Facilities managers have become brisk early adopters of augmented reality, making the sector an important bellwether for a technology that's finally emerging from the shadow of years of hype. In fact, as many as one in five facilities management professionals (20%) use AR, while nearly 75% of those who don't currently use the technology say they'll adopt it within the next 24 months.
That's according to the 2021 State of Augmented Reality in Facilities Management report, which was compiled by AI and computer vision firm Resonai, which surveyed senior facilities managers in healthcare, corporate, retail, and other settings. The salient takeaway is that augmented reality, long confined to gaming and hokey marketing efforts, is becoming a useful tool in the wild, a reality that's being aided by the pandemic.
"Augmented reality has come a long way since its first implementations in gaming and entertainment. As buildings become smarter and the digital and physical worlds become one, building owners and facilities managers are turning to AR and AI for everything from improved maintenance to indoor navigation," explains Emil Alon, CEO and Founder of Resonai. "We published our state of the industry report to help facilities management professionals navigate the complex world of digital transformation and understand how their peers are leveraging the exciting innovations taking place."
Among the common uses of AR among facilities managers, tours and virtual demonstrations rank high, reinforcing the utility of AR as a marketing tool. But other uses include industrial manufacturing applications, smart maintenance and repairs, tenant and visitor services, and training/tutorials.
COVID-19 has clearly played a role in the swift adoption among facilities managers. A full 27% of respondents cited reduction of physical contact as a benefit to the technology. Automating maintenance processes also ranked high, with 47% of respondents citing it as a benefit of the technology. Early adopters similarly fall in line with those most likely to benefit from the technology during the pandemic-related restrictions, with 30 percent adoption among hospitals and medical facilities surveyed followed by manufacturing facilities (26%), educational facilities (25%) and corporate offices (23%).
Cost, however, remains a stumbling block for adoption. A full 40% of facility managers believe cost is the greatest barrier to AR adoption. In the long view, however, as adoption rises and more AR products become available with greater degrees of out-of-the-box customization, that barrier will fall.
It's good news for a technology that's long struggled to free itself from the burden of too much hype.