Applying Augmented Reality in Field Service

By Ralph Rio

Category:
Industry Trends

Augmented Reality in Field Service

Equipment OEMs can use augmented reality (AR) in the form of a display of real-time data layered on a live video to further improve their field service capabilities and offerings.  As equipment becomes more complex, problem isolation and diagnosis increase in difficulty.  Obtaining a high first-time fix rate requires good tools to determine the true source of equipment failures.  Two distinct opportunities exist for augmented reality in field service among OEMs.

Problem Isolation and Identification

Augmented Reality in Field Service
Augmented Reality in Field Service
to Get Expert Help via 3D Glasses

Sensors in the equipment can provide both process data for materials used in the product being made, and equipment data for machine parameters.  For a pump, the process data would include the temperature and pressure of materials in the pipe, and the equipment data would include vibration and the current draw of the motor.  A technician could be given a complete view by displaying this data overlaid on the video of the machine.  Values that are outside acceptable parameters could be highlighted. 

Currently, creating an application like this is relatively expensive, even with today’s IIoT platforms, related services, and AR application development software.  However, since a typical OEM has many similar machines to service, it has economies of scale to make this a sound business investment. 

Compared to 2D or 3D headsets, the more common mobile hardware is a 2D tablet or smartphone which are lightweight and ubiquitous.  ARC forecasts that OEMs will adopt AR for field service using these 2D devices.

Assistance from a Remote Expert

Sometimes, the technician is inexperienced or just faces a particularly difficult issue.  This may result in closing up the equipment without making a repair, and scheduling another call by someone with the needed skills.  Unfortunately, this negatively impacts first-time fix rate (FTFR) and customer satisfaction.  An alternative is to obtain assistance from a remote expert in real time.  Some have attempted to use Skype video for this, but low resolution and shaky images have been problematic. 

Early successes have been achieved using 3D headsets like DAQRI Smart Glasses and Microsoft HoloLens.  These headsets include a 3D scanner and software to manage the orientation of annotations placed on the screen relative to the real-world environment.  The remote expert sees what the technician sees with high resolution, and can annotate their display.  In the headset, the annotation remains on the object even when the technician moves his or her head.  Both DAQRI and Microsoft headsets provide this capability.  Adding IIoT data to the display would involve application development.  Currently, these headsets are available as development kits, and are expensive.  After a full product release and more volume, ARC expects significant price declines and a more reasonable business case.

Value Added Services

The application of augmented reality for repairing equipment should initially involve the OEM's field service technicians while at the customer's site.  The benefits include improved FTFR particularly among the less experienced technicians, and improved customer satisfaction.

Once the technology and application are proven among the OEM's field service technicians, other uses will emerge.  OEMs should consider offering a premium service that includes access to its remote expert via augmented reality to guide the customer's on-site technician through a repair operation.  This premium service should include the target 2D or 3D device with the AR application fully configured and ready to use.  

Recommendation

OEMs should engage in proof-of-concept projects to apply augmented reality for problem isolation, diagnosis and repair by its field service technicians.  Also, consider market research among customers for premium services using 2D or 3D devices to reduce dreaded unplanned downtime and improve equipment operating performance. 

Engage with ARC Advisory Group