AR Drives Field Service Improvements
We'll see if Facebook’s Oculus Research’s prediction that AR glasses will replace smartphones and Apple's claim that AR is the future will come to fruition.
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I had the chance to speak with Gerald Nacache, director of sales and business development at Mobiliya. Gerald has been involved in interactive 3D and virtual reality for the past 16 years and AR (augmented reality) for the past 10 years. Mobiliya is a product engineering services company that helps other enterprises create products in the area of mobile-to-cloud system integration, IoT (Internet of Things), Deep Learning, and other key practices.
Mobiliya’s AR solutions have several use cases based on helping field workers improve their performance, efficiency, and safety.
Telco field workers are frequently maintaining and troubleshooting stations and towers in remote locations. To reduce errors in the field, minimize incomplete tasks, and reduce the need for re-work, companies will use Mobiliya’s solution that can be accessed via tablet, smartphone, or wearable smart glasses. Information is up to date and customized for each version of the system in the field. Workers’ capacity is improved with interactive, user-friendly information and reference material that provides step-by-step guidance on the actions that need to be taken. It’s much easier for the technician to access information online than with paper manuals, which are frequently dated when printed.
Workers can perform the operations required using the application, which can also record each step to automatically document compliance. The solution can also be customized to access IoT device data from the field for predictive and preventive maintenance and verification the system is performing as planned.
Similar use cases apply in the healthcare field, where medical equipment needs to be set up, configured and maintained. Mobiliya´s solution for medical device makers is able to tell a clinician/technician if a equipment is ready to be used by a surgeon or another medical professional.
This is critical on a couple of fronts:
Earning the trust of the medical professional
Maximizing the uptime and use of expensive, revenue-generating equipment.
Whereas, if the equipment is down for longer than necessary, or not ready when the medical professional needs it, the perception of the brand is damaged and may be ripe for replacement by a competitor.
One of the promising directions of AR in the enterprise is to integrate it with IoT systems. This can allow a field worker to access combined information pulled directly from the IoT devices, and information coming from the cloud. This would, for example, allow verification whether tests or maintenance have passed correctly, or to access alarm notifications, or visualize current conditions of a system.
While AR seems like a technology of the future, it is ready for prime time and adopted with good return-on-investment in many of the leading enterprises today. Usually, the current AR solutions are used on Smartphones and Tablets, due to the ubiquity of those the devices. However, with advancements in smart glasses, ultimately field workers will have a hands-free device with all the information they need to do their job, in their field of vision.
This can include:
Labels with text
Labels with numbers (e.g., valve settings)
3-D and interactive 3-D information displayed
3-D animation of the actual assembly task.
Another successful area for enterprise adoption of AR and VR is training. While training services often leverage VR with a 3-D model of the product to train on, there are a lot of legacy in industrial companies without a correct representation of their complex product. When they want training done in a real environment, we have the ability to create specific animation and then let them train on the real product thanks to augmented reality.
For safety in hazardous environments, solutions are able to remind the technician to take safety precautions (e.g., depressurizing the fuel injection system before working on it). Alarms can be set to remind people to take safety actions, and show the actions that need to be taken, with 3-D animation or 2D graphics, whatever is more suitable for the scenario.
According to Gerald, it’s best for companies to start adopting Augmented Reality via a small and efficient Proof-of-Concept project. Identify a specific business case, develop and implement a proof of concept, then a solution, and move up to more challenging/demanding business cases. He advises building proofs of concept quickly, with the right data and input from the customer, and clear and shared objectives.
Mention AR to a lot of people and they think entertainment, like Pokemon Go. However, some of the most successful projects for AR take place in a commercial/industrial environment. Research and development will continue to look for use cases which will generate more value, more interest in and traction across verticals, as well as the B2C market.
Opinions expressed by DZone contributors are their own.