was written in conjunction with AREA (Augmented Reality for Enterprise Alliance) - a global, membership-funded non-profit alliance dedicated to helping accelerate the adoption of enterprise AR by supporting the growth of a comprehensive ecosystem.