The warehouse and manufacturing vertical, along with field services, account for one quarter of the wearable devices shipped to enterprise end users in 2016, according to new data from ABI Research. The firm forecasts shipments to these segments will more than triple to exceed 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,” said 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,” Martin said.

Enterprise wearables must be designed for use by different personnel, ABI said. This includes factors such as fit, portability and battery life, as well as the need for an authentication mechanism to provision access to internal system information.

Warehouse workers, for example, 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—for processes such as assessing equipment, measuring status or performing troubleshooting—in a virtualized and sensor network-enabled AR environment.

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