How IoT Devices and Augmented Reality Improve Industrial Maintenance | NTT DATA

Tue, 07 July 2020

How IoT Devices and Augmented Reality Improve Industrial Maintenance

The use of connected devices and augmented reality allow for more precise and easier maintenance in industry while also improving workers’ safety. The information that devices can show us can be read on tablet and smartphones, reducing the time it takes to resolve problems.

Maintenance services in industry are just one of the areas where IoT technologies can play a key role. In the not-too-distant future, this technology will do away with traditional systems and will be at the heart of a transition that will set a before and after.

It also allows us to make information on complex equipment available easily on a tablet or smartphone, which in itself allows industrial managers to know how to act rapidly and, consequently, minimize times and risks. 

But that’s just part of it. These technologies provide further advantages. Let’s take a closer look at some of them.

Remote maintenance services with cutting-edge technology

Connected devices send information to a central system at specific times in accordance with the configuration for the device to be supervised The detection of this information and its immediate communication to other devices allows us to predict when intervention is necessary For example, the transmission system of a mobile phone must maintain room temperature within a certain range so as not to compromise the operation of equipment. The air conditioning system is subject to constant maintenance: change of filter and recharging. Knowledge of the condition of the filter means it can be changed only when necessary and not on a programmed basis, thus achieving maximum efficiency.

When we talk about maintenance we often refer to intervention in a specific place. In reality, thanks to these technologies, some activities can be conducted remotely. For example, a device such as a PLC cannot be controlled remotely, bit with the adoption of IoT technology and using edge computing, it will be possible to connect to local devices (PLCs), not only to transmit information but also for their implementation or configuration. Therefore, with IoT technology it is possible to carry out remote tasks that previously had to be carried out in person, saving the company time and money.

IoT and Augmented Reality

But that's not all. The adoption of IoT technology allows for smarter maintenance and augmented reality can have a major impact. Augmented reality, together with the data obtained from this technology, allows maintenance supervisors to receive and see the data of the devices on a smartphone or tablet or even through augmented reality glasses. It also allows less experienced supervisors to conduct complex activities as the device can indicate the steps to be followed in detail.

For maintenance supervisors, the best tool for using 3D information today is a tablet or smartphone, while 3D glasses have certain limitations as some of their features may lose efficiency depending on the environmental conditions in each case. Finally, 3D glasses are yet to be certified for works requiring Atex certification, in working environments where there is a risk of explosion. In reality, there are other types of glasses with 2D technology that can be used in any light conditions. 2D glasses can provide information to the maintenance technician through a visor placed close to the eye; therefore, this allowing for “hands free” activity on the device.

But what information can be used and how? The different options include the recording of content by an expert maintenance technician to be used by another, less experience technician who can ask the experienced technician for help via videocall. In this case the expert technician will remotely guide the operator on the ground, providing the necessary instructions by voice and indications (for example, by drawing arrows on the operator’s screen to indicate the exact buttons to select).

The training of maintenance workers has also evolved with the adoption of augmented reality and in this case the adoption of 3D glasses has improved learning considerably.

IoT for worker safety

The market now offers a wide range of ready-to-use augmented reality solutions without the need to develop solutions from scratch at prohibitive costs.

Finally, the use of virtual reality has changed the way the learning phase works; activities previously completed directly on the device can now be completed in the office safely.

Returning to IoT technology, another area where it has proven particularly useful is in the physical safety of the professionals. Some maintenance activities take place in areas of risk, such as the potential inhalation of toxic gases. Mobile devices help the maintenance technician because they can detect toxic gases, high temperatures or other environmental risk conditions before entering into contact with them, thus avoiding the risk of physical harm.

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