Considered to be one of the most defining technologies of our times, Augmented Reality(AR) provides a live direct or indirect view of a physical, real-world environment and then augments (or supplements) this view with computer-generated sensory input such as sound, video, graphics or GPS data. AR improves users’ experience by enabling them to interact and learn from whatever they are observing. Deployment of AR tools within a field service environment can have a measurable improvement on key performance indicators (KPIs) related to quality, productivity, and efficiency such as Mean Time to Repair, First Time Fix Rate, and Mean Time Between Failure.
The implementation of an AR solution requires integration of multiple components which must all function together to make the solution work. First there is the viewer technology. Most often this takes the form of Smart Glasses or a mobile device such as a tablet or smart phone. Next is the application which allows the device to read what the field service engineer (FSE) is seeing live and produce the additional content whether it be sound, video, graphics or GPS data. In addition, many AR experiences rely on video from the onsite FSE to a control center or remote support personnel with special information or skills to assist the onsite FSE in completing the job. Often the communication is done using a mobile device such as a smart phone or tablet.
In this blog we examine some of the key players in the AR space who have developed both use case scenarios and actual solutions for maintenance and field service environments:
APX’s Skylight is an AR enterprise platform which integrates with smart glasses or other wearables. It allows field service engineers to receive in-view instructions and obtain remote assistance with video from a central control center. It also has the ability to capture information at the onsite location and receive live data feeds to aid in field service.
I-Mechanic is an AR application for smartphones that enable consumers or mechanics to perform maintenance on automobiles. In addition it can provide consumers with useful information on closest auto repair and parts stores.
Epson: Moverio- Augmented Reality Glasses
The Moverio product uses sensors to provide onsite 3D Augmented Reality assistance while detecting issues and seeing images of what exists inside the components. Additionally it provides one way video to a “control room” providing other resources for the onsite technician to successfully complete repair. One of the use cases for the Moverio product is the inspection and repair of HVAC systems on cruise ships.
An AR software platform allows for both 3-D overlay of information and remote instruction/collaboration with experts using video and smart phone technology. It also provides the ability to catalog issues and capture technical information enabling users to log and track reasons for equipment failure. Fieldbit is currently being used in maintenance of Print Equipment Manufacturers, Medical Equipment Manufacturers, Utility Providers, and Industrial Machinery. Fieldbit recently partnered with cloud based, field service management software vendor ClickSoftware to deliver faster, more effective field service repair resolution once the workforce arrives on site.
iQagent is a mobile-based AR application for plant floor maintenance. It scans QR codes to provide maintenance related information such as process data, schematics, and other resource. It can be customized to read an individual organizations data and information from its database.
HoloLens – AR glasses which can be purchased as part of a commercial suite allowing for customization for enterprise use. Current partners include Volvo, NASA, Trimble, and others.
NGrain consists of a suite of AR applications including:
ProProducer – platform to create virtual training simulations;
Viewer – companion to ProProducer to view and use the virtual simulations;
Android Viewer – allows access to content created using ProProducer from Android devices;
SDK – allows building of 3-D imaging to provide AR experience including both surface of objects and what is inside and underneath.
NGrain has also developed a number of industrial applications for its AR suite of products including but not limited to:
Consort – for inspection and damage assessment;
Envoy – providing real-time updates and information to field service engineers and allows communication between technicians;
Scout – Use Case – Aircraft Repair shop floor – real time visual analysis with Floor Manager oversite improving efficiency.
ThingWorx Studio is an AR offering developed by PTC for use in Industrial Enterprise. It combines the power of Vuforia, an AR platform, with the ThingWorx IoT Platform. These technologies offer new ways for the industrial enterprise to create, operate, and service products. For example, this technology can be used to monitor machine conditions in real-time and provide step by step instructions on the operation, maintenance, and repair of these machines.
Scope AR offers several applications to facilitate an AR platform within a field service environment. The Worklink application allows 3-D images and instructions to pop up on mobile or wearable devices thus enhancing the FSE’s ability to get information on site. To see a video click here.
A Swedish company whose product, XM Reality Remote Guidance, allows onsite technicians to use video to connect to a central control center to receive visual instructions from qualified technicians with the information on how to fix the onsite problem. Their products include Smart Glasses, a Guide Station from which to provide the remote assistance, a tablet, interface with mobile phones, and a heavy duty casing for Microsoft Surface Pros to be used in the field.
Although the AR market is in its early growth stages, the vendor landscape for these solutions is already quite vast. We anticipate that more vendors will emerge while others evolve into more robust solution providers as the market continues to mature. There are of course many other applications for AR as well outside of field service and maintenance such as retail, consumer, building and more. We hope that you will join the conversation and let us know about your experience with these and other companies in this marketplace.