AR technology heralds an innovative new era for field maintenance
Published by : Industrial Automation
Praveen KC, Digital Lead for Industrial Automation – Process Industries, India, Middle East, and Africa, ABB Ltd.
ABB Ability™ Remote Insights was launched a few months ago. How has been the user experience since then?
ABB is embracing the power of augmented reality to bring significant improvements to field operations. The remote insights solution enables customers to expand the technical knowledge of their workforce as they gain hands-on maintenance experience from ABB’s global expert support network. ABB Ability™ Remote Insights for service is a collaborative app that improves interaction between remote experts and field personnel by enabling live instruction and guidance that can be overlaid on live video using augmented reality technology. The user experience has been great as the service delivered through augmented reality greatly extended the ability of onboard maintenance technicians. The maintenance issues that would normally result in days of downtime for travel, troubleshooting and resolution could instead be solved in hours. Users could experience the real power of collaborating through Augmented Reality.
Has the usage of this service surged during the current crisis with the lockdown?
The crisis has driven us to accelerate the rollout both internally and to our customers. We are seeing large scale, global adoption as a method to continue to support our customers where travel and site visits are restricted. It has shown the value where we expected it, and exposed additional use cases where it has even greater value. One example of this is site walk throughs and inspections. Our belief is that the broad adoption of this tool will dramatically change the way we service our customers as part of the new normal.
What kind of prior preparation and hardware is required for using this service?
ABB’s remote assistance service allows for computer-generated information, data, images, video or other content to be overlaid onto the real-world environment through applications, and then delivered via the internet on devices like smartphones, tablets or even wearable technology such as Google Glass or Microsoft Hololens smart glasses. Both these options provide the technicians with high quality visual support.
How does this service work in operational situation – is the interaction a seamless experience?
ABB Ability™ Remote Insights for service uses commercially available headsets to assist field service technicians and thereby expand the reach of ABB subject matter experts. The technology enables a field service technician to share his or her view of a situation using the device’s camera and receive guidance directly from an expert through on-screen annotations, chat, and document sharing. This improves asset and production availability for customers as maintenance actions can be completed faster. The technology works seamlessly by bridging the physical and virtual worlds, the high-level remote support technician can see what the local user sees via the AR device and then guide them through the required service action.
Are there any safety issues involved and how are these addressed?
One of the key advantages of the ABB Ability™ Remote Insights solution is its safety aspect. The technicians can perform hands-free field maintenance and can focus efforts on the equipment and keep both hands available, instead of holding or looking at a paper manual. The issues that crop up in potentially dangerous equipment can now be troubleshot from a safe distance. This solution can also increase accessibility for workers with permanent or temporary physical limitations, as they are able to provide expert support and guidance remotely.
Going forward, is this going to be the new normal?
Augmented reality will redefine service delivery for industries. Augmented reality technology heralds an innovative new era for field maintenance of any product or solution, such as measurement instrumentation and automation system components. It has high chances of becoming the new normal as it combines real life scenarios and digitalises the traditional tasks to save both time and costs, drive efficiency and ensure safety. ABB plans to implement ABB Ability™ Remote Insights for multiple assets and in multiple industries. ABB is working with several field service organisations and industry groups in developing further augmented reality applications that will provide enhanced service delivery using best-in-class tools, tailored to meet customer needs.
As one of the leading players in the digital transformation space, will the industry now rely more on such cutting-edge solutions?
Industries need an ecosystem powered by highly connected, data-intensive digital solutions and services, in order to remain competitive in a disruptive environment. They also need to be able to offer highly customised products in a cost-effective and sustainable manner. Digital technology and similar cutting-edge solutions will bring the industrial processes to a new level. These digital services will improve connectivity, compatibility and collaboration, making the manufacturing and process industry more flexible, productive and efficient than ever. Industry’s digital transformation including the Fourth Industrial Revolution and the Industrial Internet of Things will optimise all aspects of manufacturing processes and supply chain. ABB is a leading provider of solutions in these areas, many of them offered under the brand ABB Ability™.