Augmented Reality State of the Art 

An Identification of Key Players 

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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

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.

AR Media

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.

Fieldbit

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

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.

Microsoft

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

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.

PTC

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

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.

Remote AR  allows onsite technicians to interface with remote support personnel, sending video feed to allow for collaboration and assistance to the onsite maintenance team. To see a video click here.

XMReality

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.

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Enterprise Service Management System Trends

 

enterprise-service-management2There has been a lot of attention given in recent years to the need to automate field service and related logistical processes through the implementation of Enterprise Service Management (ESM) systems.   Although the benefits from improved automation are well documented, there is still a segment of the market that is facing challenges to achieving measurable productivity and efficiency gains associated with key service performance metrics.  This shortcoming is due in part to lack of integration between Field Service and Reverse/Service Logistics functions.  The growing trend toward remote support combined with the increasing reliance on spare parts in the service resolution process places even greater demands on equipment service providers to ensure their field service and related logistical process are both integrated and optimized.   We conducted a survey among a cross representative sample of companies in the High Technology Service & Support Industry to validate these assumptions.  Over 250 respondents participated in the survey.  The survey results reveal a number of very interesting trends:

  • Greater reliance on Remote Support: The survey results support the fact that more and more service requests are being resolved remotely without the need to dispatch a field service engineer. More importantly, a large percentage of these remote activities are resolved by sending a replacement part to the customer site.
  • Best of Breed Solutions outperform Integrated Solutions: Despite the breadth of functionality found within integrated enterprise systems, our results indicated a higher level of satisfaction with Best of Breed solutions than with Integrated ESM platforms. We believe this is because best of breed solutions are more focused on the detailed processes and transactions involved in managing a field service and/or reverse logistics operation.
  • Perceived Gaps in Reverse Logistics functionality: Many companies perceive their ESM solutions have gaps in the ability to deal with Reverse/Service Logistics issues particularly when it comes to depot repair activities.
  • Integrated Automation is critical to success: The level of integrated automation between Field Service and Reverse/Service Logistics functionality has a direct impact on ESM effectiveness. More importantly companies with a high level of integrated automation perform better on key service performance metrics than those who do not.

 

In summary, our research findings reveal that companies who have been able to successfully integrate Field Service and Reverse/Service Logistics processes report a higher level of service performance than those who have not.  The most effective integrated solutions are those that incorporate best of breed functionality for both Field Service and Reverse/Service Logistics processes.  More importantly, the data reveals that these integrated solutions are not only highly effective in managing ongoing service requirements but essential to overcoming critical business challenges.

We’d like to thank IFS, a leading provider of Enterprise Service Management systems, for sponsoring our research study.  IFS has made available the results of our study in a 14 page whitepaper that can be downloaded at Whitepaper Download.   To better understand the implications of these findings to your organization or to define requirements for a best of breed, integrated solution, schedule a free strategy session with us today by clicking here.